In case you’ve been sleeping under a Mayan temple, I should remind you that it’s now officially 2012 and R.E.M. is no longer around to belt out the theme song. There’s no turning back the clock to the good old days of Harold Camping’s Bible thumping about the rapture – or any other doomsday scenario that keeps cropping up only to pass with little or no fanfare.
The belief that 2012 is the year of the apocalypse comes from an interpretation of the Mesoamerican Mayan calendar made by Mayan scholar Michael Coe. In 1966, Coe felt that a particular “cycle” of the calendar would end on December 21, 2012, at which point Armageddon would ensue. I’m not sure what kind of logic Coe used to arrive at this conclusion, but since then his theory has been gathering steam as a number of other theoretical embellishments have been added to it, such as magnetic pole reversals, the earth being sucked into a black hole, or the earth colliding with a planet called “Nibiru.”
I’m in no position to argue with Mr. Coe, but I have to add his name to an ever-growing list of self-proclaimed prophets who have been citing inside information about the apocalypse since I was in high school. Back then, everyone was buzzing about Hal Lindsey’s book “The Late Great Planet Earth,” and pulling out the New Testament to compare notes. When I got to college a friend of mine listened to the album “Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars,” while under the influence of a powerful hallucinogenic drug, and became convinced that David Bowie was the second coming of Christ who was going to descend to the earth in a UFO and take all the Nice People to Bowie World. This made total sense to a lot of my friends, who immediately bought the album and memorized the lyrics as if they were scripture.
Those were the good old days of doomsday-speak. Since then, it seems that every few days someone else is banging the drum slowly about the hammer coming down, and I’m always amazed that they have at least a few people who believe their message is genuine.
I imagine that someday there may be a real day of reckoning, but in the meantime I’ve got things to do – like pay bills, show up for work and live my life. What concerns me is why so many people would think so little of themselves and the gift of being alive that they would evade personal responsibility by grasping at even a hint of Deus ex Machina.
I realize that 2012 has been tied to a lot of positive possibilities for mankind that have nothing to do with the final thunder. But the few hard-core believers who are counting on a supremely catastrophic event will be supremely disappointed on the day after, when they find that civilization is still here despite their hopes and dreams for it all to be over. It kind of reminds me of that old Rodney Dangerfield joke: “When I was born, the doctor came out to the waiting room and said to my father, ‘I’m very sorry. We did everything we could, but he still pulled through.’”