2012: It’s the end of the world!

Maya Maske

Hey… wasn’t something supposed to happen today?

We’re still here.

(Big surprise.)

Today marks the notorious “prediction” of the Mayan calendar that the world will end (or, some say, a new spiritual era will begin).

The so-called prediction is actually nothing of the kind.  The Mayan calendar simply ends, with no mention of what is to happen afterward.  Maybe some mathematician had a hot date to get to, and decided 2012 was as good a place as any to leave off work for the day.

The hysteria has caused frustration for scholars of Mayan culture:

“For the ancient Maya, it was a huge celebration to make it to the end of a whole cycle,” says Sandra Noble, executive director of the Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies in Crystal River, Fla. To render Dec. 21, 2012, as a doomsday or moment of cosmic shifting, she says, is “a complete fabrication and a chance for a lot of people to cash in.”  (USA Today)

David Webster says in The Uses and Abuses of Mayan Culture:

The Maya, of course, would simply have begun another cycle, just as they did before, and their world would have gone on. Here’s my prediction: 2012 will come and go without the world falling apart (at least any faster than it is at present), and people will forget about this particular intrusion of the ancient Maya into our lives. Nevertheless, long after 2012 we will still be fascinated with the Classic Maya. We will continue to use and abuse them for our own purposes, and see our own fate as somehow linked with their own. Each generation gets the Maya it deserves, or thinks it wants.

What is noteworthy is not the uniqueness of this doomsday prophecy (it’s only one in a very, very long line of such predictions).  Rather, it’s that many in the New Age and Pagan communities were taken in by it.

But despite the failure of the world to end, today is a great victory for those predicting doomsday.  You see, we’ve known since the 50s that failed prophecies, far from dissipating believers, actually increase their numbers.  The cognitive dissonance associated with it causes them to seek explanations and persuade ever more people they are right.

So… on with the predictions.  What’s next?

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