2012 Cataclysm And Doom, Is History Repeating Itself?
About a year ago I published an article titled '2102, Nostradamus, Mayan Calendar, Oh My!' The article was a light-hearted look at the year 2012 and some of its inauspicious predictions. Quite surprisingly, that article has been picked up and published on hundreds of websites and blogs over the past 12 months and I continually receive email from readers and webmasters around the world urging me to write more about this rapidly approaching year (it has also been plagiarized to the point of absurdity). While the interest in my 2012 article is both encouraging and flattering, I think the success of the piece really suggests two simple realities:
1) As with all good doomsday scenarios, the year 2012 does possess enough legitimacy to elevate it beyond the realm of fanatical musings, which is giving it momentum and mystery, and 2) people have a fascination with narratives related to doom and catastrophe, and the internet has become the vehicle which has moved this fascination into a full-blown obsession. Let's look at each in turn.
Among other associations both absurd and reasonable, the year 2012 is increasingly associated with changes in the Sun and cycles of celestial bodies. Indeed, the Mayan calendar (from which 2012 musings owe their origins) is principally a measurement of celestial and natural cycles. The ancient Maya believed that all of life is essentially cyclical, and that time itself is cyclical. Think about it, the days (night and day), the seasons, the years, and so on, all have their roots in cyclical movements: the earth cycles around its axis creating the days, while the moon cycles around the earth creating the months, while both simultaneously cycle around the sun creating the years, and so on. The human body follows natural cycles as well: human gestation is cyclical and even life follows a cyclical formula: birth, growth, maturity, decay, death, and over again…ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Time and reality are essentially cycles within cycles, believed they Maya, and their calendar reflects this cyclical metaphysic.
However, we contemporary thinkers have been programmed to believe that time and reality flow linearly – yesterday before today, and today before tomorrow, etc. – and our orientation to life reflects this cognitive programming. While a linear orientation to time is useful and it certainly helps us to manage our busy lives, it is arguable that the Mayan's were closer to the truth: time is essentially cyclical…and it repeats itself. Ever heard the saying that a broken clock is still correct two times a day?
What does this have to do with the Sun and the year 2012? This will take some explanation…
The sun is our source of life, the alpha and the omega. Without the sun, life could not exist, period; so it is quite logical that primitive cultures created a mythology to worship this great source of life. Indeed, the sun is the source of untold miracles: it walks on water (reflection), turns water to wine (sunrise), cures the sick (fever), raises the dead (spring re-growth), travels with 12 companions (the 12 signs of the zodiac, and the source of your horoscope), and even holds a place of honor in our cognitive construct of the week (Sunday, the day of rest). In fact, most religious holidays are really milestones of sun worship. Christmas is in honor of the sun's rebirth after the December milestone of the winter solstice is reached; Easter and the Passover recognize the sun's 'passing over' the mid-point in its rise past the spring equinox and the beginning of the harvest season (a big deal in primitive times), and so on.
And like all celestial bodies, the sun – our source of life and the object of both adoration and fear – follows a pattern of cycles within cycles. The ancient Maya knew this, and we are just now learning it.
The sun is currently pulling out of a cycle of minimal activity and ramping up towards what many argue will be a solar event of biblical proportions. Without getting too technical, the sun follows a generally predictable pattern of solar activity represented by sunspots; these cycles are referred to as solar minimums and solar maximums and flux on an 11-year cycle (there is that number again…). A solar minimum is a time when there is little or no sunspot activity; conversely, a maximum is a time of tremendous sunspot activity. Interestingly, the next solar maximum is predicted to peak in the latter part of the year 2102, strangely corresponding to the Mayan long count calendar cycle ending date of 12/21/2012, a Great Year that the Mayan's believed would end in a cataclysm of fire. This maximum, argue many, will be one of the most spectacular on record.
What is particularly interesting, and somewhat disturbing, is that our sun is also pulling out of a period of prolonged inactivity – a minimum that has both scholars and thoughtful observers mystified. Could this be the calm before the storm? And if so, what will that storm look like and how will it impact life on earth? Does the strange confluence of all these cycles (and I have not mentioned several other cycles that end in the year 2012) suggest that the earth is on the cusp of a solar event of unimaginable proportions? It is well documented in the scientific literature that sunspot activity affects the earth in unpredictable ways… Are we in store for a season of unprecedented geophysical, geothermal and meteorological unpredictability? All ancient traditions, both oral and written, have stories of a great cataclysm by water (such as Noah's flood); are these traditions really semi-coded warnings to later generations to be on the lookout for the Sun's next coming? Should we be worried that the last Mayan Long Count Cycle ending was marked by a great flood and the 2012 cycle ending is supposed to mark change by fire?
Finally, is it mere coincidence that there is a bizarre increase in blockbuster movies about world-wide disaster related to solar events, (The Book of Eli, 2012, The Knowing, The Road, etc.)? Should we be worried?
2) Obsession with Doom:
It is arguable that the internet has become the pillar of manifest gloominess, and has kicked the amplitude of our strange fixation with doom by an order of magnitude. Indeed, this mania has become so profound in our interconnected world that we have been compelled to create a word to characterize the people who share this collective obsession: Doomers.
And let's face it, 'Dooming' is addictive. Like internet porn, its presence is everywhere and it is hard to avoid. Not surprisingly, 2012 is emerging as the doomsday narrative of choice, the pierce de resistance of End-of-World scenarios. This is not surprising really; the allure of 2012 is a combination of both its scale and diversity, as numerous traditions and mythologies point to this year as a significant milestone, as well as a growing collective notion that 'something is just not right'. 2012 is coming at a perfect time in the evolution of our species as almost everybody agrees that we are living through a time of great challenge and change. Previous predictions of doom were just that – predictions of doom based on beliefs or probabilistic models (such as nuclear annialation or Y2K). 2012, however, is not just about apocalypse or catastrophe, it's about the world purging itself. 2012 represents the ultimate come-uppins from Mother Nature, and, strangely enough, many people see this as a good thing, or at least a just-deserved. Like the mythology of the great flood as the wrath of a vengeful God purging the world of evil, many believe that we have yet again come full circle, or should I say cycle. Hence, the growing popularity of 2012 as a year of great change, purification and turmoil.
Beliefs in dates and doom are not new, of course, and they have been around for as long as people have roamed the earth. Seemingly, like sex, our love of extermination is hardwired into our very DNA. In my short lifetime alone (I'm in my 40's) I have had the pleasure of living quite comfortably through multiple predictions of catastrophe, from Y2K (what a letdown!), to nuclear holocaust…from 88 reasons Why in 88 (the widely-believed prediction of the rapture in 1988), to Hail-Bop and the much awaited return of our parent alien species; indeed, the list goes on and on. Not surprisingly, all of these predictions have one thing in common, and it's the obvious – they were all wrong. Laughably wrong. But that didn't keep people from believing in them, sometimes fanatically.
But today's obsession with apocalypse and 2012 is different. Why? Because today we have the means and the technology to proselytize our fears to a broad audience and in the process stir a global pot of emotional stew into a collective mania. Today, any idiot (or scholar for that matter) can post a well-made but completely made up U-Tube documentary on the arrival of Planet X (in 2012) and arouse the fears of millions. Prior to our interconnected world, dates of doom and devastation were confined to the groups that promoted them or to the creative tools employed to market them, but rarely were they as widespread as they are today, and with the exception of Y2K, they were never global. And that, I submit, is what makes the 2012 phenomenon so scary and why we should be taking it seriously.
But here is a fact that I want you to meditate upon: you are still here. Let me state that again, and I want you to read it slowly: I — Am — Still — Here! The very fact that I am writing to you today about dates and doom should scream a very clear and compelling truth to all of you who are worried about 2012: the odds are in your favor!
One day there actually will be a global cataclysm, that's a statistical certainty. But to assume it will happen in your lifetime is pure ego, and the likelihood that it will occur in 2012 is less related to Mayan mythology, and more to a collective (and dim-witted) wishful thinking. So is history repeating itself? Yes I'm afraid it is…but not the history of catastrophe. Rather the history of human gullibility and predictability. We are 2012, and to the extent that we choose to believe it represents doomsday, will we be underequipped to handle the very real possibility that the world may be cycling through very real changes, changes that are survivable if we will just stop fussing over doom and start balancing reason with readiness.