Zocalo Public Square: What's Not Hot
I’m over the Mayan prophecy claptrap
New Age bunkum about how Mayan seers prophesied the End of the World in 2012.
Yes, I realize this is not, strictly speaking, a 2012 trend in the sense of a trend born in 2012, but it is a trend that persists, against all common sense and despite withering fire from rationalists everywhere, into 2012.
As an atheistic freethinker, not to mention a make-mine-zombie-apocalypse type, I’m admittedly the wrong demographic for this shameless attempt to reinflate the tires of José Argüelles’s gently used Harmonic Convergence, but seriously, people: this brazen—if error-ridden—appropriation of Mayan culture by Etsy-shopping hipsters would bring a blush to Carlos Castañeda’s cheek. In a nation where, according to a recent Gallup poll, a scant 16 percent of the population—up, incredibly, from past years—accepts the godless, strictly Darwinian account of human evolution, this sort of flapdoodle is just not helpful.
I did my part to help stamp it out in my 2009 essay “Carnival of Bunkum” (which appears in my forthcoming essay collection, I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts):
The stories we tell ourselves, as a culture, do matter. … Premonitions of the End of Days and prophecies of a Space Odyssey-like leap in species consciousness, in 2012, are just the same old bedtime story — a story we never seem to tire of hearing, about the moment (forever forestalled) when there will be ‘wonders in the heaven above and signs on the earth below,’ as the Book of Acts has it — when the sun will go dark and the moon will turn blood red and time shall be no more. The environmental crises and geopolitical pathologies of our times—rising C02 levels and suicide bombers’ and the sufferings of the wretched of the Earth, like the Guatemalan Maya—demand that we step up to our social responsibilities and engage passionately with the issues of our age. Placing our faith in wet-brained ravings about a ‘multidimensional realm of hyperspace triggered by mass activation of the pineal gland’ or ‘a dispensation of consciousness that’s more intuitive, mystical, and shamanic’ is a luxury we can no longer afford. We’re out of time.
Yet, like the persistent belief that Obama is a Muslim or the inexplicable German fondness for David Hasselhoff, New Age prophecies of a 2012 eschaton are impervious to fact or logic. And why not? It’s a rapture for hipsters too cool for Harold Camping but just credulous enough to make easy marks for the ayahuasca-vision shysters working the Burning Man-and-Esalen circuit. And who doesn’t love a good rapture?