March 22, 2012 —
Doomsday is a strong word. Merely uttering it aloud conjures up all sorts of scenarios in one’s head, but ultimately it leads to the same conclusion. No matter how you slice it, and regardless of the language, dictionaries around the globe agree that doomsday is defined as “the last day of the world’s existence.”
The 2012 phenomenon started innocently enough, half way ‘round the world, comprising a wide range of beliefs according to which “transformative events will occur on December 21st, 2012. This date is regarded as the end of a 5,125-year-long cycle in the Mesoamerican Long Count (Mayan) Calendar. Various astronomical alignments and numerological formulae have been proposed as pertaining to this date, though none have been accepted by mainstream scholarship” (www.wikipedia.org ).
And yet, the prophesy has gathered steam over recent years, cresting in popularity just as 2011 drew to a close, as millions gathered around their television sets, while literally billions of internet searches were conducted during the same period. A devotee of all things that go bump in the night, I also found myself drawn to the subject matter, and avidly looking for information, real or imagined—while constantly scanning the nighttime skies for signs of planetary mayhem.
The media has spared no expense in its devotion to the subject. The History Channel (www.history.com ) has aired several hours, including “Decoding the Past,” “Last Days on Earth,” and “Nostradamus—2012.” Not to be outdone, the Discovery Channel (www.discovery.com ) produced “2012 Apocalypse,” which suggested that earthquakes, magnetic storms, solar flares and volcanic eruptions could be triggered by dates predicted (if not misunderstood) by the Mayans. I watched them all, eating it up with a spoon.
In fact, there is some science behind the myth. The ancient Mayan calendar is unique in that there is a good amount of information available regarding how the calendar was created, and historians have scoured the text books attempting to decode the myth behind the mystery. Exactly how this phenomenon reached epic proportions is problematic, and unraveling it appears to be a Herculean task. Interpretation appears to be key, muddied by linguistics. The so called “Prophets of Doom” claim that the “world” will end in 2012, but according to the web site www.helium.com , it is the definition, once again, that comes into play. In Mayan culture, the word “world” does not mean our Earth, but refers to “a time phase, gauged by the planets and stars movement in the universe, which moves in cycles.” A “world” is defined as roughly 26,000 years. Strangely, this corresponds with modern astrology, also divided into time phases. In both cases, we are approaching the change from one phase into the next.
Okay then, what about the planetary alignment that everyone is buzzing about? The fact of the matter is that our own solar system is experiencing alignments of one sort or another constantly, and this would not be the first to garner attention. End-of-the-world scenarios are as old as civilization itself, and it’s unclear as to whether this time around will be any different. Galactic equators, numerological formulae and major shifts in human perception collide in a miasma of miscommunication that continues to polarize the communities at loggerheads over the issue.
Astronomer David Morrison argues that “the ‘Galactic Equator’ is a completely arbitrary line and can never be precisely drawn because it is “impossible to determine the Milky Way’s exact boundaries, which vary depending on clarity of view” (www.velikovsky.info/David_Morrison ).
Planetary alignments are almost commonplace in the universe, and I randomly chose 1968 as a year to check on the Internet. Sure enough, an alignment (Jupiter and Saturn) took place, along with the requisite religious fanatics claiming the end was nigh.
“Well sure,” I grumbled, “two planets aligning doesn’t seem like much of a to-do, but what happens when they all line up, as projected for December, 2012”? Once again, the Internet delivers. The website www.ans 
wers.yahoo.com responds thusly: “The phenomenon you refer to is called a ‘syzygy’” (scrabble players take note!). That’s what happens “when the planets are most aligned with one another,” and an interesting piece of trivia is that syzygy “was responsible for the spacecraft Voyager leaving our solar system through a pattern of flight from one planet to another that was only made possible by the rare confluence of the planets.”
Although astronomers agree that any dramatic changes on planet Earth are unlikely as a result of the approaching alignment, the science dictates that the affects can be long ranging in the cosmos. Little wonder then, that it is difficult to dissuade believers in the possibility of cataclysmic shifts, not only of consciousness, but the planet itself, considering that best guestimates suggest that the last time an alignment of this magnitude occurred was approximately 26,000 years ago.
Truth be told, I believe that either way, the excitement is timely. Sparking lively debate is always a good thing (in my book) and if that same conversation leads to raising global awareness, ecological concerns and a shift in perception about our relationships with other cultures, much less the universe-at-large, where is the harm?
One of my friends is planning an end-of-days party (December 21, 2012 is her birthday) along with thousands of others, I imagine. Assuming the best case scenario unfolds, I’ll take notes and snap some photos through my telescope, prepared to report on the aftermath of disappointment and elation, depending on the individual point of view.