There’s a much simpler explanation to this whole Mayan calendar thing, anyway. Some people think the world is going to end because the very accurate Mayan calendar stops on December 21st of this year; others think the date ushers in a New Age where we’ll beat our swords into ploughshares, dogs and cats will lie down together, and the government will give us all new cell phones. I’d like an iPhone, please. The way things are going, that last is the most believable part of all of this.
But what if the Mayans just ran out of paper? Or, in their case, stone?
“Um … excuse me, Mr. B’ak’tun, but we’ve run into a problem … I reached the end of the stone.”
“So what? You’ve gone hundreds of years into the future with it, K’iche’. By then we’ll all be dead and your stone will be buried in the jungle somewhere. Let’s break for lunch and a bracing game of Bul.”
Two thousand years later, the Bul is as thick as ever.
(Bul was a real Mayan game, by the way: It was played with corn. Do with that as you will.)
The main proof that the Mayans weren’t predicting the world’s end is the fact that January didn’t bother them. I mean, they were in the tropics, January was probably nice. Wouldn’t they have preferred to end the world in May, before it got too hot?
In theory the only good thing about January is that the days are finally getting longer. In practice you rarely see the sun in January. People have been known to go blind in March, from staring up at the strange glowing ball in the sky and trying to decide whether it’s an angry Mayan god. Their eyes burn out while they attempt to pronounce “K’inich Ajaw,” which translates into “Why would some fool move north? It never snows here.”
(I know I discussed hating winter and moving south last week, but if I’m still here suffering, you will too.)
No, January is more a celebration of Chicchan, the gods who bring clouds, and Cum Hau, who was in charge of death and the underworld and lives in International Falls, Minnesota. Those few times when the weak, pale Sun is visible, it’s hovering over the former Mayan empire.
Of course, it also hovers over Hugo Chavez, and the only thing he ever successfully predicted was the winner of the last Venezuelan election.
So I’m not looking forward to January, but a more immediate concern is that my wife’s birthday falls on December 21st – the same day some people think the world will end. Should I throw her a party early, just in case? Or should I wait until the end of the day, in the hopes that I don’t have to shop for a birthday present? (‘Cause – I am a man.) If I wait, and the world doesn’t end, she’ll probably make me wish it had.
My point – what was my point? Oh, yeah. My point is that you shouldn’t sweat the Mayans, although I assume the Mayans did sweat themselves. They were very good calendar makers, but if they could really predict the future, why did they hang around until they sold too much debt to the Aztecs, and their empire crumbled around them?
Or … did they? Maybe they all escaped. Maybe they stop by now and then in little saucer shaped ships, check out our TV programming, and fly away shaking their heads, wondering if they should have left smarter people behind.
If you really want to predict what’s going to bring civilization to an end, I suggest you look to Washington, D.C., and count how much money the federal government spends making – ironically – money. A hundred years from now we’ll be sitting around the fires in our caves, burning worthless cash and thinking of how surprised we were when China called in their loans and we didn’t have any collateral.
And then, having nothing better to do, we’ll start carving out calendars.