Thursday, December 20, 2012

A New Era

(Long Count Mayan Calendar.)

Saturday, December 22nd, is a new era. Many people are talking about 12/21/12 being the end of the world based on the Mayan calendar. I don't imagine many people believe Friday will be the last day of the world but many people are talking about it; an apocalypse can be quite a fascination. If you are interested though, it is pretty exciting. The 21st is the end of a cycle of the Mayan calendar, a significant cycle. For the Mayan this just means that the calendar cycles through and continues on, not the end of the world as some like to talk about. Still, pretty cool.

The super cool thing about this is that WE are alive when this end and beginning of a cycle is taking place! When we wake up on Saturday it will be day 1 of a new calendar cycle on the Mayan calendar. Why is this cool?

I remember how neat it was to be able to appreciate our calendar going from the last day of 1999 and becoming at midnight the beginning of the year 2000. The count of a system of years is arbitrary but it is accepted by a huge population of humans. As arbitrary as it was, I was there. To think there were people "there" when our calendar turned to the year 1000. To wonder who and what will be there when our calendar, commonly used or not by then, will/would turn to 10,000.

There were people four thousand years ago with a calendar in what is now Central America. These Maya, like us, had a calendar that could go on indefinitely by cycles, though it used a slightly different system that was base 20 with an exception of a base 18 turn in one of the digit places. You can read all about that on the internet. The point is, there were people who had astronomy, writing, art, government, calendar, and philosophy. Some Maya took time to contemplate the thousands of years their calendar was designed to count. One of the ’digits’ in their count records increments of time of a little over 63 million years. And one turn of the calendar, the rollover of one of the digits, would occur 4000 years into the future for these Maya philosophers that I am contemplating here. It depends on which year you want to imagine the Mayan philosophers as they existed over many years. Mayan civilization started perhaps as early as 2600 b.c.e. and lasted until about 100 c.e. Mayan people still exist today. I am just picking one part of that history to give my mind a specific place in history to ponder. Thinking again about Mayan philosophers from 4000 years ago; they knew they wouldn't be here for that celebration when the calendar would turn 4000 years later, but what and who would be? They thought just like I do about the year 10,000 and 100,000 and so on. The Mayan civilization was around to experience it's own calendar turn a few times to see the equivalents of their calendar turning to the round numbered years and dates of through But here we are about to see it turn to Wow! Here we are. We are part of the what and who of the distant future to ancient philosopher Mayan minds. For these philosophers I take the time to appreciate what they could not be here to do. To admire the turning of time so far from their own time, to marvel at the long time range of existence, to appreciate the coolness of round numbers, even in an arbitrary system, that so many people have and/or do believe in, live by, and/or measure their existence by. We are part of the who and what of their distant future.

We are here. And on Saturday, December 22nd of 2012, we will be alive to experience day 1 of a new cycle of a very old calendar. It will be the equivalent of the date on the Mayan calendar. And of all the turnings of the calendar, each marker in time is considered special; it is considered a full cycle. On December 21st it will be The next time the calendar will turn to a round numbered date (though not a full cycle of 13 b'ak'tun), that of, will be on Monday the 26th of March in the year 2407. But we will be here for the turning of a full cycle, a turning to the calendar to and then to day 1 of the new cycle on Lucky us who can be here now in our year of 2012. Luckier us who can take the time to appreciate this greatness; this greatness made by the calendar's use by so many fellow humans over centuries who recorded their lives, births, deaths, tragedies, and existence. We, when we become aware of this perspective and appreciate our arbitrary luck and fortune, become ambassadors of thought and appreciation, transcending hundreds of years for our fellow humans.

Welcome to a new era, Happy new era!!!


For a little fun, here is a video by NASA, released to the public early, addressing those who fear(ed) the end of the world when the Mayan calendar turn(s/ed).

Image and some of the background information that I used in this post came from various pages of Wikipedia including this one:
A good explanation of the Mayan calendar is here:


  1. You know, Randy, I pride myself on being a fairly intelligent person, but I never thought about the Mayan Calendar issue as being just an end with the next day being a beginning. To put it even simpler, just because the calendar on my desk ends on December 31st each year, does not mean that the world will end the next day....I just open a new calendar. Thanks for bringing this up....You rock, Nephew!

  2. Yes. Isn't it fascinating? Happy 13th b'ak'tun!

  3. Thanks Mai. Hope you are enjoying our stormy California weather. It finally feels like winter. Which makes sense, I guess, as today is the first day of winter.