posttrib
INCONSISTENT 
Weather Updates

Jerry Davich: Apocalypse now? Not hardly, not today

Mayan priests place flowers for ceremony Iximche archeological site preparatifor Oxlajuj B'aktun Tecpan GuatemalThursday Dec. 20 2012.  The Oxlajuj

Mayan priests place flowers for a ceremony at Iximche archeological site in preparation for the Oxlajuj B'aktun in Tecpan, Guatemala, Thursday, Dec. 20, 2012. The Oxlajuj B'aktun is on Dec. 21, marking a new period in the Mayan calendar, an event only comparable in recent times with the new millennium in 2000. While the Mayan calendar cycle has prompted a wave of doomsday speculation across the globe, few in the Mayan heartland believe the world will end on Friday. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)

storyidforme: 41900736
tmspicid: 15523497
fileheaderid: 7017665

Updated: January 22, 2013 6:20AM



If the world ends Friday, the joke is on me, this column is a moot point, and all those “doomsday preppers” have my permission to slam their bomb-shelter doors on my face.

But if the day doesn’t involve a major catastrophe, a cataclysmic apocalypse, a nuclear meltdown or economic collapse, then what has all the hubbub been about, bub?

As we all know, Friday is the predicted day that the ancient Mayan calendar either ends, starts over, or self-destructs in 30 seconds. I’m still not sure which.

To me, this much is certain – the sun will rise yet again tomorrow, the next day, the next year, and so on. So why are we even discussing this overly-hyped and largely misunderstood prediction for end of times? God only knows. Literally.

But Jeff Buechler has several theories and each one is more intelligent and plausible than anything I’ve heard over the past several months leading up to today.

“Although the ancient Maya and other Mesoamerican peoples, like the Aztecs, did see creations ending and beginning anew in the past, this whole apocalyptic fervor is a very Western phenomenon,” said Buechler, an adjunct assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

That explains a lot right there. But still why all the hoopla?

According to Buechler and other scholars, the ancient Maya seemed to believe that the world, before our current one, ended on its 13th Baktun (properly written as b’ak’tun), when the current world or creation began, back in August of 3114 B.C.

Fast-forward to the 1950s when scholars began (falsely) noting that perhaps the current world, or its creation in a biblical way, would also end on its 13th Baktun.

What would be the timetable for such a thing? Around Dec. 21, 2012. Aha!

However, based on some shoddy research work by those scholars, as well as “New Age writers” and others, the notion of this doomsday slowly popularized through the ‘80s and ‘90s.

Along the way, via a Chinese telephone-like conversation, added rumors, myths and outright lies were blended into this soup of misinformation.

Galactic alignments, cataclysmic floods, magnetic polarity reversal, world peace and renewal, links of the number 144,000, the long-awaited Rapture, you name it.

But – and this is a big but, as Buechler explains – “As far as we can tell, there is no evidence that the ancient Maya ever thought the world would end on Dec. 21, 2012.”

Oh.

“The Mayan calendar does not end on this day,” he replied.

What will end on Friday (roughly, that is, because experts are still not exactly certain of the precise correlation with our calendar) is the 13th Baktun, an ancient Mayan calendar cycle, equivalent to 144,000 days, analogous to our centuries or millenniums.

“Yet the ancient Maya wrote of days much further into the future than this,” Buechler points out. “One inscription mentions a date in 4772 A.D. – and so there seems to be no prediction that the calendar, or the world, would end on this day.”

Some modern Maya see the world as potentially ending every day, unless they do proper rituals to keep the cosmos afloat. Superstitious ninnies, I say.

Even NASA has jumped into this nonsense after receiving thousands of calls from the fearful, curious, or stupid. The agency quickly nixed any claims that Friday is the end of the world, posting a Dec. 22 press release on its website explaining, “Why the world didn’t end yesterday.”

“Our planet has been getting along just fine for more than 4 billion years, and credible scientists worldwide know of no threat associated with 2012,” the website says.

It hasn’t stopped “preppers,” “end-of-time survivalists” and “doomsdayers” from preparing for today. I talked to one such “prepper” on my radio show last Friday who believes “something” may happen, but he’s not sure what.

He operates an online dating website called Kwink.com, which caters in part to these kinds of like-minded survivalists.

“Spend your remaining days with someone that shares your instinct to prepare and survive the end of the world as we know it,” the Kwink site states.

It’s apparently hard to find a compatible partner for the end of the world and its dark aftermath. Talk about “arma-get-it-on,” as one comedian quipped.

The National Geographic Channel also has a new reality TV show called “Doomsday Preppers.” You’ve got to love it.

Buechler, the voice of reason in a swirling wind of hyperbole, says “the whole 2012 phenomena” explains very little about the ancient Maya, but a whole lot about us.

“I predict the worst thing that will happen after Dec. 21 is that the New Age folks will no longer be able to cash in on books about 2012,” he noted.

I agree completely.

Then again, for those of you seeking an even greater power to believe, there is a well-traveled meme that has been making the rounds on social media sites.

It shows a photo of long-time WGN-TV meteorologist Tom Skilling with this caption: “If the world was going to end this Friday, dude would’ve told us.”

One week ago today

Onthis week’s Casual Fridays radio show, I delve into the Sandy Hook school shootings - which violently plunged into our collective consciousness one week ago - but its societal ripples are surfacing all around us.

The tragedy triggered many issues that polarize our country - and our region - from gun control legislation to mental health services to classroom security.

I’ll talk with Portage Police Chief Troy Williams, a former school resource officer who has penned public safety updates to parents on social media sites. And also with an official from the American Federation of Teachers regarding whether educators should be armed in classrooms.

I welcome your calls, too - not to debate the controversial issues at hand but to develop a needed dialogue about a tragic topic that will surely happen again.

Tune in between noon and 1 p.m. on WLPR, 89.1-FM. Call in with your opinions at 769-9577.



© 2014 Sun-Times Media, LLC. All rights reserved. This material may not be copied or distributed without permission. For more information about reprints and permissions, visit www.suntimesreprints.com. To order a reprint of this article, click here.