Today is December 22, 2012. The fact that I'm writing this is evidence that the Mayans—or at least their modern interpreters—were wrong and the world did not end. So, life on earth continues today in much the same fashion as it did yesterday. But is that a good thing?
Don't misunderstand. I'm glad the world did not come to a fiery end (though I never expected that it would), but I’m also saddened that predictions of our demise went so far and high over our heads that we did not stop to consider the precious and precarious nature of our lives on earth.
Temple of Quetzalcoatl, December 21, 2012
Many people that I know met December 21, 2012 with wide smiles, whimsical laughs, and alcohol (and sometimes drug) induced altered states of mind. Throughout the day, they went about their normal routines without a serious consideration that this was the day it all could end. I imagine that most others on the planet did the same thing.
But, consider if the world had ended yesterday. If the human race died, what legacy would we have left for the universe?
In 2012, there is still inequality and indignity rampant even in the most “enlightened” representative republics of the west. Outside of the so-called enlightened west (and sometimes even within), human beings (adults of both genders, and even children) are trafficked as slaves, murdered by the thousands and millions for believing in a different faith or being born with a different color skin, and die in wars fought over lines on maps and the whims of a few elite dictators or politicians. Worse still, millions die each year from starvation and disease because of nothing more complex than indifference. And this is only a partial and small list of the horrors of human life.
I recognize that I am painting a dim picture. I also acknowledge that plenty of good people in the world spend their waking hours working to prevent the horrors I describe above. Nevertheless, the every situation I describe is happening at this very moment as I write and you read this essay.
December 21, 2012 was not the end of the world. Neither was December 22, 2012. However, the nature of life is that it comes to an end. That is true of microscopic life forms, plants, animals, human beings, and even planets. Should the human race survive on earth for billions of years to come, this planet will eventually cease to support us as our sun grows larger and earth’s temperatures grow hotter as a result. Eventually, earth will be consumed by the sun as it expands before exploding in a supernova. But, life on earth may end long before then. On any given day, all that stands between the entire population of our world and its annihilation are a few men who chose to live one more day without launching a weapon of mass destruction.
Life is precious—and temporary. The fascination surrounding December 21, 2012 is a gift to help us remember that. Most people laughed about it, but I hope that people will look back on December 21, 2012 not as a joke, but as a wakeup call. The fact that the people who were convinced that they had successfully predicted the future based on the Mayan calendar turned out to be wrong is a valuable lesson of a simple truth: the future is uncertain.
The question we must ask is not when the world will end, but how (and I do not mean by which method). How will we leave the world when we’re gone? Will it be much like it is today, full of strife and senseless death? Or will we meet the end united as one people—a people free of murder, war, and inequality?