Apocalypse lecture draws big crowd, big applause

BY ELIZABETH MCMAHON ’13
Senior Staff Writer

Anthony Aveni, Russell Colgate distinguished university professor of astronomy, anthropology, and Native American studies at Colgate University, came to campus Tuesday. In addition to visiting classes and having lunch with students, Aveni gave a presentation entitled “Maya Apocalypse Soon?” in Bonchek Lecture Hall. This presentation was extremely well-attended; the room completely packed with students and faculty.

Mary Levine, associate professor of anthropology at F&M, introduced Aveni. Aveni has written over 300 articles and 16 books, and this particular talk focused on his newest book The End of Time.

After the introduction Aveni began by laying out what he was going to address. He divided the presentation into three sections: what people think is going to happen, what the Mayans believed, and why American popular culture is so obsessed with the idea of the Apocalypse.

“[There are] two possible alternatives [for the end of the world according to pop culture]: that is [on] the solstice of this year, 39 days from today, we’re either in for a big blow-up or a big bliss out,” Aveni said. “Bliss out means that we’re going to be suddenly transported to a higher plane of consciousness, we’re going to be elevated to new revelations.”

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Aveni named the many different people who have written about these extreme ends of the world, including Lawrence Joseph, Jose Arguelles, and Daniel Pitchback. He laid out their basic arguments and then directed the audience’s attention to the words these people use. Although they sound scientific, upon looking up the words it seems this isn’t the case. These people are just using something Aveni called “meaningless jibber.”

The big concern about this is how it is affecting people. A Google search of “Maya 2012” yields over 300 million hits, which begs the question: how is this one idea affecting people on such a large scale? Aveni worries about the younger generation the most. He told a few stories of young people who were contemplating suicide rather than facing the end of the world.

Following this discussion Aveni transitioned the discussion into the second part by asking the question, “What do the Mayans think about this end of the world?”

This portion of the talk was all about the evidence. Aveni went through many different specific types of evidence including Mayan prophecy, solar flares, the magnetic field of the Earth, and the tides on the Earth. He showed how this evidence does not point to the end of the world. According to him, people are actually exaggerating and stretching the truth this evidence tells us.

Next came part three of the presentation. This part focused on American society and why it is so obsessed with this idea even when the evidence doesn’t point to an apocalypse. Aveni’s first explanation came through looking at a one-dollar bill.

“The back of our one-dollar bill has this cryptic eyeball and pyramid on it,” he said.

According to Aveni, American society is founded on conspiracies like this. Then he presented his own idea about why Americans are so obsessed with this idea.

“We can’t manage the world alone,” he said. “We need help.”

When people turn to things like a big bliss-out and coming to a new level of existence, they are actually looking for a way out of solving their problems.

“So I’m hoping — regardless of what you do at the time [of apocalypse day] — that maybe it’ll give you the opportunity to think, once you read this stuff in the newspapers [and] see it on TV, about how our own culture might work better to solve our problems,” Aveni said. “To me that would be a good message to come out of this with.”

The end of Aveni’s speech was then met with thunderous applause from the audience that lasted for quite a while.

Aveni will appear on Fox News Nov. 21 at 9:00 p.m.

Questions? Email Elizabeth at emcmahon@fandm.edu.

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