They are waiting. Hundreds of thousands or possibly millions of people. Tomorrow is the end of the world.
I took this photo of a white-clad group in the woods of the archaeological zone of Kabah last week. They spoke Italian as they wandered through the ruins of Kabah and climbed over the ancient buildings.
As we were leaving, I noticed that the group had congregated, formed a circle and were meditating. It made a beautiful, peaceful image and I decided to take a photo. I stayed at a respectful distance and did nothing to bother them or interfere with the proceedings. But immediately a man who'd appeared to be a group leader began waving his arms violently at me. If looks could kill, my world would have ended right then and there. I turned and began to walk away. I kept my eye on the group, though. The man was not meditating. He preferred to glare angrily at me until I was out of sight.
Then I recalled the miffed looks we had gotten from other members of the group. A couple of them had chosen to sit and meditate here and there in the middle of walkways on the site, and seemed to be upset that we were walking by and talking. I tried not to bother anyone, but I feel that if their meditation skills are so feeble that a little noise is a problem then they shouldn't have chosen to meditate in such a public place. These individuals were not a good advertisement for the peace and tranquility achieved through meditation.
A friend who was with us this day emailed me later to say that she had seen an article online about this very group, which apparently is wrapped up in some sort of Armageddon cult.
The point is that although these people seemed to be having trouble reaching bliss through meditation, they are serious. Maybe relaxing is a little difficult when you believe that the world is going to end later in the week.
The Diario de Yucatán today published a brief summary of past Apocalypse predictions, of which there have been a great many over the last couple thousand years. The Jehova's Witnesses have predicted the end at least four times. Various Christian sects and cults also have predicted the end on occasion based upon biblical writings. Of course there is Nostradamus. Scientists and mathematicians, including Sir Isaac Newton also saw the end coming at one time or another. There have been plenty of others. And we're still here.
The Diario also published an article in which an expert on pre-hispanic Maya culture states that modern western culture radically misinterprets the Maya calendar. "The Mayas were not able to predict the arrival of the end of the world, among other things, because in their worldview the linear view of time, with its apocalyptic mentality inherited from the Judeo-Christian tradition, did not exist."
There you have it. The modern view of it all is so different from the cyclical, pre-European point of view that we've got it all screwed up.
I went to La Flor de Santiago yesterday to have coffee with friends. I was the first to arrive and the only client in the place, so José the waiter talked with me for a few minutes.
José asked me what I thought about the end of the world. I told him I guess that the ancient calendar makers figured they were in good shape when they were a few hundred years ahead in their work, and that had they not been rudely interrupted by the Spanish, they'd have updated the calendar and added a few more centuries by now.
José laughed and nodded. "Pretty simple isn't it?" he said. "Lots of locos out there."
I have plans for the holidays and a brand new 2013 calendar. I've also got a few blog posts in the works. Look me up the day after tomorrow.