Sooner or later, I was going to address the whole 2012 Mayan prophecy thing. I just wasn’t sure how.
Back in 1990, I was elected to the board of directors for the California-Nevada-Hawaii District of Key Club International. I was a Lieutenant Governor, a title that I always found deceptive. Rather than being second in line for the governorship should the governor be unable to complete his or her (but that year it was a guy) term, my role was to represent a division of ten clubs on the district board. At the convention at which I was installed to my office, the outgoing board unveiled the district’s new “Theme and Major Emphasis”, sort of a unifying focus for the district. It was 199o, and environmentalism was reemerging. We were hearing about ozone holes, global warming, the”greenhouse effect”, and the Exxon Valdez spill. Accordingly, it’s hardly surprising that the theme was an environmental one. “Live as if You Plan to Stay!”
I know. You’re probably thinking that my cheese has finally slipped off my cracker. What does a Key Club convention twenty years ago have to do with the end of the world? Just stay with me. I’ll get there. (Plus, if you’ve read my stuff for any length of time, you should know that I’m a few tacos short of a combination plate and that my approach to the end of the world should reflect as much.)
It’s kind of wild out there, isn’t it? Earthquakes, tsunamis, nuclear meltdown. And that’s just Japan. Civil war in Libya, with the UN intervening militarily. The Mid-East looks at once hopeful and dangerously unstable. The global economy seems to work for fewer and fewer people. Then there’s global climate change, drought, fires, hurricanes, and it all seems to be gaining intensity as we approach December 21, 2012, the last day of the Mayan long count calendar.
Sometimes it seems like Yeats’ falcon really has lost contact with the falconer.
Is it really that surprising that doomsayers of every stripe are sounding the warning about everything from the Christian Apocalypse to crustal shift to nasty neutrinos to alien invasion and rogue planets. Some even see a galactic alignment that will bring us enlightenment and a whole new world to start over from. Hey, for all I know Pastafarians may fear the Flying Spaghetti Monster is getting ready to lash out with its noodly appendage of doom.
What do all these thing have in common? They’re all visions of a future characterized by imminent change on a scale so large as to make our lives as they are now irrelevant. Put another way, we can forget all about our little problems now because we’re all getting off this rock, one way or another, in short order.
Global warming? It’ll be 50 years before the seas rise.
Peak oil? How long to we really need to make it last for? Besides, it’s not like we’ll be here long enough to get our flying cars.
Environmental damage? National debt? Health care costs? Aren’t those all long-run things?
The logical conclusion of someone buying into all the end of the world hype would be to quit the job, liquidate the assets and either hide in a bunker or start checking stuff off the bucket list.
At least the latter option sounds like fun, unless of course the world doesn’t end. I don’t want to see the January 2013 credit card statement for someone who decides to live it up in anticipation of the end of the world.
So is any of this stuff going to happen? I have no idea. I’m going to keep living my life. I’m going to keep trying to be a good Christian. I’m going to live as if the world could end tomorrow.
But it might not. So I’m also going to live as if we’re going to be here a while, as if we really need to plan our finances, individually and socially for the long run. I’m going to advocate good environmental policy and operate as if my kids and grand kids will be living on this planet for the foreseeable future. I’m going to live as if I plan to stay.
(I told you I’d get there.)