Happy Winter Solstice 2012. Obviously, the world did not end last night. And according to a completely unsubstantiated rumour I heard on the bus last week, today is the second most popular day for weddings all year.
So, why didn’t the world end last night? Because it had no reason to. People who believe half-baked rumours and don’t bother doing any research thought the ancient Mayan “long count calendar” predicted the world would end after December 20, 2012.
The Mayans’ excellent calendars were, by every reputable source I could find, accurate enough to predict solstices, equinoxes, eclipses and the transits of Venus for centuries. But it did not predict the end of the world. It’s just that their cycle ended on the day that is named December 21, 2012 in the Western, Gregorian calendar.
Why doesn’t the Long Count Calendar go further than yesterday? I offer one explanation:
Why the World Did Not End Yesterday
The Mayan Long Count Calendar Explained
By Scott Bury
I loved to look into my wife’s eyes, thought Iztali. They’re so round and so deep. I thought they could tell me so much without words.
Iztali knew how his neighbours would chuckle when they saw his eyes sliding down Nimah’s body. They could see his gaze caressing her smooth, brown skin, pulling away her blouse. Every man wanted to see the skin beneath that blouse.
Iztali didn’t care about his reputation as a jealous husband. He had married the most beautiful girl in Tik’al.
Time is so strange, he thought. I believed she was mine, alone, until such a short time ago.
Time stretches, he thought, and it can shrink, too. At the studio, I think about time stretching forever. This afternoon seems like such a long time ago.
“I want you to complete carving the next b’ak’tun before you go home tonight,” Ometecuhtli had said, standing at the studio door. “Don’t go home before you finish.”
“You are leaving, my lord?” Iztali had asked.
“Tomorrow, I will give you the designs for the next b’ak’tun. Now, I am going home,” Ometecuhtli had said, and left the studio.
“Pompous monkey,” Iztali had muttered. He hated having to call his superior by the name of the god he had affected since becoming head of the temple’s calendar studio. The name his parents had given him was Kish — the stinger. Much more fitting, Iztali knew now.
Kish had been a carver, like Iztali. A year ago, he became the chief of carvers, in charge of assembling the new long count calendar for the temple. It was his duty to confer with the astronomers, and then to design the patterns for the calendar. But he spent most of his time snooping around the studio and telling the carvers what to do.
And he insisted that the carvers address him as “my lord” or “Ometecuhtli,” after the god of duality. “It is my way of honouring the god,” he had said.
“More like honouring himself,” Muluc had said that first day. Muluc was the senior carver and the one that everyone had thought would be named the new chief.
The mind can move through time, Iztali thought, as my hand moves up Nimah’s leg. From that day a year ago, when Kish became Ometecuhtli, the god of duality — of duplicity — to just this morning. He smiled as he recalled making love to Nimah when they had woken up that morning.
His mind could then skip back again in time, to one month earlier. He could picture Ometecuhtli’s — Kish’s — ugly mouth, screaming at him. “This is no good! It cannot go onto the temple walls! It must stand for eternity, for another 13 b’ak’tuns and the beginning of the next world!”
“But, my lord—” Iztali had whined.
“You will re-do all of this,” Ometecuhtli had screamed, waving his hands over everything Iztali had carved over the past four months. “And you will finish before the next Ak’b’al.”
“But, my lord, that’s only a month away!”
Ometecuhli had smiled like a snake. “Then you had better work day and night.” He had left, supposedly to confer with the astronomers.
“Do not worry,” Muluc had said to Iztali. “We will help you finish ahead of time.”
And they had: the whole studio had worked like demons all month. Every day, Ometecuhtli would scream at them. “What is the matter with you sloths? I could do far finer work than this in half the time!” But he never picked up a hammer or a chisel, himself.
Every day, Ometecuhtli had left early. All the workers grumbled, wishing they could go home, too.
“His indulgence is his punishment,” Muluc said every time. “You know how ugly his wife is?” The carvers would laugh and continue their work.
Iztali’s mind slid forward in time as his hand slid higher up his wife’s thigh. Sticky and wet, like his own skin that afternoon, but for a different reason.
Iztali’s whole body had been drenched in sweat. Dust stuck to his skin and clogged his nostrils as the carvers worked to finish the thirteenth b’ak’tun, the end of the long cycle. They worked until the light became too poor for good carving. Then one by one, the carvers put down their tools and left for their own homes and their own wives.
“We can stop now, Iztali,” Muluc said as sweat dripped off Iztali’s nose. “We have finished the thirteenth b’ak’tun. We cannot begin the next one until Ometecuhtli gives us the designs.”
“Stop at the end of a cycle? Anyone who sees this as it is will think the world will end on that day.”
Muluc laughed. “Iztali, you’re so tired, you’re talking nonsense. Go home, eat a good meal and make love to your beautiful wife. We’ll begin carving the next cycle tomorrow.”
I needn’t have bothered washing, he thought. I’m wet and sticky again. His hand smeared blood over his wife’s thigh.
His mind skipped through time, again, picturing those naked thighs, those beautiful legs — wrapped around Ometecuhtli’s naked backside.
Maybe the mind cannot comprehend time, Iztali thought. He could not remember anything after the moment when he had seen Ometecuhtli’s naked butt rising and falling and had heard his wife’s passionate cry.
Iztali’s gaze moved up again, over her belly, her breasts. Where did that necklace come from? A gift from Ometecuhtli, Iztali realized.
His eye found hers again. It did not communicate. It deceived. For how long had she deceived him?
Tears streaked Nimah’s cheek. Iztali pushed Ometecuhtli’s body to the floor so he could reach her, but he only smeared blood on her face. More blood spread in a dark pool on the floor.
“Why do you cry?” Iztali asked his wife. “I would never harm you.”
Nimah said nothing. Her whole body shook.
Iztali kissed her mouth once. He leaned to pull his knife out of his supervisor’s heart, then sat back and waited for the temple guards to arrive.