As part of our occasional series on 2012 and the forthcoming end of the world, we bring you an article from the Brown Daily Herald, newspaper to Brown University. Will the world end on Dec. 21, when the Maya calendar of more than 5,000 years runs out? Or will it just be a big phfffffffft!
Chaz Firestone reports:
Entering college, students are told that with enough effort they’ll make it out in one piece. But the class of 2012 may not be so fortunate, at least according to Patrick Geryl. If he’s right, the only chance this year’s freshmen have at survival is to chuck their color-coded flash cards in favor of more practical measures: $10,000, survival gear and a one-way ticket to the South African Kingdom of Lesotho.
That’s where Geryl, 53, and his growing group of survivalists plan to be in four years – when he thinks the world will come to a volcano-erupting, tidal-wave-crashing, nuclear-reactor-melting end.
Geryl is one of the world’s best-known supporters of the increasingly popular belief that a series of catastrophic events will befall the Earth in 2012, a year supposedly pegged for doom millennia ago by the ancient Maya civilization.
“It will be the single most destructive event in the history of the human race,” Geryl said from his home in Antwerp, Belgium. “Everything will be gone.”
On the agenda for the destruction of the world is a massive increase in heat from the sun, a change in the spin of the Earth and the eruption of volcanoes everywhere, the biggest of which will burst out from beneath Yellowstone National Park’s famous geyser, Old Faithful. Geryl said the only livable place on Earth will be Africa, since it is the only continent without a nuclear reactor.
Inspired by this “ancient calculation,” Geryl left his oil company job two years ago after having saved enough money to pay for six years of food, 72 months of bills and an 11-page manifest of survival items.
The now famous “survival list,” which has made its way around online discussion boards and blogs, covers everything an intrepid survivalist will need, with a few extra amenities: food, shelter, transportation, clothing, paragliders, wooden abacuses, catapults and rechargeable batteries.
“We’re going to build bunkers, bomb shelters with two meters of ground overtop of them,” Geryl said. “We’ll need to rebuild all of civilization after the catastrophe.”
These concerns, which now attract millions of believers and Google hits, can be traced back to ancient stone inscriptions found in a few ruined Mesoamerican cities. The Maya are known for their cyclical understanding of time, and believers in these “prophecies” say that when the current millennium-long cycle comes to an end in 2012, the result will be similar to the last time the cycle ended: destruction.
While more and more people fret over the coming apocalypse, at least one man hopes talk of the 2012 theory will end long before the world does.
(Brown University) Professor of Anthropology Stephen Houston is one of the world’s leading experts on Mayan civilization, with a specialty in deciphering Mayan texts. The author of numerous books on the Maya, Houston has recently appeared in the popular media opposite Geryl and other doomsayers, defending a less sensational interpretation of the prophecy – if it can be called a prophecy at all.
“Most of it is based on spurious information and a pretty shoddy understanding of the material,” Houston said. “There are a variety of readings of highly esoteric information.”
Houston said it may be the case that a Mayan cycle will end in 2012, but that the end is neither significant nor relevant. The Maya kept track of thousands of cycles, he said, so it’s important not to key in on one and ignore the others.
“It’s kind of like a clock. There’s a cog that turns on the second, another cog on the minute and another cog on the hour,” he said. “Imagine such a complicated clock that it would contain thousands of these cycles, and that’s the way to understand Maya time.”
Houston said the end of a Mayan cycle is no more an “end” than the end of a modern month or decade – it just starts up again afterwards.
But what has Geryl and others worried is what the Mayan writings describe the last time this cycle ended – collapsing buildings and devastating infernos – and what that could mean this time around.
Houston, again, was skeptical. He said the writings describe a “ritual renovation,” which can sound frightening if misinterpreted but is actually quite harmless.
“To be honest, it’s not terribly apocalyptic,” he said. “It’s about the changing of hearths and the kindling of fires – a household metaphor writ large.”
In addition to being quoted in stories for ABC News and other media outlets, Houston said he has been approached by PBS and the History Channel to appear in documentaries and special episodes about the phenomenon, a prospect he welcomes, if cynically.
“I’m always happy to inform people who are genuinely interested,” he said, “but this isn’t really about the Maya evidence. It’s about obsession.”
Read the rest of the article HERE.
For previous posts in the occasional series, Countdown to 2012 and the end of the world in general, click HERE.