TT #60: We're Still Alive!

By Kyra-lin Hom

Happy New Year, everyone! Happy 2013 to be exact. Congratulations, you, along with about seven billion other people, have survived the end of the world. Let's take a look at how.

First, a quick refresher. Around 2-3,000 years ago there existed a collection of mesoamerican peoples we now commonly refer to as the Mayans. Contrary to popular belief, the Mayans were not a single united nation. Think instead of the modern European Union. One of the many people within this geographical conglomerate were the Olmecs, brilliant astrologers and mathematicians.

Using their impressive know-how, the Olmec people developed something archaeologists now refer to as the Olmec Long Count Calendar. Like most ancient civilizations, the Olmecs believed that the fate of the world rose and fell in cycles corresponding to the movements of astrological bodies. According to their calendar, this cycle lasted exactly 13 b'ak'tuns – roughly 5,125 years. They actually invented the concept of zero so that they could count the cycles. This last December 21st marked the end of one of these 13 b'ak'tun cycles and the end of the fourth and final 'world' on the Olmec Long Count Calendar. Hence, the flawed belief that the world as we know it was actually going to end on December 21st. It's more likely that the ancient stone chiseller decided that 20,500 years was finally enough. I bet retirement was looking really good by then, that is if he could still feel his hands.

But how did this one tiny ancient detail explode into an international apocalypse craze? I mean, not even the modern Mayan peoples believed this drivel. They knew that the end of a world just meant the start of a new one. Like one period of a cosine wave, reaching bottom just means it's time for things to start looking up again. Apparently we're transitioning from 'the love of power' to 'the power of love' otherwise known as the Age of Aquarius. Sounds like a good time to be alive, doesn't it? Not exactly reason to go screaming for the hills – or the midwest wilderness with guns and blankets in the truck bed (I know some strange people).

Truth is, people began looking for things to corroborate this faulty prediction. Suddenly Nostradamus, the oracle Sybil and the Book of Revelations must have been referring to now as the end times. Even the I-Ching and the Web Bot project were revealing suspiciously dire portents.

I have to admit, all of the evidence can be presented in a very convincing manner. Just consult the History Channel, they'll tell you all about the end of the world: solar flares, galaxial alignments, supervolcanoes, geomagnetic reversal, planetary collisions. You'd think we were all going to die at the predestined stroke of midnight. As one of my friends said, teasing our lingering superstitions, 'Pacific time?! It was planned for midnight pacific time?!'

Truth is (at least as I see it) if something does happen later or is planned to happen to fundamentally 'end' our world, there is nothing any of us can do. At that stage of the game, the players are beyond us unless we unexpectedly come into our own as the unsuspecting second coming of Christ. All we can do is exactly what we've been doing: living our lives to the fullest, being good people, loving our neighbors. I mean, what's the point of giving away all you have if the world's going to end anyway? It's not like anyone else will be able to benefit from your charity if you're right. And if you're wrong... well, then you seem to have made a few financial miscalculations. Unfortunate to be you.

The one upside to this is realizing that time is a gift. Instead of life being snatched away from us for some preordained purpose, we're still here breathing and living and loving. It's 2013 and we're all still alive. I feel like that's a pretty good reason to celebrate, don't you? Happy belated holidays and have an absolutely stellar New Year.

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