There is something to learn from the Mayans, but it has nothing to do with the date and it has everything to do with the end of our world. The calendar may be silent, but the clock is still ticking.
If you’re reading this, you probably don’t believe the world is going to end on December 21, 2012. And you are absolutely right. The idea that the Mayans predicted the end of the world is ridiculous. Because of this, some are saying that the Mayans were wrong.
The Mayans did not write “This is the day the world ends” any more than we do on a calendar when we write “December 31.” There is nothing wrong about arbitrary methods of marking the days. They were right because all they claimed was this is the day our calendar ends.
People who think they can predict the future are wrong. As is always the case. Human assumptions and ignorance, thinking we know something that is not provable or testable.
But the Mayans do have a warning for us about the world ending.
For the Mayans, the world ended around 700 years ago. We aren’t 100% sure what happened. There may have been a religious upheaval or transformations, climate disruptions, civil wars or diseases that aren’t clearly shown in what we’ve found of theirs so far. The main thing we know is their way of life stopped working and collapsed.
There is some evidence that supports over-cultivation of the land. They didn’t respect the limitations of what the world could produce and over farmed the land. Crops failed at increasing rates until it no longer made sense to live in those centralized cities
There is more evidence that supports a peasant revolt. The ruling elite gained and maintained power on the backs of the majority of the populace, enslaved into labor they hated, creating greatness for the powerful few. There was a massive uprising that destroyed what we recognize as the “Mayan” civilization. Once the priests and royalty were deposed, the people likely rejected those cultural trappings and pursued a different way of life, more communal. A cultural shift on par with Rome’s conversion to Christianity in the 4th century or America’s popular revolts of the late 60′s and early 70′s, combined with a political shift on the level of Japan’s Meiji restoration or Sweden’s socialist revolution.
The end of the world was very real for the Mayans. And the ruling class didn’t see it coming: not in their calendars, not in their writings. It came from exploitation of the land and their fellow humans. They did not die like so many other civilizations, from invasion resulting in pillaging and conquering. They could not find the balance between prosperity and compassion for every person.
It will eventually happen to us, unless we do the same.