Sunday, June 21, 2009

Waiting for End of the World

By David Luhrssen
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The icecap is melting under the polar bears’ feet. The bees that pollinate the plants are disappearing and the bats that eat the bugs are dwindling. Enormous hurricanes have wreaked havoc on seacoasts and brush fires threaten cities. War and rumor of war have always been with us, but the usual downbeat headlines have been compounded by a global recession, triggering unrest in many parts of the world. And what happens when the oil is finally tapped out?

The drumbeat of bad news could lead otherwise well adjusted people to imagine that the end is finally at hand. Has a convergence of trends put the world so out of balance that civilization (so called) will soon perish? The date 2012, specifically Dec. 21, 2012, has been trumpeted in recent years by a new wave of doomsayers. The significance comes from an interpretation of one of the ancient Mayan calendars, claiming that time either runs out on that date or that winter solstice, 2012, coincides with a particular solar alignment, a trigger of catastrophe or the portal of a new age.

“Nostradamus: 2012” couples this train of thought to the cryptic forecasts of the world’s second most enduring seer (the author of Revelations holds first place). The History Channel special (out June 30 on DVD) derives Nostradamus’ previously unnoticed interest in 2012 on a 16th century manuscript recently turned up at auction, a work purportedly by Nostradamus. Whatever the veracity of the attribution, and of the interpretation given the occult pictures and text referenced by the special, the program serves as a recapitulation of the world’s pressing problems and anxieties. The 2012 thesis? Check back in three years for the end of that story.

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