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Will Friday be the day the world ends, or will it be just another day for us?
There are those who prepare themselves for vast destruction and mayhem, and others laugh off dire predictions as poppycock. Still others elect to hedge their bets and prepare for the worst while hoping for the best.
What’s the story behind this stir?
Current predictions of the end of the world are based on the ancient Maya Long Count calendar, which places epochal significance on the date 12-21-2012. The Maya, an ancient civilization that existed in Central America, developed a calendar of days, months and years into a series of cycles, with each cycle lasting 144,000 days or roughly 394 years.
While we mark our calendar with the year 2012, according to the Maya Long Count calendar, it is 5125. This number marks the end of 13 Mayan cycles and is regarded as a time of renewal: both an ending and a beginning of cycles.
The Maya Long Count calendar was based on the observation of the Mayans’ natural surroundings. They studied the phases on the moon, the movement of the stars and the slant of the sun in the sky. They recorded these observable changes and noticed the effect of the changes on the tides of the ocean and on their growing seasons.
They set their calendar to track the changes and to set a map of when these changes are likely to occur. By projecting the changes onto regular cycles into the future, it appears as if they are predicting future events. Their Long Count map charts a particular alignment of stars, planets and length of daylight that will occur on or around December 21, 2012.
Do the heavens tell the story?
This year, the annual winter solstice occurs on Friday. This is the day when the sun marks its lowest point in the sky for those of us living in the Northern hemisphere. We have the least amount of daylight and mark this as the first day of winter. For some, the solstice marks the date of coming doom.
As recently as 1995, John Major Jenkins put forth the Mayan Cosmogenesis theory. This states that on the date of the winter solstice in 2012, the alignment of the sun and the earth will cross the exact center-line of the Milky Way galaxy, opening an electro-magnetic beam that will wreak havoc with the earth’s gravity.
Jenkins, writing on www.nasa.gov, predicted that this event would offer "a tremendous transformation and opportunity for spiritual growth, a transition from one world age to another." In short, the world as we know it will change.
The fact is Jenkins’ prediction is not based on fact. Astronomers have not determined exact boundaries for the Milky Way, so finding an exact center is impossible.
It may be true, the earth and sun will form a particular alignment during the winter solstice; this line has crossed within the path of the Milky Way for at least 30 years. Yet, catastrophe has not occurred.
Another End Time prediction is based on multiplanetary alignment. This is when a straight line can be drawn from the sun, which touches upon a number of planets within our solar system. Such a phenomenon occurred in 2000 when five of the planets – Mars, Saturn, Jupiter, Mercury and Venus – were within 50 degrees of each other. In 2010, Uranus, Jupiter and Mercury lined up on one side of the Sun, and Venus, Mars, and Saturn lined up on the other side. For 2012, there is no scientific evidence of a planetary alignment occurring.
In 2010 and 2011, Harold Camping made headlines by predicting the end of the world to occur on May 21, 2011. Based on Biblical study and numerology, Camping determined that Jesus Christ would return to earth and take his faithful people with him to heaven. Everyone who remained on earth after this date would be immersed in chaotic fire, plagues and death.
Camping and his followers went so far as to sell their possessions and liquidate their savings to purchase advertising to alert people to their dire prediction.
When their prediction was not fulfilled on May 21, Camping adjusted his calendar and his predictions to Oct. 21, 2011. He determined that God’s judgment occurred on May 21 as promised, but the rapture of the faithful to heaven was delayed to the later date, when God’s destruction of the world would occur.
We know, of course, that the world did not end in 2011. Many believe that the prediction of the world’s end in 2012 will suffer the same fate as Camping’s earlier predictions.
Sci-fi movie-goers may recall the 2009 release of the film 2012. In it, a series of cataclysmic events take place of the course of the year 2012, reflecting the predictions of the world’s end. As you might expect with a current film, the special effects make for graphic and terrifying viewing while boosting ticket sales. Earthquakes, tsunami and a polar-shift bring to life the events that many fear will occur as the earth is being destroyed. All of this makes for good theater, but so do the images in the Star Wars or the Planet of the Apes series.
A religious point of view
Many believers of Jewish and Christian descent look to God to fulfill creation by coming to the world to save it. Some believe this fulfillment will be marked by the coming of the Messiah. Others await Jesus’ return to fulfill God’s promises.
Yet, no one knows how or when this event will occur. Christian believers point to Jesus’ words in the Gospel of Matthew, where he is reported as saying, “Of that day and hour no-one knows; no, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only.”
Pastors interviewed about the significance of the date 12-21-2012 gave little cause for alarm.
“We believe that all creation rests in God’s hands, and that God’s promises are sure,” said one, who asked that his name be withheld because of the subject matter. “There will be a day when Christ comes into the world, when heaven and earth will be one. But the timing of this event is unknown to us. It is in God’s hands.”
The hype around the date 12-21-2012 seems to be running at a fever-pitch. As Friday approaches, questions and concerns lie at the back of the minds of even the most hardened skeptic.
What if others’ predictions are true? Logic, science, voices of the religious can reassure us that this Friday may be just another day.
Let us hope for the best.