The Penn Museum exhibit on the Mayan calendar is scheduled to run into
"We are quite confident that the world will still be with us in 2013," said Loa Traxler, curator of "Maya 2012: Lords of Time" and an archaeologist of the ancient Maya.
The Philadelphia museum, however, will hold a $40 fundraiser, Maya 2012: The Final Countdown, at 9 p.m. Friday. The invitation says, "Time to party like it's the end of the world!"
Some enthusiasts believe the calendar does predict the world's end that day.
It's true that the Mayan "long count" cycle of 5,125 years is slated to end, she said. But the ancient Maya no more expected it to mark the end of the world than modern people expect a car to break down when its odometer rolls over, she said.
"There are hundreds of thousands of years still to come in the Maya long count calendar," she said.
Nevertheless, a Reuters survey of more than 20 countries in May found that 15 percent of Earthlings believe the Maya may have predicted the end of the world. Belief was highest in the United States and Turkey, with 22 percent giving it at least some credence. Fear that asteroids or deadly solar flares will arrive Friday led NASA to create an online page last month called "Why the World Won't End" (key in "Beyond 2012" in the search box at www.nasa.gov).
There are two schools of thought among those who believe the calendar is prophetic. The doomsday scenario envisions planetary destruction, though methods vary from a strike by a rogue planet to getting sucked into a black hole at the center of the Milky Way. The peaceful scenario -- which has an organized following in Pittsburgh -- envisions a "planetary shift" to an age of compassion.
Vikki Hanchin, a psychotherapist from Swissvale, is involved in a small but growing Peaceburgh movement that heralds Saturday as the dawn of a new age when peace and unity will become reality if people try to live that way. Rather than Earth getting sucked into a black hole, she said, an alignment between the center of the Milky Way and Earth will open a portal of positive energy.
"The Maya see that there is an intelligence to the source of the galaxy that gets magnified and directed to Earth to assist us if we are willing to be open to it," she said.
If people tune in to that energy this weekend, "we will be less attracted to act out of exploitation and greed and it will be more inviting and natural to act in cooperation and generosity," she said. "It will greatly assist the evolution of the planet."
She is concerned that TV shows -- some from supposedly staid outlets such as the National Geographic Channel -- hype the doomsday scenarios. She works with a group of ethnic Maya shamans from Central America who say that their teachings have been distorted to take the focus off real threats of environmental destruction in favor of mythical planetary collisions.
"They are very perturbed and upset that their messages have been co-opted and drowned out by sensationalism," she said.
Locally she's been called on to speak to groups worried about predictions of disaster.
"The important thing for people to know is that the indigenous wisdom of the Maya says that the world is on a nonsustainable course. This is about
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