Thursday, December 20, 2012

An Incomplete Guide to the Mayan Apocalypse


Depending upon who you talk to, the world may or may not meet its apocalyptic doom on Friday.  If you’re talking to someone with critical thinking skills, their plans for Friday may include going to class or work, finishing up holiday shopping, seeing friends and loved ones,  and drinking heavily.  If you’re talking with someone without critical thinking skills, their Friday agenda may substitute the “going to class or work” for “sharpening knifes or loading guns” and “holiday shopping” might involve less Xbox games and more dehydrated meats.  Also, “seeing friends and loved ones” will occur in a bunker.  Drinking heavily will likely happen regardless.

The reason for the impending apocalyptic hullabaloo, which has grown steadily in recent years, has mainly to do with a severe lack of fact-checking and a gross misunderstanding about how calendars work.  Seeing as I once wrote a term paper on Mayan cosmology in college and also have access to Google, I feel that it is my duty to give a little background on the impending Mayan doomsday and set the record straight.  I did concerningly little fact-checking of my own while writing this piece, but since I’m sure that I’ve still done more of it than the people who expect the world to end on Friday, I really don’t feel bad about that.

The Maya (This section is informative, feel free to skip it)

The Pre-Columbian Maya were, as a whole, both deeply interested and extremely talented in astronomy and arithmetic.  They were more or less the Asian students in our high school math classes, except instead of considering their lives to be over when their teachers gave them an A-, they considered their lives to be over when Spanish conquistadors gave them smallpox.

The Maya based their architecture, their time keeping, and other parts of their lives around the movements of the planets and the stars.  They were also spiritual beings, placing large significance on the number 20 (due to the amount of fingers and toes on the fully-formed human body that has not placed its hand too close to a table saw) and the number 13 (due to the number of major joints in the fully-formed human body that has not passed out drunk on a table saw).  The Maya used several different calendars in their overall system of time-keeping, and held the belief that time was cyclical, like a clock, as opposed to linear, like a ______.

The Calendar (This section is also informative, but does contain a poop joke…your call)

The Mayan Long Count, the calendar that everyone is losing their shit about, is a 5,125 year cycle that is written like a car odometer.  Each placeholder counts to 20 before the one to the left of it tallies a digit.  Therefore, after 20 days have passed of the new long count calendar, the date will read  Once the farthest digit to the left reaches 13, the calendar rolls over and begins again.  Or, as many crazy people on the internet read that sentence: “Once the farthest digit to the left reaches 13, the calendar springs to life, eats your grandma, shits on your face, throws asteroids at Earth, and rides a dazzling rainbow unicorn into the sunset, which of course will be brighter than normal because the sun is exploding, all while Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” plays in the background.  The current 5,125 year cycle, also referred to by the Maya as a “Sun,” marks the fourth completion of the Mayan Long Count, and is set to end on December 21st, 2012.

What Crazy People Say

Depending on which crazy people you talk to, any number of doomsday shenanigans could take place on December 21st.  The Yellowstone supervolcano could erupt turning us all into that guy who looks like lava from the Fantastic Four, which would be awesome; previously unknown Planet X could pop out of fucking nowhere and blindside us in a collision so powerful that even Flo from Progressive won’t be able to help you because, let’s be honest, she’ll be vaporized; the Earth, the Sun, and the black hole in the center of our galaxy, Sagittarius A, might align causing some mathematically impossible gravitational effect that involves us being swallowed whole in an act that sounds downright cosmologically kinky; Earth will be hit by an asteroid, which is pretty much the same thing as the planet one, except slightly less creative; or the magnetic poles of the Earth may shift, causing…I don’t know…people’s compasses to be less accurate?

Still more crazy people think that Bugarach, a small 178-person village in the French Alps, will be saved from the apocalypse by aliens living inside the mountain upon which the town is situated because, let’s be honest, if all human life on Earth is about to be extinguished, somebody’s going to save the fucking French.  Non.

My personal favorite prediction, however, comes from a Christian cult in northwestern China who fear that starting on December 21st, the sun will not shine and electricity will not work for three days.

Or as people in Boston call it, a Nor’easter.

What Not Crazy People Say

As mentioned before, the Pre-Columbian Maya viewed time as cyclical.  This means that, at the end of their 5,125 year long calendar, it does exactly what the Gregorian calendar does: it starts again.  This idea is further supported by the fact that the last time the third Mayan Long Count ended in 3114 B.C., the Earth did not explode.  A few thousand or so years before that, the Maya undoubtedly stared at each other in confusion as God created the universe.  And if we’re really feeling rambunctious, we can dig into things like science and facts to refute the other doomsday theories:

·         Ok, the Yellowstone Supervolcano could technically erupt, but we wouldn’t turn into the guy from Fantastic Four.  We’d probably die, the quickness of said death depending on our proximity to Wyoming.  Honestly, that one’s kind of a bummer.

·         The previously unknown Planet X will not come crashing into Earth; because if it were going to, or if it were real, it would already have been visible to the naked eye for quite some time.

·         The alignment of the Earth, the Sun, and the Sagittarius A black hole won’t eat us.  Sagittarius A is over 30,000 light years from Earth and that isn’t how physics work.  Plus, this alignment already happened in 1998, and the worst thing that happened that year was Limp Bizkit hitting #22 on the Billboard 200 chart.

·         The asteroid one is pretty much like the planet one too.  But fuck it, if one does come towards Earth we’ll just throw Bruce Willis at it.  Jesus, don’t any of you crazy people have TV’s in your bunkers?

·         The magnetic poles of the Earth do shift periodically; however, scientists have calculated that this can take up to fully 10,000 years to occur.  Plus, raise your hand if you actually use a compass.  Put your hand down, Hippie.  No one cares.


The moral of the story is that on December 21st the world will continue.  You’ll still have to finish your Christmas shopping.  You’ll still have to go back to work after the holidays.  All those who started having promiscuous sex recently and expected absolutely no repercussions will still have to deal with that persistent crotchal itch.  Bashar al-Assad will still be a monumental dickbag and a third of registered voters in Mississippi will think interracial marriage should be illegal.  Large amounts of the developed world will remain in financial recession and large amounts of the undeveloped world will still be drinking out of the same river they shit and bathe in.  And worst of all, there will still be people in this world who think that if any of the 7 billion people on Earth are going to be saved in an apocalypse, it will be citizens of a small village in France.

Sorry, France.  No disrespect.  Assholes.

So happy Mayan New Year’s Eve, everyone.  See you in 7137.

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