A friend of mine recently remarked on a splash of graffiti he spied somewhere in Colorado: "The Beginning Is Near!"
It could have been written by some smart alecks with a spray can and too much time on their hands, or someone putting on a brave face because, if some interpretations of Maya myth are correct, they believe the Earth will come to an end on Friday. (Or, maybe just most of the Earth: one theory maintains that only eastern Australia and New Zealand will remain fit for human habitation.)
But I like the sense of hope that the scrawl implies. After last week, we could use a bit of hope with our apocalypse right now - even if the glint of that hope turns out to be fool's gold.
In fact, there's an entire movement, Birth 2012, dedicated to the belief that something will happen this month -- but that it won't be the hellfire winter of the end times, but a new spiritual spring. If you go to the website, birth2012.com, they even have a list of global events to celebrate this alleged new millennia.
The main one is a two-day bash Friday and Saturday in Los Angeles. It will be live-streamed on the site, featuring some Hollywood half-stars (Esai "It's-Been-A-Long-Time-Since- La-Bamba" Morales), some spiritualists (Ram Dass in the house!) and at least one respected musical act (Ozomatli). (Four events are shown for the Dallas area, including one at Fair Park on Jan. 18. Hope it's not too late.)
It's all a bit New Age-y and no more based on science than the ideas of those fearing the dark ride of the Four Horsemen. Mainstream scientists have debunked all of the "planetary alignment" and "polar shift" theories that are supposed to usher in the cataclysm. They go on to note that the Maya "long-count" calendar doesn't really end on Dec. 21, 2012, just as the West's Gregorian calendar doesn't end on Dec. 31.
It merely starts over the next day with a new year.
Certainly, after a year like this one -- a bruising and divisive presidential campaign, Superstorm Sandy, the collapse of Syria into civil war, mass shootings in Colorado, Wisconsin, Oregon and now Connecticut -- it's easy to feel that we are done for.
Yet it's also reassuring to think that humans can hit the reset button and chart a new future different from the past. It's that hope against hope that something like Birth 2012 taps into.
And even if humanity as a whole isn't going to make some great leap forward, that doesn't mean individuals can't start making their own part of this sphere a better place. If enough people do that, well, you get the idea.
At least then, whenever our cosmic clock hits midnight, we can go out knowing we did our best.
Until then, I'm going to resist the temptation to get on a last-minute flight to Auckland. I'll be right here, planning to wake up Saturday in a world not terribly different from our own.
See you on the other side.