Now that December 21st, 2012 has come and gone and we’re all still here, there are a few different paths we can take in processing the “event.”

1. Go about business as usual as if nothing happened.
2. Make fun of anyone who took the end of the Mayan calendar literally.
3. Acknowledge that the world (as we know it) is in fact ending, and find the deeper lessons in it.

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While it was physically impossible for the world to “end” (go poof?) on the same day in all time zones, the end of the 13th (144000 day) b’ak’tun cycle in the Long Mayan Calendar also means that we’re now at the beginning of the 14th. So really, whatever you think of the Mayan Calendar (or any other calendar, for that matter), a more precise interpretation as to what is actually happening is a transition from one unit of measurement to the next.

This does not come as a surprise, as in this solar system of ours everything seems to be happening in cycles: Day follows night, new Moon follows full Moon, spring follows winter follows autumn follows summer follows spring. Momentum and gravity just keeps us spinning around the Sun. We don’t always (or hardly ever) know what will happen tomorrow, next year, next century, or next B’ak’tun, but what we do know for certain is that something will happen.

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Music and the Moon: The two workhorses of the universe

The idea of an absolute ending thus can only exist in our heads, and my guess is that it stems from a projection of fear and insecurity we hold in regards to the limited time we each individually have on this grand carousel. If we were more at peace with our own impermanence, there wouldn’t be a market for apocalyptic fear.

And yet, we are human creatures forced to scratch and claw our way through this limited-time-only earthly offer, not gods who can fill their universal bellies at the tables of infinite grace and boundless love. We schedule meetings, set deadlines, make reservations, plan events, listen to 70s music, wear 80s clothing, and study an ancient civilization’s understanding of time, so we can partition that which is timeless and endless into bite size chunks, to be more easily digestible by our preferred operating system, the brain.

Dividing time into different sections is like getting on a boat to escape the endless ocean of mystery. Our daily calendars are like personal life rafts that keep us afloat and moving. Birthdays and anniversaries are like party boats where we remind each other that we’re on the rugged ocean while keeping a safe distance to the water. Big epochal time divisions like centuries, millennia, B’ak’tuns, and Piktuns, on the other hand, are more like cruise ships: transferring from one to the next is like moving a boatload of people (pun intended) across the dark sea on a bunch of rope bridges. There’s bound to be some panicked splashes during a big collective brush with eternity.

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Our B’ak’tun cruise ship plowing towards melting glaciers

That’s what I suppose is happening right now. A bunch of us earthlings, collectively tuned in via social media and perhaps even psychically, dangling between two Mayan long count cruise ships, some enjoying the ride, others freaking out, some trying not to look down, others standing on the pier, laughing in jest.

There are, of course, those who say, “look, there is no cruise ship or any other floating device.” They’re called Buddhists. And yes, they are right. It’s all a figment of our imagination. There is indeed no cruise ship, and there is no long count. Not even a short count. There is only the open ocean.

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But, as sentient beings on a small planet in an infinite universe, our imagination is the glue that binds us all together and connects us with our source. It enables us to give meaning to our existence and to fill that mysterious blank canvas with the painting of our choice. It is meaning, after all, that is the oxygen of the soul, the food of the gods, without which neither our minds can survive nor our hearts can evolve.

And yet, meaning can’t be packaged, made to expire, or empirically proven. It arrives unannounced and happens when we least expect it. We know when it’s there, but we can’t describe it. It’s not the story, it’s the lesson. It’s not what is given, it’s what we make of it. It’s what turns mere numbers into dreams and metaphors.

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Jesus wasn’t born on Christmas and a frog won’t stay in a pot of slowly boiling water. And still, although we know these things to be demonstrably false, we understand the meaning of these metaphors, each in our own way, yet clearly and unequivocally. One resonates because it evokes our highest human potential as giving, sharing, and caring beings. The other captures our collective imagination because it viscerally shocks us out of our shared inclination for denial and complacency. Though not true, these stories are full of Truth.

The question we should thus ask ourselves about the Mayan Calendar is not whether it was correctly calculated or whether any particular prophesies are to be taken literally (though I don’t see why the Maya would believe that the world would literally end in the middle of even longer Piktun, Kalabtun, K’inchiltun, Alautun counts). The question that to me seems the most juicy and relevant is, why has it captured our collective imagination as it has? What is it about an ancient chart that has drawn us like moths to the flame at this particular point in history? Why are we responding so strongly to a passage of time so big and long and unfathomable that it is out of anyone’s personal reach? What is its Truth for us right now?

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I’ve heard this and seen it written quite a bit in recent weeks, and I believe this to be the answer: the reason we are psychically drawn to such a long and ending cycle is because deep down we share an awareness that life as we know it cannot continue any longer. It resonates because even on a conscious and intellectual level we all know that we have created problems that may very well be beyond our control and lead to endings of all kinds. We all know it — the unprecedented carbon and methane emissions, melting arctic ice sheets and permafrost feedback loops, the loss of top soils, forests, and biodiversity, 7 billion humans and growing, droughts, floods, an economic system based on perpetual growth, and on and on. The planet is bursting at the seams and we are behind the wheel, pedal to the metal.

To me, our collective tapping into the Mayan b’ak’tun cycle and channeling it as an end-of-times energy makes perfect sense. While a lot of it has certainly been overhyped by media outlets and attention seekers who are sure to move on to the next big news cycle tomorrow, for the rest of us I feel like this is both a blessing and an opportunity to raise our consciousness and tune into a higher frequency. It’s like we’re being woken up from our consumer nightmare to re-envision and re-imagine and re-dream a new world in which we’re physically and energetically realigned with our home planet.

To be sure, while this is not a “poof, everything is gone” moment, this is also not a “poof, we’re all enlightened” moment. It’s a transition. And it’s only an invitation for us to do the hard work it will take to live within our ecological means. I’m not sure we can do it. We’ve already altered the earth’s ecosystem and atmosphere so much that the planet we remember no longer exists. But it is more than worth the try, because I believe that the path to healing our planet is also the path to healing our ailing soul.

It’s a new beginning, but this time we don’t need the cruise ship. We can just swim.

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