As most of us celebrated the new year, I’m sure some looked at the changing of calendars to 2012 as an ominous event. I’m talking, of course, about the preposterous belief that the world will come to its cataclysmic end this year per some Mayan prophecy, a fiction that inextricably lives on in the popular imagination of today.
Prophesies are nothing new. The Zoroastrians provide us with the earliest eschatology on record. Yet it’s likely that human beings have been coming up with apocryphal accounts of what happened yesterday and what will happen tomorrow since the dawn of mankind. Zoroastrianism, nevertheless, introduced the basic good-conquering-evil model that Abrahamic religions follow today: Judaism, Christianity and Islam all teach of the advent of a deliverer who will defeat evil forever and establish a universal dominion of righteousness.
I’m here to assure you that the world probably won’t come to an end this year. There won’t be any polar shift, asteroid strike, earth-swallowing black hole, exploding sun or anything like that. Jesus is not coming back, and you shouldn’t expect the Messiah or the anti-Christ anytime soon – or ever. Not this year, not in our lifetimes, and not in those of posterity. I would say the Mayans – even in their brilliance – were wrong, but they didn’t predict the world ending on December 21, 2012, anyway. Even if they did, what kind of person believes a prediction from millennia ago?
So, as a cartoon for The New Yorker once proclaimed: “The world is not coming to an end. Therefore, you must suffer along and learn to cope.”
And there are many conditions to cope with in such troubling times as ours, conditions that, in fact, require our immediate attention. There are actual threats of biblical proportions, but they’re all, each and every one, man-made. There are religious conflicts in Northern Ireland, the Balkans, the Middle East and the United States.
Political disunion is boiling over on at least five continents. There is class warfare in much of the Western world and gender warfare in much of the Islamic world. The wars on drugs and terror endanger every living soul in every city from Chicago to Brazil, from Southern California to Mumbai. Reaganomics and corporate greed have led to the world’s worst financial crisis since the 1930s. The ice caps are melting. The sea is rising. The air is deadly. The water’s deadly. The food is deadly. And we have no one to blame for our current predicament but ourselves.
But there is, as always, hope. The key is cooperation. Our ability to work in a concerted effort is one of our species’ defining characteristics; it’s how we rose from mere bumbling primates to bumbling primates that build skyscrapers. Like the cartoon fish trapped in a net, we’ll only survive if, instead of looking out for ourselves individually, we swim together in one direction.
So, let’s pick our projects and get to work, because the end is near-ish.