Hysteria, then silence, marked the end of the world

The Mayan calendar might have ended, but the world certainly has not.

As the clock struck 10.11pm on Friday, December 21, there was no fanfare nor fatal collision with another planet. Instead heavy rain fell over Byron Bay, where close to a thousand people gathered to witness the Mayan prophecy of the end of the world as we know it.

The four day Uplift festival celebrating the event crescendoed in complete silence with a mass group meditation. Only the soft sound of a young boy snoring and the rain drumming on the roof could be heard in the auditorium.

It was a remarkably sedate end to the growing hysteria about the so-called doomsday.

Around the world crowds of people flocked to witness the world's end at Mayan ruins, Yucatan in Mexico, Stalin's bunker in Moscow and Bugarech in the French Pyrenees, where locals cashed in on the hype by selling end of the world wine and apocalypse pizza.

Despite academics, and even NASA, dismissing the armageddon, paranoia has been widespread around the world.

In Byron Bay, the apocalypse simply heralded a new era for festival goers, with speakers suggesting we are at the cusp of a ''consciousness revolution''.

In the preceding hours, speakers including stem cell biologist and New York Times best selling author Bruce Lipton, clown doctor Patch Adams, Australia's poetry slam champion Luka Lesson, and respected Aboriginal elder Uncle Bob Randall all called for a change in our current approach - to ourselves and to the earth.

"We need to make a decision," said Randall. "Am I going to live for my need or for my greed?"

The peaceable message of the speakers was that the path to a healthy, sustainable future is one of love, awareness and connection with ourselves and one another.

Patch Adams, of movie fame, said people shouldn't feel depressed and powerless in the face of negative world news. "The point is not to get depressed, but to get a fire [in your belly]," he said.

Dr Marc Cohen, Professor of Complementary Medicine at RMIT University, expanded on this, saying: "Use this ... fire in your belly to create meaning in life and ... to create change.

"If we consciously create our environment, we can consciously create a garden of eden."

The talks were punctuated with live music and dancing. At 10pm American musician Jonathan Goldman took to the stage. He began by leading a chant "connecting through sound" before guiding the audience into the silent meditation to mark the supposed moment the world, as we know it, would be wiped out.

The reflective mood lifted the following morning with the new dawn. Hundreds gathered with the rising sun at Main Beach, Byron Bay this morning. Aboriginal elders performed ceremonies and spoke again about the importance of people coming together to create change. Accompanied by didgeridoos, they then led the crowd in dance, which continued, barefoot on the beach, throughout the morning.

The world did not end and people, it seemed, are in the mood to celebrate.

This story Hysteria, then silence, marked the end of the world first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.