2012 : at worlds' end

                                                   The Apocalypse                                                           

Will it be the end of everything? Or will it be the dawning of the age of Aquarius? No one really knows. One thing's for sure, though. December 21st of the year 2012 is the day time as we know it will end.

So at least claim the Maya's, that ancient civilization that lived in the Mesoamerica's since 2,600 BC. The Maya's had an extremely complicated method of keeping track of time, based on three separate calendars. The most important, most encompassing of these calendars holds the `Long Count': the period from the beginning until the end of time. And on December 21st 2012, the Long Count expires. It will be point zero. Time will be up for the Universe. It will be, literally, the end of days.

Big deal, you might say. Still, there's a couple of very interesting (and disturbing) facts about the Maya calendar's end. Most intriguing, 21-12-2012 is not a day like any other. Up in the sky, an extraordinary and incredibly rare event will take place. The Sun will move to a unique spot in the sky -- and hold still for a while, since it is solstice day. The Sun will sit precisely on the heavenly crossroads between the Milky Way and the galactic equinox, forming a perfect alignment with the center of the galaxy.
Er... what?

Well: the night time sky is crossed by several mathematical lines. One is the axis of the Milky Way -- the Milky Way, as you may know, being that bright band of stars you can see running across the heavens on a clear night. Another important line is the cosmological ecliptic: the axis along which the constellations travel, the line that defines coordinates in space.
You can say a lot about the Maya, but you've got to hand it to them: they knew a hell of a lot about stars. For instance, they calculated the exact duration of a year to a thousandth of a decimal point, much more precise than any Greek or enlightened philosopher ever did. Also, they were able to predict every solar and lunar eclipse until this day. And obviously, they knew where the galactic equinox and the exact middle of the Milky Way lay: they called this crossing `the Sacred Tree'.
More disturbing, the Maya's were awfully good at astrology, too. Mysteriously, they predicted in what year their civilization would be overrun by foreigners coming from over the seas. Legend has it they even predicted the world wars. So if a Maya tells you the world will end in 2012, you'd better take it seriously.

But actually, the Maya's never predicted anything concrete about 2012. That may have something to do with our ill knowledge about Maya culture: when the Spanish ransacked the land, they burnt literally every Maya book they could find. Only a handful of scriptures survived. And in them, there's not a clue about what happens when the Maya calendar ends.
So what awaits us in 2012 basically is an open question. And as with so many open questions, countless doom preachers, semi-prophets and other crackpots pop up to provide an answer. The interpretation you hear most: 2012 will mark the coming of a new, glorious age of wisdom and peace. It will be Age Of Aquarius at last, with a world full of peace, love and understanding.

The reasoning behind this is actually not that stupid. The Maya's didn't really believed in endings: their conception of time was circular, with every end being the beginning of something new. So, 2012 shouldn't be an exception.

Also, the Maya's had a highly developed philosophy of the cosmos. They saw the cosmos as the true mother of things. Consequently, the Maya's thought the cosmos is all around us, and within us. Every plant, every animal, every man is sheer Cosmos.

So, New Age philosophers say, December 21st 2012 will be the day on which this inner cosmos is reconnected to the divine outer cosmos. The Sun will mount its unique position to  form a `gateway' between the Universe and the souls of every living creature on Earth. Our linear conception of time will crumble, and with it, fear and hatred will vanish. It will be purification at it's very best, when everyone is soaked in cosmic understanding and divine love.
So there it is: on December 20th, you'll kick your dog, yell at your spouse and cheat on cards. But a day later, you'll be calmed down into a peaceful dude with nothing but love and understanding to guide you in life. Even though it's mid-winter, it'll be summer of love for all humanity.

Other doomsayers foresee doom and destruction. December 21st will be the day the Earth will be destroyed. Some think it will be because of some nuclear war, some say it will be because it's biblical judgment day. Even others take the ending of the Maya calendar more literally, and claim the Universe will just cease to exist. Zzzzp!, gone.

There's something to be said in favor of such sinister scenario's, too. The Maya divided their Long Count into five lumps of time, called Great Cycles. And every cycle had a well defined end. For example, after period number one, a Jaguar came by and ate everyone on Earth. Well, it's the Maya saying this, not me!

The second cycle ended in air, the third in fire, the fourth in flood. And what about the last period, the stretch of time we're in? The Earth will be destroyed by earthquakes, is the interpretation some scholars give to the etchy-sketchy remains of the Maya culture. That needs emphasizing, because the last word on Maya timekeeping isn't said yet: almost every year new books on the issue are published.
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