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December 21, 2012
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Actually, we're not doomed after all

Dear Editor:

Since Dec. 21, 2012, is upon us, and since I can't seem to get away from advertisements for end-of-the-world celebrations in Aspen, I must speak up and defend my consciousness from this assault.

I'm sorry to be the bearer of good news, but I must inform you, despite your highest nihilistic hopes, it's not the end of the world. Belly Up, our little local music venue, is having an "End of the World Party." There are lots of end-of-the-world parties on this day of "planetary alignment." There are rumors of a "cosmic shift" or a "radical transformation." But rumors of some predicted Mayan apocalypse are an insult to our archaeological and anthropological education.

The mainstream seems to be missing the information boat, the one carrying the facts rather than the imaginings. One fact is that the Mayans don't have an apocalyptic cosmology. We do. The Mayan astrologers and priests, who created this calendar that we have interpreted as heralding the end of the world on the equivalent day in our own calendar, Dec. 21, 2012, did not see the end of this particular period of time as being the end times but just the beginning of a new B'ak'tun.

A B'ak'tun, it turns out, is approximately 394 of our years long. Twenty B'ak'tuns make a Piktun. In the equivalent of our calendar year, Oct. 13, 4772 (2,760 years from now), 20 B'ak'tuns will have passed, and the Mayan calendar will go to the next Piktun.

Hopefully we will have reset our own calendar by then and will have based our new calendar's start date on something more hopeful than the supposed birth of a nice young man who got crucified for nothing more than speaking his mind. Either way, you can discern, from these simple facts, that the Mayans did not plan for the world to end today. We have taken a tiny sliver of out-of-context information about an ancient Mesoamerican belief system and filtered it through our conditioned Western lens.

As Sandra Noble, director of the Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies, stated, "For the ancient Maya, it was a huge celebration to make it to the end of a whole cycle." That Dec. 21, 2012, heralds a doomsday scenario or a cosmic shift she calls "a complete fabrication and a chance for a lot of people to cash in."

Unfortunately, ideas have power, and our psychology as humans is not so impermeable as to be unaffected by these types of false beliefs. The beliefs, which continue to bombard our consciousness with the idea that a deity is counting the days till he comes down and ends everything around us and either punishes or rewards us individually, for eternity, depending (like Santa Claus) upon whether we've been naughty or nice, are not helping us create a better world.

Since our minds have been conditioned for centuries with this idea about the coming apocalypse, about the end times and a judgment day, the collective consciousness of the so-called "civilized world" is littered with this thinking. When another story comes along that fits nicely into this widespread narrative, it is very difficult for even "free thinkers" to tell the true from the false.

Every time one of us talks about the coming "cosmic shift" or the "transformation" or "the end of the world," we are actually reinforcing a narrative that paradoxically serves to prohibit the very "cosmic shift" or "transformation" that we are hoping for. When we are dealing with an unsustainable economic system, climate change, deforestation, nuclear weapons, nationalism, religious divisions and other perpetuated ways of thinking that create violence and oppression, it seems normal that humans would hope for a transformation of their thinking that would liberate them from this problematic reality.

But the belief in some external change-maker keeps us psychologically limited, whether consciously or unconsciously, from actually creating change. How does belief in an externally created utopia help motivate us to make real changes that might create a more utopian world? Or, if the end is coming, then what is the point in making the changes we see as necessary around us? Beliefs in a coming end, or transformation, create a paralyzing layer in our consciousness hindering us from creating changes that might help create a better world.

Next time somebody tells you the end is coming, try responding, "No, it's not." Have a very merry it's-not-the-end-of-the-world party.

Andrew Scott

Aspen


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The Aspen Times Updated Dec 21, 2012 06:05AM Published Dec 21, 2012 01:35AM Copyright 2012 The Aspen Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.