Calendar got one right today

In many places in recent weeks, there has been some great concern expressed as today approached.

There are the doomsday preppers here, mass panic in a Russian prison and some folks looking for extraterrestrials to pluck them off the planet just in time to miss an Armageddon-type event that a lot of people think Mayans more than 5,000 years ago predicted for dawn today.

Meanwhile, some with a mystical bent have traveled to Maya ruins today for a dose of renewed spiritualism.

What the end of the 13th baktun and the start at sunrise today of the 14th baktun means to world, if anything, is yet to be determined, but it certainly didn’t mean the end of the world as we know it because of a rogue planet whizzing by, aliens attacking our national capitals or even a heavy influx of black helicopters clattering about. In fact, the most significant event today likely came from the calendar on your desk or wall — the start of winter this morning at 6:12 a.m.

At least we know for sure the calendar got that one right.

For other things, however, a calendar, regardless of its origin, has about as much ability to predict the future as a carnival sideshow crystal ball reader or the horoscopes on page 2A today. It’s all just entertainment, until somebody gets hurt.

“I got an email the other day from a mother who was contemplating taking her own life, because she didn’t know what was really going to happen, she didn’t want her children to live through this ordeal,” David Stuart, a Maya expert at the University of Texas, told Reuters this week. “We can dismiss it as a kooky idea, which it is, but they’re still ideas and they still have power.”

That is what’s scary. People get caught up in these strange doomsday prophecies, perpetuated by Hollywood and a chronically fact-deficient Internet, and do things that are harmful to themselves and, too often, others. We’ve seen predictions that comets would decimate the planet, and there was a rumor a few years back that NASA was purposely crashing a nuclear powered satellite into Jupiter to ignite the gaseous giant into a second star in our solar system. And over the centuries, how many thousands of people have been standing atop a mountain awaiting delivery from impending disaster at another false prophet’s predicted hour of doom, only to see the sun rise on a world that was stubborn about remaining in existence?

Quite frankly, this is all energy that should be directed at real problems we face: Federal budget deficits, education, America’s mental health care system, crime rates, the environment and others that, while they don’t inspire films like “2012,” do impact our lives in very real ways each day.

There’s plenty to be concerned about without making up fictional problems to fret over.

So, as the 14th baktun dawns, happy winter solstice.