12/12/12

Today is supposedly the luckiest day we’ll have for about another century (until 01 January 2101, which is the next time we’ll have a date which repeats sequentially).

It’s no surprise that so many people ascribe luck to the number 12, as it’s a particularly notable number.  It can be divided by 1 (of course), 2, 3, 4 and 6 to produce a whole number.  There are any number (and far more than a dozen) of interesting facts to charm and annoy folks with today, check them out!

Today is also the (twelfth, of course) birthday of Kiam Moriya who, though he lives now in Birmingham Alabama, was born twelve years ago in Bronxville, New York at 12 minutes after 12pm.

The upcoming rollover of the Mayan calendar, in addition to our own end of the year festivities this year, have me thinking about numbers and the significance we attach to particular numbers because of the mathematical or ideographical games we can play with them (we like eights too, for example, because they look like the symbol for infinity and signify longevity and constancy).  I’ll admit that, up until a few months ago, I was skeptical that there were all that many people who were taking the whole “Mayan Apocalypse” thing seriously.  It seemed almost charming that the accretion of so many simple numbers would be enough to cause consternation or panic for no discernible reason.

True, when you ask someone who professes to be worried about this year’s winter solstice, they will come up with a range of fears that they have attached to the date, from wandering planets and mystical celestial alignments to magnetic disturbances and mass ejections (whether a solar storm or supervolcano).  But at it’s core what the fear and panic around these dates amounts to is a fear of numerical associations.  Of stories, in other words.  We tell each other stories and sometimes, because we are a species that lives on narrative, we believe that our stories have meaning and reality that extends beyond our social structures and into the universe.  So what makes next Friday meaningful is that confluence of 12s, with a the numerical palindrome of the 21st thrown in to add gravitas.  Sure, it’s just another winter solstice, and it’s just the end of another baktun, but it’s also the 2012 winter solstice, and the end of the 12th baktun.  Surely, we think, SURELY that must mean something.  And it does, but we sometimes lose sight of the fact that the meaning is not out there but that it lies within us.  We create the intellectual framework which ascribes meaning to images, words and numbers, and then we create larger complex narratives out of those individual elements.  Our error lies in assuming that the universe at large conforms to the fuzzy, incomplete picture we hold in our minds.

Ultimately, in the scope of the universe, we are so small as to be completely insignificant.  But we don’t live our lives on that scope; within each of our own lives we are everything, we are the universe.  And so when we tell ourselves stories, it is pretty much inevitable that our stories will take on the same monumental importance.  This is a feature, not a bug: we live in stories.  But we have to recognize that those stories don’t live outside of us.  The universe is not sending a rogue planet or “energy waves” or massive gravity pulses from the core of the galaxy to ruin our holidays.

In recognition of the massive non catastrophe headed our way in 9 days, the Astronomical Society of the Pacific has declared today Anti-Doomsday Day.

Personally, I prefer to create my own holiday and call it the cookiepocalypse.  I’ll be celebrating today by making cookies. Each batch of my famous snickerdoodle recipe makes about 72 cookies, so two batches should give me 144 cookies or (drumroll, please) 12 dozen.  Maybe, if enough of us make cookies today, we can surround the planet in a protective blanket of warm cookie-scented air, which will calm the fears of those viewing the approaching solstice with anxiety and dread.

And hey, if nothing else, cookies for dinner.  Pick up fresh milk on your way home from work!

The Apocalyptophiliac’s Supermayan Snickerdoodles

1 cup butter, softened 2 tsp cream of tartar
1½ cups white sugar 1 tsp baking soda
2 eggs ¼ tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla extract 2 tbsp white sugar
2¾ cups all-purpose flour 2 tsp ground cinnamon

Heat oven to 400˚F.  Cream together butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla.  Blend in flour, cream of tartar, soda and salt.  Shape dough by rounded spoonfuls into balls of about 1/2 ounce each (about the size of a hazelnut or a big marble, they will bake up to about the size of an Oreo).   Mix 2 tbsp of sugar and cinnamon.  Roll balls of dough in mixture.  Place 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets.   Bake 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven, or until set but not too hard.  Remove immediately from baking sheets.

Funny how the brain works.  In pulling together the above, I remembered this, which I now can’t get out of my head.  I’m gonna build a mountain of my own, composed of cookies, because I hate making pie crust.

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