There’s a great scene in the old television show “West Wing” when a presidential adviser prepares for President Bartlett’s last year in office. He sets up a white board in his office and writes three characters on it: “365.” At the end of the episode, he yells at the weary president: “You only have 365 days left! Make the most of it before we walk through those doors!”
This past year, that same sensibility has infiltrated the collective conversation online. Interest in apocalypses and raptures soared. Spurred on by Harold Camping, bird deaths and zodiac changes, people seemed to both be genuinely frightened and inspired by the reminder that time on Earth is fleeting — whether it ends with a cataclysmic crash or not.
The latest theory to crop up is also one of the oldest: the Mayan calendar prediction that pinpoints the final day on Earth as Dec. 21, 2012. Though scientists argue that the reference on the 1,300-year-old stone tablet marks only the end of a cycle — not the world — ever since the tablet was discovered in the 1960s, conspiracy theorists have wondered otherwise.
A new finding in November added fuel to the fire. Archeologists announced that a second brick found at a Mayan ruin also contained the Dec. 21, 2012, date.
Mayan scholar Sven Gronemeyer told the Associated Press that he’s not sure why people ignore evidence that dates beyond 2012 have also been found.
My guess: It gives people exactly one year to revel in end-of-times possibilities. Sometimes it helps to have a reminder to make the most of it.