Based on the ancient Mayan calendar, the world is going to end on December 21, of this year. At least that is what many cyber-circulating headlines tell us. Despite prevailing logic, one cannot help but feel a twinge of horror and a flicker of doubt that eclipses the mind’s eye for a brief nanosecond of delirium. Could it be true? Is there any possibility…? That is, until we return to our good sense and then it’s all poppycock and witty humor. But if there’s one thing that doomsday predictions tells us about ourselves, it is that human beings are unrelentingly naïve in our quest for magic and mystery. We need transcendence as much as we need air to breath. A cynic would say that society is simply blinded by this obsession with the unknown, continually compromising reason and logic for a foolhardy notion of sublime possibilities. A cautious optimistic rather, might consider these foolhardy notions to be a collective expression of faith in a higher existence, or in a well-endowed consciousness of the universe. Regardless of which spectrum you fall under – the cynic or the optimist – there is no denying that magic and mystery remain the two foremost elemental components of the human experience.
Apocalyptic prophecies are not a new phenomenon. In fact, failed predictions of doomsday have circulated throughout the ages, casting shadow and doubt amongst the rise and fall of civilizations and their societies. The Romans, for example, believed that the mystical number revealed to Romulus, (mythical co-founder of Rome) represented the number of days in a year, therefore they had expected Rome to be destroyed around 365 AUC, (389 BCE). Similarly, Gregory of Tours, (a Gallo-Roman historian) had calculated the End occurring between 799 and 806 AD. John of Toledo on the other hand, (an English Dean of the College of Cardinals) predicted the end of the world based on the alignment of planets during 1186. Likewise, many interpreted the black plague, which swept across Europe in the 14th century, as a sign of the end of days. Predictions like these continue almost every year from the Roman period through to present day. Deductive logic therefore tells us that modernity has, in no way, any bearing on the mystical tendencies of human nature, which are as perennial and prevailing as the stars and moon and revolutions of our planet around the sun. Our pursuit of the enigmatic is our true distinction – much like the universe examining its hands and feet – we live for wonderment of the world, without which, we might as well be as boring and predictable as a B-rated romance flick. However, the question is: how far do we allow ourselves to take it?
Believing in something, or entertaining the idea of something that goes against our intuitive knowledge and experience simply because it is dramatically enthralling, is what psychologists like to call, “cognitive dissonance”; that is, the feeling of discomfort whilst simultaneously holding two or more conflicting beliefs, ideas, values or emotional reactions. Most of us know that the mechanism of our mass extinction will not be from a collision with a rogue planet called Nibiru, or a super black hole at the centre of the universe, or a sudden world-wide flash flood, yet we allow ourselves from time to time, to be drawn into the drama of it all, excited by the conspiracy of the unknown. So before you go ahead with the building plans of your prospective arks, take note of a few, tiny, minute considerations. Many believe that our year is not in fact 2012, but, due to miscalculation, is rather a different date entirely. Similarly, according to the phantom time hypothesis, (a theory developed by Heribert Illig in 1991), periods of history, precisely that of Europe during the Early Middle Ages, may not have actually existed, which would make our current date grossly outdated. On the other hand, Wakatel Utiw, leader of the National Council of Elders Mayas, has been quoted saying that the end of the Maya calendar has nothing to do with the end of the world; rather it is the beginning of a new cycle and the ushering in of a fresh calendric era that supposes certain changes in human consciousness.
Of course Western commercialism has done little in the way of kyboshing apocalyptic conspiracy theories. Consider the 2009 disaster film, 2012 for example, or the more recent movie, Take Shelter. Not to mention foreboding TV documentaries and alarmist websites that have gone “viral,” sparking worldwide activity by way of doomsday kits, exoduses, and government action. Regardless, the end of days seems synonymous with man’s eternal quest for mortal meaning and purpose, which is the reason prophecies like those of Nostradamus are still widely circulated, having rarely been out of print since initial publication some 550 years ago. Prophecy is like a beacon in the abyss of which we exist, a light that orientates and familiarizes. So for the same reasons we tell our children that Santa Clause is the real deal, so too do we indulge in the irrational, quixotic aspect of our nature, drawing conclusions for anchorage amidst an endless thrashing sea of unknowns. Rather than reacting negatively to the hoopla of this current doomsday prediction, let us rejoice that we, as human beings, continue to be inspired by the mysticism of life, and that we have not yet grown dull and weary of its exploits.