“In various spiritual and religious beliefs we find evidence of the end. It comes back as a kind of classic theme in the culture that we’re imagining it’s about to end,” says author Ben Winters, whose new mystery, “The Last Policeman,” is based on the premise of Earth’s destruction from an asteroid.
The doomsday theories provide “a reason to not be engaged in the world as it is,” he said. “To be thinking about some imagined future, some brutal future. It’s a kind of a fantasy, it’s a kind of escapism.”
Quinn said, however, that when the museum polled visitors to the Maya 2012 exhibit, most people were unaware of the details behind the Mayan Long calendar and the end of days.
“You ask, how do you think the world’s going to end, and they say, ‘Well, it’s something with the sun, aren’t we going to crash into something?’or, ‘It’s going to be a flood,’ and they didn’t really know,” Quinn said. “So there seemed to be a lot of theories out there, and a lot of opportunities out there for us to help the public to be directed to what we know to be true.”
Martin said that doomsday scenarios seem to be a North American phenomenon dating to the 1970s.
“It is something that recurs in societies that are looking for answers beyond what science seems to offer,” Martin said. “I think that people aren’t always happy with what science tells them.”
One positive benefit of the possible end of days, however, could be a boom for tourism in Honduras and other areas where Mayan civilization thrived.
“The hotels are selling out; the restaurants are going to be booked,” Quinn said. “It’s a great opportunity for them to bring in tourists altogether because the people who are interested in this idea of apocalyptic thinking, whether they believe the world going to end or not, they understand that the event is going to be here. They want to be there at that time.”
Locals in those areas seem bemused by it all, Quinn said. While preparing for the exhibit, she said, the descendants of the Mayans asked her, “Why do you Americans think the world’s going to end? And what is it with you people? How can you possibly trace it back to us?”
©2012 McClatchy Washington Bureau. Visit the McClatchy Washington Bureau at www.mcclatchydc.com Distributed by MCT Information Services
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