Brace yourselves - because the end of the world comes today
According to the ancient Mayan civilisation the world is due to end today – causing Martin Hesp to muse on impending Armageddon.
Well, it's been nice knowing you – I'm only sorry it had to end like this.
You will, of course, be aware that the Earth is due to come to a sorry end today – it may already have popped its clogs before you've had time to read this, which would be a pity. It's so unfair! That's what kids often scream and that's what, I suppose, we must all think when faced with looming Armageddon.
We haven't asked for this. We haven't deserved it (not all of us, anyway). And we've had no chance to mitigate or build vast spaceships so that large numbers can escape. So it isn't fair. We modern First World folk like to think life is about choice. And yet here comes the end of the world, without some much as a by-your-leave, to wipe us all out. That without-by-your-leave-bit is not quite true, of course. The Mayans predicted today's disaster scenario a couple of thousand of years ago.
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They studied the heavens for centuries, noting links between the movement of celestial bodies and events on Earth – and eventually they came up with today's date for what could be described as the opposite to the Big Bang that will snuff it out like a candle guttering in a North Cornish gale.
The Mayans were a bunch of psychopaths. So obsessed were they with maiming and painful death – decapitation in particular – that, today, the entire race would be locked up in Broadmoor. However, they were unerringly accurate in their many celestial predictions.
With not so much as a single telescope at their disposal, the now extinct South American people managed to calculate that a lunar month – the period between successive new moons – lasted 29.5305 days, just 34 seconds away from what we now know to be its actual length.
They were able to forecast the movements of planets such as Jupiter and Mars with great accuracy and predict, correctly, the occurrence of both solar and lunar eclipses for many centuries ahead.
As you may have read elsewhere – the Mayan Long Count Calendar (as it's known) ends abruptly on a date they recorded as 22.214.171.124. – which translates to December 21, 2012 on our Gregorian calendar.
That might be a bit unnerving, but no one knows what the Mayan doom-merchants thought would actually happen on this most auspicious of days. The only clue is etched on an ancient stone tablet and it claims some unlikely lad called Bolon Yokte (the Mayan god of war and creation) will have something to do with it.
But the ancient stone has been eroded in just the wrong place and there's also a crack which makes the last part of the inscription all but illegible. However, Mexican archaeologists have interpreted it as saying: "He will descend from the sky." Have you seen Bolon Yokte about this morning?
That question reminds me of my grandfather who, on his very first ever trip to London to watch a cup final, asked a policeman: "Have you seen Bert Chidgey about this morning? He moved up here a couple of years ago – so I 'spect you knows him."
I mention my old granddad because he once witnessed the end of the world. At least, the old peasant dwellers of lonely, remote, Crowcombe Heathfield under the Quantocks thought the end had come one morning when there was an amazing predawn display of the Northern Lights.
As the local postman doing his rounds that morn, my granddad was amazed when some old crone came running out of a cottage to fling herself weeping at his feet: "Tis the end of the world, Mr Langsford," she wailed. "We doomed, I tell 'ee. Doomed!"
To which my grandfather replied, in his wonderful Somerset accent: "Don't 'ee worry my dear – tis only what they call the Roaring Boreyass." I don't think he ever did get the words aurora-borealis right, but I was impressed he knew about the phenomena anyway – unlike the poor old dame.
And unlike me – or any of us, for that matter – when it comes to Bolon Yokte… Can't we shoot the blighter down or send a military drone up his backside and blow him to Kingdom Come? I don't know if there's any law about killing gods and I don't care – because this end-of-the-world lark seems… Well, so unfair.
Imagine all those unopened Christmas presents going to waste. Imagine all the promise held by the new year vaporised in a trice. Imagine the hopes and dreams, loves and future kisses, adventures and successes – all to be no more.
It doesn't bear thinking about – unless, of course, you are sitting somewhere, as I am, watching endless rain fall while sneezing and coughing your way through a miserable cold that refuses to go away.
Then Armageddon has its attractions. There's also the fact that we all get to die together, rather than being lonely and doing it on our tod. So, I will see you sometime. And if in another future life you come across a newspaper columnist who writes despondent twaddle, you never know – it might be me.