diamond geezer

 Friday, December 21, 2012

It is of course untrue that the world ends today, especially if you're reading this tomorrow.

But it is true that the 13th b'ak'tun of the Mayan Long Count calendar terminates this morning, after 5125 years, at the precise moment of the winter solstice. That's...

11:12 21/12/12

...which is such an unlikely collection of ones and twos that it looks apocalyptic all by itself. Of course, once you add "and 43 seconds" to the time, it's not quite so digitally perfect. And the Mayans didn't count months in twelves, nor have 60 minutes in an hour, so any perceived magic is merely coincidence. But today's winter solstice does have a rare astronomical meaning, in their calendar at least, which echoes back through several millennia.

As such, today's is a date I've had my eye on for a very long time. I can't remember when I first heard about the Mayan Doomsday prophecies, but it'll have been a few decades back, probably as I was rifling through a book from my local library. "The world might end in 2012" was mere apocalyptic rumour, but enough to place a bookmark on the Friday before an unimaginably distant Christmas.

2012's also been in my long-term calendar for a completely different reason - the Olympics. Not quite so long-term in this case, but the Games were confirmed for 27th July 2012 at least seven years in advance. I'd had something specific to look forward to, at a particular time, unbelievably close to my house, ever since that unlikely lunchtime in Trafalgar Square in 2005. All gone now.

I like having something to look forward to. A future markpoint, a fixed point in time, something to aim myself towards. Something properly in the future, not just next year or the year after. A birthday won't do, not even a biggie, it needs to be a global milestone.

2008 and 2011 I'd been looking forward to since I was ten. I found a list with the dates of Easter in it, from the 1970s forward into the 21st century, and two extreme dates instantly stuck out. In 2008 an extremely early Easter, and in 2011 an extremely late Easter. This probably wouldn't have excited you, but it roused something in me, and I had thirty-plus years of patiently waiting.

And especially 1999. I was given a Guinness Book of Answers as a child, which on the inside front cover had full details of Britain's only upcoming total eclipse of the sun. I pored over the map, and memorised the time, and prayed that I could somehow contrive to be in Cornwall on the morning of August 11th. I managed it too, thanks to circumstances I could never have predicted, even if the moment was entirely clouded out and my long-term dream cruelly snuffed.

Once today's non-Armageddon passes, suddenly there won't be much that's long-term-definite to look forward to in my life. No more UK total eclipses, no more local Olympics, and I'll quite possibly be dead before Easter's ever so extreme again. Lots of amazing things will surely happen on days I can't yet predict, but monumental certainties seem rather harder to come by.

The world won't end today, even though I've long known today it might. What will end for me is having something rock-solid, distant and definite to hold on to, as I've had for many a year before. Once 2012 passes I don't have a clue what the far flung future might hold, and that's more than a little unnerving. I guess I just need to embrace the uncertainty and make the most of it, before I find that 2012 was indeed the year where my life peaked, then slipped away, and the Mayans were right after all.

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