‘It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine ...’
It is roughly 6 p.m. on Wednesday — 12-12-12 — as I write this. Obviously, I’m still alive.
It is cold outside, but not because the sun has gone supernova. The last light of day is fading in the west, and I’m pretty sure that California hasn’t broken off of the North American continent and sank into the Pacific. Clouds are moving in, but I’m reasonably certain they’re not filled with rain so acidic it will melt anything upon which it falls.
In other words, one day of potential apocalypse down, one to go.
This month brings with it two days that could herald the end of human civilization. Wednesday was one of those days, but the big one, the one that doomsday prophets attribute to the Mayans, is coming next Friday, Dec. 21. Which means we’ll have to do this whole holy-crap-is-that-loud-noise-the-breaking-of-the-Biblical-seals thing all over again.
Honesty, the whole 2012 phenomenon has been something of a letdown. Ever since Roland Emmerich’s lousy “2012” movie came out three years ago, people have been obsessed with whether the Mayans might have been onto something. With Dec. 12 coming to a close and kitchen sink repairs waiting for me at home, I’m rather disgruntled that nothing has happened. I’d much rather be defending The Wife from undead hordes or driving west to outrun a massive tsunami than replacing PVC pipe, but it appears those options aren’t in the cards.
For those of you as ignorant as I was about this 2012 thing (before consulting Google, that is), the brouhaha surrounds the supposed end-date of a 5,125-year-long cycle in the Mesoamerican Long Count calendar. According to Mayans, ancient gods created three failed worlds before this one, which was a success, apparently, and upon which humanity flourished. However, each world was given a life cycle of 5,125 years, and the fourth world’s cycle supposedly comes to an end on Dec. 21, 2012.
What will happen, however, is open to interpretation. And those interpretations range from the mildly interesting to the full-on ridiculous.
According to one theory, the Mayans supposedly based their calendar on a band of dark dust clouds in the Milky Way and predicted that those clouds will align with the sun on Dec. 21; however, this is supposedly a good thing, because the Mayans “anticipated this conjunction and celebrated it as the harbinger of a profound spiritual transition for mankind,” according to Wikipedia.
Another theory, put forth by New Age philosopher Terrence McKenna, is that of “timewave zero” — a point when “anything and everything imaginable will occur simultaneously.” It should be noted, however, that McKenna was tripping out of his mind on mushrooms and the psychedelic compound DMT when he concocted this theory, which sounds like a rejected script for an episode of that old TV show “Lost.”
Of course, the theories that get the most attention are the most cockamamie ones. If you’re looking forward to the apocalypse, you can peruse through these various scenarios and get a better selection than a Shoney’s end-times buffet: Galactic alignment between the Sun and supermassive black hole at the center of the universe that will tear the Earth apart. A massive solar flare that reverses the north and south magnetic poles, again causing havoc planet-wide. A collision with a celestial body known as Planet X. A supernova by the distant star Betelgeuse. An alien invasion.
All of these potential disasters have caused quite a stir, from the bemused to actual, serious inquiries by the public. David Morrison, director of the Carl Sagan Center for Study of Life in the Universe at the SETI Institute, started answering questions for a NASA forum on the 2012 phenomenon a few years ago. Over time, he said, the number of questions about 2012 have vastly outnumbered actual scientific inquiries, and he’s even had to reassure some people that no, they shouldn’t kill their children, their pets or themselves to avoid potential catastrophe.
Around East Tennessee, folks seem to be taking the right attitude about the apocalypse. The appropriately named spoken word/music outfit Jack Rentfro and the Apocalypso Quartet is playing twice next Friday, at noon on the WDVX-FM “Blue Plate Special” and at 8 p.m. in the Preservation Pub “Speakeasy,” both of which gigs are in downtown Knoxville. Hey, if you’re gonna perish because a mysterious planet slams into Earth like a NASCAR driver into the wall, might as well be hanging with Jack when you go. I couldn’t think of a more entertaining guy with whom to experience the end of days.
Personally, I have to confess: 12:12 p.m. on 12-12-12 came and went for me without a second thought. I didn’t hold my breath, didn’t steal a glance out the window, didn’t even glance up from the story I was writing. I vaguely remember checking the time about 12:30 p.m., but I didn’t remember that there was a chance of cataclysm until I sat down to write this column. Now, I’m kind of bummed I wasn’t on The Daily Times roof, stripped down to my boxers with old press ink smeared all over my face, screaming at the heavens to unleash their worst like Lt. Dan tied to the mast in “Forrest Gump.”
Hey, there’s always next Friday.
Steve Wildsmith is the Weekend editor for The Daily Times. Contact him at (email@example.com) or at 981-1144.