When the Mayan calendar ends Friday, some people believe the world is going to end along with it.
Most people — and scientists — find the doomsday prediction preposterous, and in the suburbs, it’s being used as an excuse for a party, a topic for sketch-comedy performances, and even an apocalypse-themed art show.
One doomsday-themed event, the “12-21-12 End of the World Bowling Party” Friday at St. Charles Bowl, costs $21.12 for unlimited bowling and a buffet of tacos and nachos — a nod to the Mayan culture’s Latino roots.
“It’s something different to do. You don’t get to do it every day,” said bowling alley manager Kelley Carta. “You can party all the time, but it’s more fun when you have a reason to.”
Even though doomsday warnings have come and gone many times before (remember Y2K?), these types of predictions cause anxiety for some people, said Dr. M. Joann Wright, director of clinical training and anxiety services at Linden Oaks, part of Edward Hospital in Naperville.
Those most susceptible are adolescents and people with numeric-related obsessive-compulsive disorder, she said.
“People get really upset and take it really seriously. The Mayan calendar is very respected. But doomsday predictions date back to 634 B.C. I’ve counted 167 in the past,” Wright said.
Fear — no matter how irrational — can have a powerful hold over people, she said.
“If we let fear rule our lives, we’re really imprisoned,” she said.
There’s nothing to fear, insists Mayan culture expert Joel Palka, a professor of anthropology and Latin American Studies at University of Illinois-Chicago. That opinion’s been widely backed by scientists around the world, and even NASA.
Palka said the Mayan calendar has 13, 144,000-year cycles, and it was created by elite priests based on patterns they identified in the sky. The long calendar doesn’t end on a specific date, and Palka suspects doomsday believers picked Dec. 21 because it’s the winter solstice.
“The Maya cycle continues millions of years into the future, and came from millions of years into the past,” he said. “The Maya never said the end of the world will come.”
But the topic makes for good comedy fodder, said writer and performer Eric Peter Schwartz of Aurora, who cowrite the sketch comedy “Scenes from the End” which he’ll perform at the Geneva Underground Playhouse Friday night. Schwartz cowrote the show with Steve Lord, of Geneva, and former Aurora resident Dale Roe, who now lives in Texas.
The show includes 20 vignettes about the last day on Earth in different places around the world and on the moon. It will be performed in a reader’s theater style, like an old-fashioned radio show, by local community theater actors and comedians.
“We originally were going to do (the show) on Dec. 31, 1999,” Schwartz said. “To me, it’s fascinating to see how people deal with the inevitable, whether it’s their own death or the end of the world. Some of the funniest stuff is how people try and take control over things they have no control over.”
A slightly more serious look at the topic will take place at Water Street Studios in Batavia, where an exhibit of apocalyptic art, “Apocalypse: An Exploration of the End of Days” will be held from 7 to 10 p.m. Friday. The artists will be wearing “post-apocalyptic attire.”
Astronomers at Harper College will host a free “Not the End of the World” public viewing of the sun Saturday from its telescopes in the Palatine observatory.
As for Palka, he’ll be at his parents house, enjoying the continuation of the world.
“I’m not worried,” he said. “And I’m not going to drain my bank account.”Copyright © 2013 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.