Like any other date on the calendar, Dec. 21, 2012, came and went. And we’re still standing, proof (if it were needed) that the “end of the world” prophecy involved, not a cataclysm that would wipe out humankind, but a transformation.
Doomsday cults had been trumpeting that date as the end, due to its allegedly being the last date recorded on the ancient Mesoamerican long-count calendar, particularly in the T-shaped stone calendar in Mexico that had been keeping count for over 5,000 years. But Mayan experts themselves had been consistently disproving this theory. Some experts point out that the actual last date on the calendar is Dec. 23, but they add that even that date is not the day of ultimate destruction because the Mayan calendar is cyclical. It just keeps going on, no date required. “It’s not the end of the Mayan long-count calendar, which is endless,” historian Erick Velasquez said. “It’s the beginning of a new cycle, that’s all.”
The Vatican Observatory’s Rev. Jose Funes dismissed all the talk of an apocalypse of biblical proportions, characterizing the doomsayers’ predictions as “not even worth discussing.” Our own clerics were similarly sanguine. “Theologically, the world has been ending,” said Archbishop Angel Lagdameo, a former president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines. “The world in which we are living today is far different from the world of yesteryears.”
Though even Hollywood had been pushing our doomsday buttons with movies like the environmental thriller “The Day After Tomorrow” and the on-the-nose disaster flick “2012,” much of the world remained slightly puzzled but generally unfazed by the supposed end of days. There was no real panic, no outbreaks of anarchy and desperate chaos. Even here in the Philippines, where the supposed last day was colorfully called “Gunaw,” people went about their business and made no plans to watch how the world would end.
The prediction may not have proved true, but that doesn’t mean we cannot learn from it. Perhaps there is a lesson to be learned from the supposed signs that the doomsday preppers had noted, such as the uncontrollable and largely unpredictable behavior of the weather over the last decade worldwide, resulting in everything from tsunamis in Asia to blizzards in the United States. We looked on in horror as Typhoon “Pablo” wiped out entire settlements and redrew maps in Compostela Valley. Worldwide, hundreds of thousands of people died from Mother Nature’s fury—and more will likely follow in the future.
The disasters that have lately descended on various parts of the world—the US East Coast, for example; our own Mindanao, for another—are said to be part of the Mayan prophecy. But they also tell us that extinction will be imminent because of human behavior that is wasteful, inconsiderate, thoughtless and greedy. Surely the message has become clear. What these bizarre weather conditions are telling us is that it’s urgent for humankind to be responsible for its actions, that we should employ a reasoned, intelligent and judicious stewardship of the world’s resources—indeed, that we can, and should, stem the tide.
Yet there are other manmade disasters. A troubled young man uses assault weapons to kill children of tender years in an American school. The Middle East remains in the grip of violence. Africans still go hungry even in the age of wireless technology. Filipinos are hounded by crime in a climate of impunity.
Where do we go from here? What does one do when the world is supposed to end, but doesn’t? The lesson to be learned is crystal: that we simply need to be better people. We must take the time to ponder in what ways large and small we can save the world, the people around us, and even those on the other side of the planet. Be it helping to feed hungry typhoon victims or taking steps to enforce gun control, we all have a part to play.
It’s said that when midnight came and went on Dec. 21, hope stirred and then welled. We’re still here, with work yet to be done. Of course it helps that we are smack in the season of comfort and joy. Wherever we are, whoever we are, we have a fresh opportunity to do more, and to do good. Dec. 22 came and went, and the rest of our days began. The sun will again rise tomorrow. Our story continues.