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Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Mayans couldn't even see their own End of Days

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MY prediction for the year 2012, which I am told begins tomorrow, is that the world will not end. This is despite the belief that the Mayan calendar says that it will. The calendar was devised 5,125 years ago by the Mayans of Central America, a people who never had the wit to invent the wheel, but it runs out on Dec. 21, 2012. The End of Days, so to speak.

If, as some seers suggest, thats an accurate prediction, you have less than a year to get your affairs in order and shed your worldly wealth so you can go unencumbered into the darkness. Feel free to put that burden on me. You know where to reach me.

On the other hand, before you write those cheques and put them in the mail or hand over your liquor cabinets, you might want to consider some other things. Its possible the Mayan calendar ends next Dec. 21 simply because they couldnt count as high as 5,126. Lots of people cant, and who cares when you are counting things like calendar days, which are arbitrary anyway.

The year as we know it today has 365 days, except that it doesnt exactly. That is why 2012 -- theres that date again -- as well as being the Mayan end of world, is also a leap year in which February has 29 days instead of its usual 28 so that we will not fall behind in time. One supposes that, if it werent for leap years, we would have a few more months at least before the Mayan calendar comes crashing down on us.

Another thing to consider is that the Mayans, clever as they were -- their calendar was unusually accurate even though it didnt go very far -- were not any more prescient than any other people. They didnt know what the future holds any more than you or I do. If they had known, they might have been better prepared for the Spanish conquest that began in the 16th century and has reduced them today to being not an empire, not even a nation, not even a tribe. For the Mayans, the End of Days came cruel and early, long before their calendar had run out.

People forget that calendars are arbitrary things, that we measure time by our wrist watches and wall clocks that gods and cosmic forces pay no attention to. The world is too much with us, thankfully, and, one hopes, will be for some time. In the meantime, its worth remembering some age-old advice -- live every day as if it were your last. Dont wait until Dec. 21 to make things right with your relatives or to kick up your heels. But if you insist on believing in Mayan doomsday prophesies -- and I know there are some of you out there -- dont forget to write.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 31, 2011 i12

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Updated on Saturday, December 31, 2011 at 8:44 AM CST: Corrects typo in headline

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