The Fat Lady's Aria? Humanity's Last Stand? Or Just Another Apocalypse Soon?
December 21, 2012, is coming in hard with multiple threats, and conflicting theories being actively debated on any and all forums that offer media time to the fringe and the fantastic. One marketplace of such ideas is George Noory’s Coast to Coast AM syndicated radio show. As the successor to the legendary Art Bell, Noory maintains the same format of paranormal and paranoid talk radio that gave Bell the highest ratings in syndicated nighttime talk. Call-in listeners warn of 12.21.2012 bringing an instant extinction of our current reality, much in the manner of the last episode of The Sopranos, but encompassing the entire universe. Alternative scenarios range from the conventional – exploding volcanoes, boiling oceans, shifting tectonic plates, and/or alien invasion, to a more metaphysical bonding that will bring humanity closer to a functioning, Jungian-style planetary mind, enabling us to clean up the mess we’ve made with our rugged individualism. (Noory added his own spike of drama to the mix when he announced he would only extend his current Coast to Coast AM contract until 2012, so he could see out the significant date on air. Later, however, pragmatism kicked in and his deal now runs to 2017.)
At the core of the flourishing furor over 2012 is the Mayan calendar. A circular replica of a Mesoamerican calendar stone has hung for years on the wall behind my desk, a flat ceramic disc the green of corroded copper. Right now a version of the same calendar stone, in the form of a spring-loaded spinning top, is currently being given away by Burger King with Kids Meals as part of a promotion for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Both are actually copies of the huge Aztec calendar stone preserved in the Museo Nacional de Antropologia in Mexico City. Aztec rather than Mayan, but close enough for discomfort when it’s also used on Web pages explaining how the Mayan calendar supposedly predicts that the Fat Lady’s Terminal Aria will sound, dead on the Winter Solstice of 2012.
That the “Long Count” of the Mayan calendar mysteriously appears to come to an end in 2012 has been discussed in the counterculture since writer and supposed mystic Josť Arguelles promoted his concept of the Harmonic Convergence in 1987. Before Arguelles raised the hackles of skeptics by extending his idea of an earth-changing planetary alignment beyond Mayan mathematics to claims of telepathically received prophecies, the Book of Revelation, and a race of “galactic masters,” we learned that the Mayan calendar was incredibly complicated, dated back to the sixth century B.C., and functioned on mind-snapping multiples of synchronized and interlocking cycles. A 260-day sacred year is combined with a more conventional 360-day solar year, plus a lunar calendar, and the notorious Long Count that starts from the Mayans’ concept of the dawn of time – around 3114 B.C. – and runs to its calculated termination at the Winter Solstice of 2012. Just to add to the difficulties for those who aren’t Mayan scholars, the calendar also reflects the Mayans’ belief that time was not only cyclic, but its cycles involved the regular destruction and rebirth of the universe.