Christmas 2010 is about to become a memory and 2011 is galloping toward us. According to the ancient Mayan calendar, 2012 is the End, specifically Dec. 21. Consider, then, how our penultimate new year would pan out in the face of incontrovertible, impending cessation: What would we do individually and as a species?
I think a large number of us would party like there's no tomorrow. But would some of us just keep on doing what we're doing or would we fundamentally change our behavior?
As a species we could speed up the demise of the planet. More wars, bigger winners and losers would appeal to those who believe the ultimate goal is to win at all costs. When 2012 arrives will we see a big electronic scoreboard in the sky celebrating whoever won just before the end?
Some of us would see a golden opportunity to scrap the diet, buy more cigarettes and booze or forget about rehab. Maybe some of us would finally go see the pyramids, Machu Picchu in Peru or the Great Wall of China. Maybe family members would finally bury the hatchet and forget about old feuds.
I'm sure that those who believe that Nostradamus and Edgar Cayce had prophetic knowledge about the future will find ways to point out that these sages agree with the ancient Mayans. Believers in the approach of the Rapture will also find validation in these predictions. Those who pay attention to science may worry about global warming, a collision with an asteroid or the impending blowout of the super-volcano lurking under Yellowstone. There are those who worry about experiments at CERN in Switzerland. Will they create a black hole that will swallow us all? What if the antimatter they're trying to study annihilates all the matter we know and love? Will pigs fly? (I have it on good authority that with enough acceleration, pigs fly perfectly well.)
It's easy to find circumstances around the globe that could bring the end to the world as we know it. It's one of those "glass is half empty" things. Being a certified Pollyanna, I prefer the more optimistic view. Of course, I could be dead wrong. Really dead wrong. I just can't believe in predictions for the end of the world in 2012 because I cannot willingly suspend disbelief. Or maybe I just prefer surprises.
Here's what I believe. The ancient Mayans didn't predict the end of the world at all, they just ran out of rock. Or maybe there was another rock with more calendar written on it that was lost, destroyed or stolen by Mayan temple looters. I do believe in looters.
The ancients had a really good idea: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Unfortunately, many people throughout history have practiced a slightly different version: Do unto others before they do unto you. A popular variation is that if you think others have "done unto you," you have an obligation and a right to "do unto them" back.
Let's suppose that the End will arrive in 2012. What is to be gained by self-interest alone? My modest proposal is that we all try the golden rule for a year. If the world ends as predicted, well, we won't be any worse off than we are now.
I don't know about you, but I really love this little blue marble. It's an amazing exception in our solar system, teeming with life too varied to comprehend. If we all clearly understood what being a member of this planet signifies in our otherwise empty bit of space, we might lighten up and be kinder to one another. So keep smiling and watch out for those flying pigs.
Sheila Stoll is happy to hear from readers but cannot respond to individual queries. Write her at PMB No. 309, 7904 E Chaparral Road, No. 110, Scottsdale, AZ 85250.