2012, Apocalypse and the End of the World

2012 is now out. I haven't seen it yet, but plan to this week or next. In case you've been living in a hole, here's the theatrical trailer.

The date, 2012, comes from a misinterpretation of the Mayan calendar. As best I can tell, because of course you read this blog for all your Mayan calender questions, December 21 , 2012 will mark the end of a the longest unit of the Mayan Long Count calendar, the b'ak'tun. A b'ak'tun is 144,000 days, about 394 solar years. December 21, 2012 will mark the end of the 13th b'ak'tun in the cycle which started at the beginning of time, 4 Ahaw, 8 Kumk'u (August 11, 3114 BC). The 13th b'ak'tun began on September 18, 1618 and will end 144,000 days later on December 21, 2012. On January 1, 2013 the 14th b'ak'tun begins.

That, or it's the end of the world as we know it.

As a psychologist I'm kind of worried about all this. Millennial, end of the world, fevers make people crazy. I fear we'll have some zany stuff going on as we saw when we rung in January 1, 2000 and all the Y2K anxiety. To avoid this, I'm going to be doing my 2012 shopping early just to stay away from all the crazy people. Can you imagine what WalMart is going to be like the minutes before midnight December 21, 2012?

On second thought, as a psychologist, maybe I should be there, notebook in hand. Hey, if the world is ending I might as well be working and productive. On the other hand, I don't think I'd like to meet the End of Days in the Frozen Meat section of my local WalMart. So who knows where I'll be. Maybe I'll succumb and you'll find me, gun in hand, in a bunker I dug in my backyard. Seriously, Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity already have me convinced that Obama is the Antichrist. Because, you know, this is what the Antichrist would do, seek ways to cover poor people with health care...

Back to the movie 2012.

At the last Summit at ACU my friend Stephen Johnson had a presentation about apocalypse and movies. In the presentation Stephen classified end of the world movies into types. I can't recall his taxonomy, but it was something like Nuclear, Natural Disaster, Extraterrestrial, etc. I can't recall if there was a Religious category. But you get the idea.

After creating the taxonomy Stephen tracked these types across decades, noting clusters that corresponded to the fears of the time. For example, the apocalyptic films of the 50s and 60s tended to feature Cold War or nuclear threats. In the 90s, as concerns were mounting about environmental catastrophes (e.g., global warming), we saw less nuclear apocalypse and more natural disaster apocalypse in the movies.

But what about 2012? What class of apocalypse is it? Why would the Mayan calender, of all calenders, be synced so precisely with the End of Time? Particularly given its fairly arbitrary (to our mind) and factually inaccurate starting point?

Here's my take. There is this feeling that the ancients were more in touch with the cosmos. That their time-keeping and rituals were somehow more synchronized with the cosmos. Their time feels more "real" than our time. Our time, or at least the rhythms of our day, are driven by the work time clock. Their time was synced with the moon, sun and stars. Our time, by contrast, has no spiritual or cosmic significance. Our time just tells us when when to start the commute home or that we are late picking our kids up from soccer practice. In short, movies like 2012 speak to our spiritual dryness. In this case, how that dryness manifests itself in our time keeping devices and our calenders. Another symptom of this dryness is how many Protestants, given their historical ties to the life of work (e.g., the Protestant work ethic), are increasingly attracted to the Liturgical Calender.

In short, my time is trivial, empty and myopic. The ancients, by contrast, well, their time is transcendent and takes in the entire vista: It starts with Creation and terminates, on December 21, 2012, with the End of Days.

This entry was posted by Richard Beck. Bookmark the permalink.

4 thoughts on “2012, Apocalypse and the End of the World”

  1. Because of the ancients dependence on nature for their existance, and their lack of understanding science in controlling the universe, they "created" or imagined "god".

    Some believe the bane of our society is the fact that we can live independently. I don't believe this is the case, as self-governance was what our Founders thought was appropriate development. And ancient cultures, being tribal depended on one another because of their immobility.

  2. I think its all are just a prediction that in 2012 World is no more. Because of there is no any physical proof or report on it. So it is not true that 2012 is the end of the world. 

  3. Our time is telling us that when it is time to begin your trip, or pick up late to play football for our children. We see the inspiration for the film and less apocalyptic nuclear holocaust.

Leave a Reply