As a rock on the seashore he standeth firm, and the dashing of the waves disturbeth him not. He raiseth his head like a tower on a hill, and the arrows of fortune drop at his feet. In the instant of danger, the courage of his heart sustaineth him; and the steadiness of his mind beareth him out.
- Akhenaton?, Egyptian King and Monotheist (c. B.C. 1375)
The end of the world came, and then it went, and yet the world still exists! The exact moment of the winter solstice occurred at 6:12 a.m. EST (1112 GMT) this morning, the “end” of the Mayan calendar. Of course, once a year we pass into the winter solstice, but what was special about this solstice was the fact that it marked the point where the Sun is aligned with the center of the Milky Way for the first time in about 26,000 years.
What an incredibly advanced society of astronomers the Mayans were to forcast this alignment of the Sun and the center of the galaxy in a calendar which stretched back thousands of years before their time, beginning their “Long Count” on August 12, 3114 B.C. and looking forward to the end of the calendar 5,126 years later on this date, December 21, 2012.
What it really amounted to however, was not the end of the calendar but the end of the thirteenth baktun and the start of the fourteenth, as the “odometer” of 220.127.116.11.19 yesterday rolled over to 18.104.22.168.0 today. The world is still here and tomorrow will be 22.214.171.124.1 on the Long Count.
The reason I became somewhat transfixed with today’s date was that I began my own countdown to today’s date in 2008 as I added a new feature to my date reminder software program that had always worked as a handy reminder for yearly occurrences such as birthdays and anniversaries and created a new event type which allowed people to track a specific date years ahead or years in the past. To test the new feature, I added an event marking The End of the Mayan Calendar on December 21, 2012. I’ve been watching the approach of today’s date for over 1,700 days.
One of the benefits in watching the end of the world approach for years in advance is that you get a real sense of how the time we have on this Earth is a finite thing and you develop a sense of urgency in realizing that we cannot count on an endless expanse of days to accomplish the goals we were born to achieve.
Of course, there can be unintended consequences of half-heartedly convincing yourself the end of the world is just around the corner, you might find yourself maxing out the credit cards or convincing yourself with a wink and a nudge that there’s really no need to quit smoking today because the world’s going to end in a few months or years anyways, but if and when December 22nd rolls around and you and I are still here to enjoy it, we can tell ourselves hey, the world was supposed to end yesterday, all our remaining days are just gravy – an unexpected bonus.
My wife worries about my obsession with the apocalypse and the end of the world. When I told her the solstice came and went and the world’s still here, she replied simply, “Life is beautiful if you make it beautiful.”
Enjoy the overtime period, my friends.