In masks outrageous and austere
The years go by in single file;
But none has merited my fear
And none can quite escape my smile.
— Elinor Wylie, American poet and novelist, 1885-1928
New Year's Resolution: Enjoy every minute, because the end is near.
This is a good idea for all us mortals, whether
we believe in the Mayan calendar thing or not.
For those who missed the movie, and the mystical
theory that inspired it: The Mayans (250-900 AD) "predicted" the end
of the world with a calendar that ended abruptly on the winter
solstice in 2012. Of course they were counting from a different
beginning date, but adjusting for our Gregorian calendar, this will
be the date that the Earth will be destroyed by multiple cataclysmic
Wait! According to a recent headline in Discovery
News, "The 2012 Maya Calender 'Doomsday' date might be wrong"!
Well, that's a relief.
Wait! "Might be"?
Reading on: An associate professor at UC Santa
Barbara has found that this date "could be at least 60 days out of
whack. Which way?
Will we celebrate only one more Salem Halloween
week? Or get two Halloweens and two Christmases more?
One thing that makes me feel better about this is
a Bizarro cartoon that shows a Mayan rolling his round stone
calendar toward his chief. The stone is covered with markings and
the carver says, "I only had enough room to go up to 2012."
Smiling, the chief says, "Ha! That'll freak
somebody out someday." Ha!
Sad, though, that a real Doomsday for most Mayans
arrived around 900 AD.
According to a very thick book I am presently
How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed," by Jared Diamond, who
won a Pulitzer Prize for "Guns, Germs and Steel," the collapse of
the Mayan civilization was probably due to population growth
exceeding available resources, similar to problems in Rwanda and
Diamond wonders why the kings and nobles failed
to recognize and solve seemingly obvious problems undermining their
society, and concludes that "their attention was evidently focused
on their short-term concerns on enriching themselves, waging wars,
erecting monuments, competing with each other and extracting enough
food from the peasants to support all those activities."
Uh-oh. Sounds familiar enough to merit a little
fear for ourselves in January 2011.
Moving right on to the "smile" part, Ms. Wylie.
Sunday morning I was reading the paper with WBZ-TV
on in the background, waiting for Jon Keller's political interview
segment. My attention was caught by a news story from Arkansas,
about "thousands of birds falling out of the sky on New Year's Eve."
The news babe told us that fireworks may have caused the birds,
mostly blackbirds, but also some ducks, to fall from their nests and
then they were hit by lightning or hail on the way down to the
I was laughing even before she ended the segment
by looking into the camera and saying, "That's so sad."
This is another reason, along with age and looks,
why I could never be a news babe: I'd be yelling at the
teleprompter, on air, "How can you feed me this @#*!?"
I'd heard about tornados in Arkansas, so I'd have
assumed that this could be a reason for birds falling from the sky,
having been scooped up like Dorothy and dropped where and when the
funnel stopped. But no, as with climate change, we have to blame
human beings; it must have been the fireworks (which don't seem to
bother birds on the Fourth of July).
Later news stories had scientists theorizing that
the now 3,000 dead birds might have been poisoned.
A little weather research, however, did show
reports of "high winds and tornados" striking Arkansas on New Year's
Eve. Makes more sense to me than a hapless blackbird being startled
from his nest by fireworks, then being struck by lightning on his
way to the ground.
In an apparently unrelated story, 100,000 fish
were found dead in an Arkansas river; but Andrew Goodwin of the
University of Arkansas Aquaculture & Fisheries Center said he
suspected that "the drum fish may have experienced a population boom
this summer that created more competition for food and sapped the
weaker ones of their ability to fight off disease" during a winter
Uh-oh, no longer smiling. Do you see an
overpopulation pattern here? First the Mayans, now the fish.
Fearful about the future, I went to a usually
reliable source, Llewellyn's 2011 "Daily
Planetary Guide" from the Pyramid Bookstore. A year ago it
warned that "this is the year when coming up with new solutions to
pre-existing problems is necessary though it won't be easy."
Not easy, therefore not done by the kings and
royals; so in 2011 astrologers predict "huge financial and social
change ... worldwide transformation." They mention the Mayan
calendar only in passing, on the way to warnings about a rare
astrological alignment causing "major showdowns between the old
establishment and the new world order."
"Yes", Llewellyn says, "the world will still
exist after 2012, but it will be a different world."
Smile, friends, as we work together for a better