December 15, 2012

December 21: What Time will the World End?

By David Sooby
I was talking with a Kaxfan recently who asked: What time, according to the Mayan calendar which supposedly predicts the end of the world on December 21, 2012, will the world end?

A bit of research led me to various spoil-sports trying to assure me that the calendar in question is actually the Mesoamerican Long Count calendar (hereafter MLC), not specifically the Mayan calendar; that the Mayans did not envision an apocalypse coinciding with the end of a calendar era; that the "end of the world" concept was a New Agey meme invented by one Michael D. Coe in his 1966 book The Maya; and that Coe's date was actually December 24.

I also ran across some arguments over the date which pointed out that the MLC calendar does not include leap days, so the calendar would have become progressively more and more out of alignment with our modern, Julian calendar as the centuries passed since the creation of the MLC calendar.

Pedants spouting all this historical and calendric technobabble completely and utterly miss the point! They obviously fail to realize that the importance of identifying an end-of-the-world date (and time), regardless of how solid or flimsy the reasoning, is to give an excuse for throwing an end-of-the-world party!

But to come back to the question posed above: The end of the current era of the MLC calendar is the winter solstice of 2012, which occurs on December 21. Thus we can ignore any misalignment of the MLC calendar and the current Julian calendar. Solstices occur at a particular instant in time, and this year it will be at 11:11 GMT. That would be, unfortunately, a rather non-party time of 5:11 AM in U.S. Central Time, including the Kansas City area.

So, for those wishing to throw a party coinciding with the December 21 millennialist beliefs, I would suggest a "We survived the end of the world!" party on Friday evening, December 21. And not an actual "The world is going to end tomorrow" party on Thursday, December 20. After all, if the ancient Mayans had envisioned a five-day work week and the concept of a "weekend," they surely would have been happy to move their celebration of the solstice forward a day, to enjoy a three-day weekend!

Please also note: even if the world does not end, there will be No SF&F Literati meeting Dec. 24!

PHOTO CREDIT: The Mayan Apocalypse image is from The Seattle Salmon website--thanks, guys!

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