Unless you’ve been under a rock for the past couple of years, you know about predictions from some quarters that the world will end on Dec. 21, 2012. That date marks the end of a 5,125-year cycle as calculated by the now dead Mayan culture that once inhabited parts of southern Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador and Honduras. While the Mayans themselves marked the end of one of their time cycles with celebration, many interpretations of Mayan hieroglyphics say the planet will be destroyed in violent earthquakes and other cataclysmic events next December. Once relegated to the fringes, the so-called prediction has now found its way into wide common parlance.
Other ancient cultures such as the Egyptian and Chinese have also foreseen an end of the known world, but no other predictions have become so widely acknowledged as the Mayan’s.
The theory that our world — and we — face a dramatically reduced lifespan has been widely debunked by as many critics as there are believers, among them NASA and leading scientists. Nevertheless, many proponents of our violent destruction are building bunkers and laying in stores of food, apparently assuming the best prepared will rise from the ashes and hop a speeding spaceship to another planet.
Plenty of people these days think they foresee a coming end of the world in the major weather upheavals, increasingly disastrous earthquakes, storms, wildfires, mudslides and floods and the eruption of civic, religious and cultural unrest around the world. Mistrust of government anywhere and everywhere is at a pandemic stage. Public figures are falling like leaves in autumn as news of their misdeeds and malfeasance becomes known. There’s no place to hide anymore. Many people include the global financial meltdown when they tally signs that point to our destruction. One Indian guru has been saying since 1998 that 2012 will mark the end of a “degenerate age.”
But there’s an entirely different group of believers who think the presumed “end date” refers not to a physical apocalypse but rather to a dramatic and positive shift in human consciousness that’s going to take place worldwide. In fact, many of these people assert that “the shift” is already under way. They would assert that the “scales” are falling from our eyes, and we’re developing new priorities. Personal success is less and less being measured by purely material possessions and consumption — we’ve learned those things will not last. Instead, we’re starting to believe that a successful life is one spent in service to others, in promulgating peace and forgiveness, in cultivating warm and loving relationship within our families, among our friends and in our communities.
These believers maintain “the shift” is and will be a spiritual transformation in which we give up our reliance on institutions — even governance — created and established by “man” and instead embrace a spiritual awakening to what is timeless and never fails: love, peace, forgiveness, hope, sharing and understanding between individuals, peoples and cultures. We won’t be judging our lives based on the size of our television screens or the possession of the latest hand-held device, fastest car or most number of bathrooms. But for their reliance on drugs, maybe the Hippies were on to something in spurning a material life.
A singer/songwriter named Bronnie Ware worked for many years with patients who were in their final months, weeks or days of life. In conversations with those individuals, she discerned five of the most common ways those who were dying looked back on their lives. Most commonly, they wished they’d had the courage to live a life true to themselves and not a life that seemed to be expected of them by others. Second, they, primarily men, wished they hadn’t worked so hard while missing magic moments with their families. Third, they wished they’d had the courage to express their own feelings instead of suppressing feelings in order to maintain peace. They never truly gave voice to their deepest feelings and emotions, and many died in bitterness or resentment. Fourth, they wished they’d stayed in touch with their friends better while living self-absorbed lives, blind to others. Finally, they wished they had “let” themselves “be happier.” “Many did not realize until the end that happiness is a choice,” she writes. Even if “the end” comes in 11 months, I’d say we’ve still got time to make some spiritual choices that will matter whenever we — or the world — end.
Barbara Morgan is a Covington resident with a background in newspaper journalism, state government and politics. She chairs the Newton Advisory Committee.