Who actually believes the world will end in 2012? Certainly not the Mayans. Sure their calendar ends on December 21, 2012. But did they predict the end of the world? Of course, not! The Mayans did not perceive time as linear, as we do, but rather as circular. Their calendar just happens to end on December 21, 2012. Uh oh, that’s 12-21-12. But let’s not read too much into the numerology, right? Because the Maya calendar is way different from ours. Perhaps, two-thousand years ago some Mayan astronomer calculating the calendar decided that he had done enough work and decided to leave some work for future generations of Mayan astronomers. So, who didn’t continue with the calendar? Probably some slacker Maya. And now many people are panicking.
Now that I think of it, our calendar always ends on December 31, but no one ever panics. Why? Because we know it starts all over again. However, we do celebrate the end of the old year and greet the coming of the new year. At least we hope so. In case the world ends at midnight on December 31, we certainly won’t feel too much pain. Maybe this tradition started as a fear of the world ending at the end of the calendar year.
But we love to scare ourselves. So some people subscribe to every “it’s the end of the world theory” that comes along. Remember Y2K? Here, again, there was a lack of calculation and foresight on behalf of computer engineers. Many people feared the end of the world would come on December 31, 1999. Why? Because all of the computers in the world calculated the date only until 12-31-99. At midnight of 12-31-99, the calendar “advance” to the next mathematically logical date, 01-01-00! But the computers wouldn’t know that 00 was supposed to mean the year 2000. They would instead “advance” backwards in time to 1900, which is the only logical mathematical step. Hence, the Y2K scare! Many people truly believed that at that precise moment there would be power outages, planes falling out of the sky, and nuclear power plants melting down. So many people bought their Y2K water bottles, emergency Y2K food rations to help them survive the imminent disaster, Y2K generators, and Y2K gasoline cans filled with beaucoup gasoline in preparation for the end of the world. But it was all for naught!
And what happened when the year 2000 began? Absolutely nothing! A lot of scared, confused, and drunk people realized they had panicked for nothing. But everyone loved the adrenaline rush of being scared. Why do we love to scare ourselves? Why do we enjoy that sudden rush of adrenalin? Sigmund Freud said we all have this death drive (todestrieb) that makes us want to die. Well, not all us really want to die, but we don’t mind experiencing death precariously through fictional characters in movies or experiences that simulate near death. We achieve this great sense of accomplishment at having survived this harrowing pseudo-near-death experience.
That’s why roller coasters are so popular. People ride them, scream their heads off during the whole ride, stagger off the platform, and then run to get back in line. That’s why we like scary movies like Paranormal Activity. Everyone–myself included–went to see it because the buzz was that this was a really scary movie. This was a low-budget, no expensive special effects type of movie, like The Blair Witch Project. You could just feel the suspense in the air. The scary part was when the bedroom door mysteriously moved about an inch. All the females in the theater screamed and all the males jumped when they heard all the screaming. But everyone enjoyed being scared throughout the movie.
And speaking of 2012, I also saw the movie 2012. Since everyone is worrying about the impending end of the world in 2012, why not capitalize on this fear. Give the people what they want. The movie theater was packed when I went to see it with my sons. We were forced to sit in the front row because we got there a few minutes before the movie started, which was great for watching all these buildings fall on top of us. Other than the allusion to the end of the Mayan calendar, this movie had absolutely nothing to do with the Mayas! We witnessed one cataclysmic disaster after the other until the protagonists finally survive in the end. Ironically, the premise of the movie hinges on the total destruction of Planet Earth, but will we go see a movie where everyone dies in the end? All the destruction considered, there was a huge adrenalin rush for everyone as they nearly died, followed by a happy ending. We all brushed off the imaginary dust of ourselves and slowly headed back to the real world to anxiously await the real 2012!