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Now that December 21st, 2012 has come and gone and we're all still here, there are a few different paths we can take in processing the "event."

1. Go about business as usual as if nothing happened.
2. Make fun of anyone who took the end of the Mayan calendar literally.
3. Acknowledge that the world (as we know it) is in fact ending, and find the deeper lessons in it.


While it was physically impossible for the world to "end" (go poof?) on the same day in all time zones, the end of the 13th (144000 day) b'ak'tun cycle in the Long Mayan Calendar also means that we're now at the beginning of the 14th. So really, whatever you think of the Mayan Calendar (or any other calendar, for that matter), a more precise interpretation as to what is actually happening is a transition from one unit of measurement to the next.  

This does not come as a surprise, as in this solar system of ours everything seems to be happening in cycles: Day follows night, new Moon follows full Moon, spring follows winter follows autumn follows summer follows spring. Momentum and gravity just keeps us spinning around the Sun. We don't always (or hardly ever) know what will happen tomorrow, next year, next century, or next B'ak'tun, but what we do know for certain is that something will happen.

Music and the Moon: The two workhorses of the universe

The idea of an absolute ending thus can only exist in our heads, and my guess is that it stems from a projection of fear and insecurity we hold in regards to the limited time we each individually have on this grand carousel. If we were more at peace with our own impermanence, there wouldn't be a market for apocalyptic fear.

And yet, we are human creatures forced to scratch and claw our way through this limited-time-only earthly offer, not gods who can fill their universal bellies at the tables of infinite grace and boundless love. We schedule meetings, set deadlines, make reservations, plan events, listen to 70s music, wear 80s clothing, and study an ancient civilization's understanding of time, so we can partition that which is timeless and endless into bite size chunks, to be more easily digestible by our preferred operating system, the brain.

Dividing time into different sections is like getting on a boat to escape the endless ocean of mystery. Our daily calendars are like personal life rafts that keep us afloat and moving. Birthdays and anniversaries are like party boats where we remind each other that we're on the rugged ocean while keeping a safe distance to the water. Big epochal time divisions like centuries, millennia, B'ak'tuns, and Piktuns, on the other hand, are more like cruise ships: transferring from one to the next is like moving a boatload of people (pun intended) across the dark sea on a bunch of rope bridges. There's bound to be some panicked splashes during a big collective brush with eternity.

Our B'ak'tun cruise ship plowing towards melting glaciers

That's what I suppose is happening right now. A bunch of us earthlings, collectively tuned in via social media and perhaps even psychically, dangling between two Mayan long count cruise ships, some enjoying the ride, others freaking out, some trying not to look down, others standing on the pier, laughing in jest.

There are, of course, those who say, "look, there is no cruise ship or any other floating device." They're called Buddhists. And yes, they are right. It's all a figment of our imagination. There is indeed no cruise ship, and there is no long count. Not even a short count. There is only the open ocean.


But, as sentient beings on a small planet in an infinite universe, our imagination is the glue that binds us all together and connects us with our source. It enables us to give meaning to our existence and to fill that mysterious blank canvas with the painting of our choice. It is meaning, after all, that is the oxygen of the soul, the food of the gods, without which neither our minds can survive nor our hearts can evolve.

And yet, meaning can't be packaged, made to expire, or empirically proven. It arrives unannounced and happens when we least expect it. We know when it's there, but we can't describe it. It's not the story, it's the lesson. It's not what is given, it's what we make of it. It's what turns mere numbers into dreams and metaphors.


Jesus wasn't born on Christmas and a frog won't stay in a pot of slowly boiling water. And still, although we know these things to be demonstrably false, we understand the meaning of these metaphors, each in our own way, yet clearly and unequivocally. One resonates because it evokes our highest human potential as giving, sharing, and caring beings. The other captures our collective imagination because it viscerally shocks us out of our shared inclination for denial and complacency. Though not true, these stories are full of Truth.

The question we should thus ask ourselves about the Mayan Calendar is not whether it was correctly calculated or whether any particular prophesies are to be taken literally (though I don't see why the Maya would believe that the world would literally end in the middle of even longer Piktun, Kalabtun, K'inchiltun, Alautun counts). The question that to me seems the most juicy and relevant is, why has it captured our collective imagination as it has? What is it about an ancient chart that has drawn us like moths to the flame at this particular point in history? Why are we responding so strongly to a passage of time so big and long and unfathomable that it is out of anyone's personal reach? What is its Truth for us right now?


I've heard this and seen it written quite a bit in recent weeks, and I believe this to be the answer: the reason we are psychically drawn to such a long and ending cycle is because deep down we share an awareness that life as we know it cannot continue any longer. It resonates because even on a conscious and intellectual level we all know that we have created problems that may very well be beyond our control and lead to endings of all kinds. We all know it — the unprecedented carbon and methane emissions, melting arctic ice sheets and permafrost feedback loops, the loss of top soils, forests, and biodiversity, 7 billion humans and growing, droughts, floods, an economic system based on perpetual growth, and on and on. The planet is bursting at the seams and we are behind the wheel, pedal to the metal.

To me, our collective tapping into the Mayan b'ak'tun cycle and channeling it as an end-of-times energy makes perfect sense. While a lot of it has certainly been overhyped by media outlets and attention seekers who are sure to move on to the next big news cycle tomorrow, for the rest of us I feel like this is both a blessing and an opportunity to raise our consciousness and tune into a higher frequency. It's like we're being woken up from our consumer nightmare to re-envision and re-imagine and re-dream a new world in which we're physically and energetically realigned with our home planet.

To be sure, while this is not a "poof, everything is gone" moment, this is also not a "poof, we're all enlightened" moment. It's a transition. And it's only an invitation for us to do the hard work it will take to live within our ecological means. I'm not sure we can do it. We've already altered the earth's ecosystem and atmosphere so much that the planet we remember no longer exists. But it is more than worth the try, because I believe that the path to healing our planet is also the path to healing our ailing soul.

It's a new beginning, but this time we don't need the cruise ship. We can just swim.



Just looked out the window to find this. Happy New B'ak'tun!

photo by debra baida


crossposted at A World of Words

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Comment Preferences

  •  The reasons could be less deep for many. (4+ / 0-)

    It just makes for an interesting story.  Plus it sells newspapers.

    To get the real answers you'd have to do a massive survey - and most of thouse people may not give you the truth anyway.

    Preparing for the Mayan doomsday prophecy by hastily trying to get in the good graces of snake-bird god Q’uq’umatz

    by dov12348 on Sat Dec 22, 2012 at 09:47:43 AM PST

  •  Superb. I think that you are right. Even the (9+ / 0-)

    deniers, the ones who are stockpiling for armageddon, the armory builders, the anarchists, the selfish sitting on mountains of wealth hoarding it and spending huge amounts to make sure no one gets any, the panickers, the violent nihilists,.... are all versions of how humans can react to something they know is coming... Instead of facing it and mitigating the costs they ppile on to make it worse. I once thought I would not see the bill come due in my lifetime but that belief has eroded and I can see no way out barring people waking up and going all out to solve the issues facing us. Some days I think we can and then some idiot steps up and spews more craziness.  

    Fear is the Mind Killer...

    by boophus on Sat Dec 22, 2012 at 09:51:49 AM PST

  •  By God! (6+ / 0-)

    Somebody better be born on Christmas. Why am I buying all of these damn presents?

    I knew she was the gal for me as soon as she laid her eyes on me. Right on me shoulder, she did. Popped the buggers right out her head, and laid em on me shoulder. She's a sweet heart, that gal.

    by glb3 on Sat Dec 22, 2012 at 10:10:54 AM PST

  •  Essays like yours are one of the reasons that I (7+ / 0-)

    enjoy and value Dkos so much.  It's not just the subject but the complex and reflective examination of the subject that creates meaning from your own independent, individual thought based upon present realities.  This level of social analysis which used to be fairly common has almost disappeared from mainstream nonfiction prose.  I haven't really thought through all the reasons, but I anticipate that they would be a valid a revelation and likely more inclusive of all the ways that we have changed as a society over the last thirty years as well.

    I certainly agree with your thesis, but of course there are particular details that I might see differently in terms of my experiences and their relationships, but what I want to emphasize here is that they would only be different, not right or wrong, but because there is nothing in your writing that can be considered right or wrong in a factual or logical sense.  I'm mainly bringing this out because I think so many problems in discussion here and else where in society today is not so much a matter of right or wrong as it is simply different.

    It's an excellent essay that provokes further thought from readers and of course very appropriate to the season in all of the most important messages that used to be traditional to the season universally and brings into clear focus why and how they are still important but in an elemental degree which we've never experienced before and most importantly will never again if we don't put them to use.  That is ultimately the only hope that matters and actualizing it is entirely humankind's responsibility.

    •  Thank you for that sweet and thoughtful comment, (4+ / 0-)

      blueoasis. You don't even know how much that means to me. I sometimes feel almost hesitant to write directly from the heart and include these more complex reflections, because you simply don't see it that much and I feel like people are just going to ignore it in favor of the more black & white, right & wrong type pieces that get so much attention. I understand that people's attention span is shortened with all the information we're absorbing these days, and I too sometimes skip the deeper think pieces in favor of the quick hit posts. While it's great that more and more people get the chance to express themselves in this new format, I think the problem is that we have less and less capacity to listen. My personal approach to this is that I try to not say everything I have to say all the time, not only to keep my own head space more clear, but to not contribute so much to the overall information clutter.

      I love that you say you see things differently in terms of your own experiences and relationships, but that the way I expressed my view inspired you to reflect on your own. I think that really cuts to the heart of what I was trying to express in the piece, that we're all in this together yet occupy different corners and perspectives of the ecosystem.

      Thanks for this, it really made my first b'ak'tun day! : )

      •  You made my day as well. (3+ / 0-)

        I don't know you really as you don't me but I can tell a great deal about you from your thinking and writing.  There is value in all forms of communication and at times different forms naturally will or have to take predominance over others because of events, but I also think that the change is a result of the changes in American education and social engineering and having moved into an era of greatly expanded abilities to communicate there is an advantage to those who want to control opinion or maintain a state of continual discord to especially place value on the emotionless didactic and at the other extreme the totally emotional as substitutes for balanced outlooks that take in more the totality of human nature and experience.

        I do think that there are a lot of more sophisticated thinkers and readers at Dkos, but simply because of the great amount of content and how few members are present at any given time has a significant effect on what receives attention or not, rather than the quality, but of course there is also disagreement about constitutes quality. As you know it all becomes very, very involved.

        I'm caught up in the holiday demands so I've got to go work, but you've given me some thoughts to pursue while I do those mindless but necessary tasks.

        My very best wishes for the season.

  •  I think this was a really lovely essay. Thank you (6+ / 0-)

    for taking the time and effort to write it. It was very well done.

  •  ...great diary... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    citisven, Glen The Plumber are right about everything you wrote about.

    We have all known these truths.  

    Well I'm gonna keep trying myself.  

    Thanks Sven for the great reminders and inspiration.  

    Heck, I'm even gonna see if I can get a position as a delegate for my Assemby District...see what avenues that might show me.


    Ignorance is bliss only for the ignorant. The rest of us must suffer the consequences.

    by paradise50 on Sat Dec 22, 2012 at 05:09:01 PM PST

  •  Edge effects (3+ / 0-)

    in time and space are strange things, especially the ones that only exist due to convention rather than reality.

    We schedule meetings, set deadlines, make reservations, plan events, listen to 70s music, wear 80s clothing, and study an ancient civilization's understanding of time, so we can partition that which is timeless and endless into bite size chunks, to be more easily digestible by our preferred operating system, the brain.
    Cognitively digestible.  I can just see the brain fluids swirling around reducing the ideas to 8-bit idea-bytes.
  •  a frog will TOO stay in boiling water (4+ / 0-)

    if you slam the lid down on the pot.

  •  Wait a sec... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    citisven, Glen The Plumber

    You were just kidding about the frog..right?
    I've used that before and now I feel terrible.

    Thanx for the great diary!


  •  great stuff usual. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    citisven, James Wells
    If we were more at peace with our own impermanence, there wouldn't be a market for apocalyptic fear.
    ...this was one of many great lines...we are not immortal...we are just one of many living creatures on this planet...not special...which is why we must cherish our small time here...and leave a small that others may enjoy their small time here.

    like a great french movie...your words will float around in my head...even after done reading...expanding into bigger truths and realizations.

    thank you Sven...for making me think.

    We are not broke, we are being robbed.

    by Glen The Plumber on Sun Dec 23, 2012 at 07:15:51 AM PST

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