Op-Ed: 2012: Can Seniors Hold Off on Getting Jobs Due to Apocalypse?

Shauna Siggelkow, This Week Editor

My freshman year of college, two friends and I spent Winter Term on an organic farm in Florida. Many life-changing experiences occurred in those fields: Contemplating the universe, almost getting tattoos, vows of silence to get closer to Hare Krishna and mysterious figures who would stay a few nights before leaving in their pickup trucks/homes. Once one such wanderer, a “shaman” named Miguel, told me that December 21, 2012 would mark the end of the world as we know it, and the beginning of the “water age.”

“We’re all going to be mermaids?” I asked ¬him rather skeptically.

“Merpeople.” He replied indignantly. From that moment, I knew that I had to find out the truth.

Is the world really going to end next year? Will we all become gender-ambiguous merpeople? (His words.) If so, all of these worries about graduating in this economy will be un-needed. This would be the free pass we’ve all been waiting for. I decided that instead of applying for jobs this week, I would find out the truth about 2012.

My first instinct was to turn to trusted film star John Cusack and the film 2012. In its plot line, 2012 claims that a giant solar flare from the sun will cause neutrinos to heat the Earth’s core and dismantle its crust. Then, everything goes wild. However, according to my astronomy professor, “The neutrinos can travel through lightyears of lead without interacting with it.”

It would seem that 2012 and Mr. Cusack had both betrayed me from a scientific standpoint, yet the film had compensated with awesome destruction scenes while Cusack had provided “quirky” good looks, so I couldn’t complain. Next I looked for answers in the New Age movement.

According to Robert Sitler in his article “The 2012 Phenomenon: New Age Appropriation of the 2012 Phenomena,” the reason we are all aware of 2012 as a date of importance is greatly thanks to a man named Jose Arguelles. Arguelles is actually not in favor of the 2012 apocalypse theory, but rather the “great enlightenment” theory. Arguelles bases his philosophy on a dialogue he claims to be having with “Telektonon” through a hole in the top of seventh century B.C. Mayan King K’inich Janaab’ Pakal’s ancient crypt. (This hole, which Arguelles calls “The Talking Stone of Prophecy,” actually exists … not sure about the voice of Telektonon.)

Arguelles has also taken it upon himself to make his own personal version of the tzolk’in, which is the Mayan calendar of the classical age and possibly Classical Maya’s greatest feat. His explanation for creating a new calendar? While the Classical Mayan calendar was merely “indigenous Maya,” Jose’s calendar is “galactic Maya.” In essence, Arguelles has turned Classical Mayan civilization into an episode of Battle Star Galactica. In fact, many of the people supporting the new age 2012 apocalypse theory are sci-fi writers.

Arguelles is not the only New Age philosopher who has a theory on 2012 — he’s not even the craziest. The closest to scientific claims I could find in any of the 10 wannabe documentaries that Netflix provides on this topic are: rapid magnetic pole shifts, an alignment of our sun with the Milky Way, a giant solar maximum and an alignment of all of the planets. Arguelles also suggests a rainbow bridge will form between the poles. This I can neither confirm nor deny.

In order to answer some of these queries, I turned to our very own Professor Dan Stinebring of the astronomy department. Me: Is anything that you know of, as a PhD in Astronomy, that is going to happen on December 21, 2012, other then the annual winter solstice?

Dan: No.

What role then, do the Maya play in all of this? Historically, December 21 2012 is an extraordinary date in their calendar, marking the end of a b’ak’tun, a 144,000 day cycle which is about 394 solar years. December 21, 2012 marks the end of the 13th b’ak’tun which began 1,872,000 days ago on August 1, 3114 BCE. In Mayan tradition we are in the fourth world, and the third world had lasted only 13 b’ak’tuns. However, this is not the end of their calendar. It is only the beginning of a new b’ak’tun. As E. Wyllys Andrews V, director of the Tulane University Middle American Research Institute, says, “There will be another cycle. We know the Maya thought there was one before this, and that implies they were comfortable with the idea of another one after this.” Whether the ancient Maya would have celebrated this event or not is debatable, but there is certainly no evidence that they would have viewed this day as apocalyptic. Contemporary Maya do not place any significance in this date.

The 2012 phenomenon is therefore an act of fantasy and cultural appropriation. The role of the Maya is simply to claim a historical basis for a new craze. Not only did the Mayans not attach any cataclysmic significance to the date, but modern science also finds nothing significant about it.

Sadly then, we all do have to pay off those student loans, deal with global warming and get jobs. Miguel, the shaman of my youth, appears to have been misinformed. No one even in the New Age movement seems to think we’re going to become merpeople. The world is not ending after all. Of course, we can always count on the Rapture!! (May 21, 2011, guys!)