ROBINSON: In case the world didn't come to an end ...
Published: Thursday, December 20, 2012 at 7:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, December 20, 2012 at 3:25 p.m.
If you're reading this, the Maya were wrong. Rather, they would have been wrong if they'd actually predicted the end of the world, which scholars are pretty sure they didn't.
On the other hand, if there's nobody around to thumb through the morning newspaper — if, indeed, there are no more scholars, newspapers, mornings or thumbs — then I guess it was a poor decision to spend Earth's final day in my office. I'd have regrets, except I'm pretty sure that no more world means no more second-guessing.
Assuming we're all still here: What is it that humans find so compelling about impending oblivion? We go out of our way to look for the most obscure and cryptic clues that The End is nigh. This month's scare — and many people, apparently, did convince themselves to be scared — is based on inscriptions carved into two Mayan ruins in Guatemala.
The Maya were obsessed with time, which they saw as moving in vast cycles. They developed a sophisticated and accurate calendar, and the inscriptions indicate they calculated that a major time cycle — and thus, some people have inferred, the world — would end on Dec. 21, 2012. In the world of doomsday anticipation, there's simply no better source of information than an ancient soothsayer. Anything written in hieroglyphics pretty much has to be true.
But according to experts, the inscriptions in question had nothing to do with cosmic fate and everything to do with local politics. David Stuart, director of the Mesoamerica Center at the University of Texas — and discoverer of one of the two Dec.
Happy New Bak'tun, everybody.
For the Last Days crowd, however, this was mere fine print. While present-day descendants of the Maya were unconcerned —
In Russia, there was so much hubbub over the Dec. 21
Poor Danny Glover plays the president; he dies when a
For world-enders of a New Age bent, much of the focus was on the village of Bugarach in the French Pyrenees. It happens that a famous local mountain — the Pic de Bugarach — is flat-topped, like the Devil's Tower in Wyoming, which was the setting for Stephen Spielberg's alien-encounter classic
This is the point at which I should quote some eminent psychologist who explains why Armageddon is such an enduring fantasy — why, to some people, the prospect of sudden and utter doom seems almost comforting. But I think my own theory is as good as any other: boredom. For most people, one day is pretty much like the next. What if something really big happened? What if I were there to see it? How awesome would that be? You're still with me, right? Hello? Anybody out there?
Eugene Robinson is a columnist for the Washington Post.