The end of the world as we know it
Pondering the alarmist, the mystical, the way-out-there ... and the surprisingly hopeful and ongoing sides of Dec. 21, 2012
Published: December 26, 2012
Then there are those who hope and believe that the end of 2012 marks an auspicious moment in human evolution — or at least that it represents a significant step in the transformation process — and they seem fairly patient and open-minded in their perspectives on the subject.
"The debunking type isn't some rational skeptic. They are true believers in the opposite,” Jenkins said. "We don't know what's going to happen. We've been filtering 2012 through some kind of Nostradamus filter.”
Jenkins and others like him have been clear in stating that they aren't expecting the apocalypse. Instead, they emphasize the view by the Mayans and other ancient thinkers that this is a time for renewal and transformation, the dawning of a new era of cooperation.
"I think the Maya understood that there are cycles of time,” Jenkins said. "2012 was selected by the Maya to target this rare procession of the equinoxes.”
If the ancients had a message for modern people, it was to learn from our observations about what's going on all around us. As Jenkins said, "They recognized their connection to the natural world and the connection of all things.”
For Dec. 21, many U.S. residents headed down to Chichen Itza, Mexico, where the classic Mayans built the Pyramid Kukulkan with 365 faces to honor the passing of time — and where the Synthesis 2012 Festival marked the end of the Mayan calendar with ceremonies and celebrations.
"It's probably one of the most pointed to and significant times ever,” Synthesis Executive Producer Michael DiMartino told me, noting that his life's work had been building to this moment. "As a producer, I'm very focused on the idea of spiritual unity and events with intention.”
DiMartino told me he believes in the significance of the galactic alignment and the ending of the Mayan calendar, but he sees the strength of the event as bringing together people with a wide variety of perspectives to connect with each other.
"We're at a crossroads in human history, and the crossroads are self-preservation or self-destruction,” he said. "Synthesis 2012 is the forum to bring people together into a power place.”
Debra Giusti, who is co-producing Synthesis, started the Bay Area's popular Harmony Festival in 1978, co-wrote the book Transforming Through 2012, and "has been at the forefront of transformational festivals for the last 30 years,” DiMartino said.
"Obviously, the planet has been getting out of balance and there is a need to go back to basics,” Giusti told me.
They reached out to people around the world who did similar gatherings on Dec. 21, urging them to register with their World Unity 2012 website and livestream their events for all to see. "We are launching this whole global social network to help develop solutions,” DiMartino said. (You can also find my posts from Chichen Itza on the SFBG.com Politics blog).
Two of the keynote speakers at Synthesis 2012 were a little skeptical of the significance of the Mayan calendar and the galactic alignment, yet they are people with spiritual practices who have been working toward the shift in global consciousness they say we need.
"It's more of a marker along the way,” Joe Marshalla, an author, psychologist, researcher and public speaker, told me. "We've been in this transition for almost 30 years.”
Marshalla's speech at the festival was about using certain memes to focus people's energy on creating change, starting with letting go of the thoughts and structures that divide us from each other and the planet and replacing them with a new sense of connection.
"Everyone is waking up to the deeply held knowledge of the one-ness of all the planet, that we are in this together,” Marshalla said. "I think the world is waking up to the fact there are 7 billion of us and there are a couple hundred thousand that are running everything.”
Caroline Casey, host of KPFA's "Visionary Activist Show” in San Francisco and a keynote speaker at the Synthesis Festival, takes a skeptical view of the Mayan prophecies and how New Age thinkers have latched onto them. "Everything should be satirized and there will be plenty of opportunities for that down there,” she said before the event.
But the goal of creating a new world is one she shares. "Yes, let's have empire collapse — and a big part of that is ... ending the subjugation of nature,” she said. "It is worthwhile to have a good story. We want to emerge from imperialism into a cultural renaissance.”
Rob Brezsny, the San Rafael resident whose down-to-earth Free Will Astrology column has been printed in alt-weeklies (including Metro Times) throughout the country for decades, agrees that this is an important moment in human evolution, but he doesn't think it has much to do with the Mayans.
"My perspective on the Mayan stuff tends to be skeptical. It might do more harm than good,” Brezsny told me, noting that both spiritual and political growth are slow processes. "It goes against everything I know, that it's slow and gradual and it takes a lot of willpower to do this work.”
> Email Steven T. Jones