According to the Mayan calendar, the world is coming to an end on December 21st of 2012.
Actually, many Mayan scholars believe the completion of the long-form calendar does not mean that the Mayans thought the world would end. It could mean it’s the end of a major cycle, or maybe they simply ran out of room on their big stone wheel. But don’t tell that to the present-day doomsayers who have been busy spinning scenarios for the destruction of the planet, including asteroids, black holes, solar flares, and the earth reversing polarity.
While it’s easy to ridicule the notion that an ancient American Indian culture would be able to pinpoint the end of the world, it might be worthwhile to ask the question, ‘What if….?’ What if the Mayans had special insight and/or were in contact with a supra-intelligence? And what if December 21st is really it; how would that change the way we live the last few months we have left?
More specifically, what would I want to do to prepare for the end of the world?
The revelation that my life was about end might jar an insight out of me, taking me in a totally different direction. However, since I’m not privy to that perspective, I can only guess that my first reaction would be to go through my bucket list. Before that, I’d need to come up with a bucket list. If Hollywood is my guide, I would be sky diving, surfing the big waves, climbing a mountain, running with the bulls, standing on the bow of a ship and yelling, “I’m king of the world.” Those activities look great in the movies and, if they didn’t kill me, I’m sure they’d give me an adrenalin rush. But is chasing a “high” really how I want to spend the end of my life? More importantly, those aren’t things that are close to my heart.
There are a few places I’m curious about, such as seeing the Egyptian (or Mayan) pyramids, or visiting Nepal and Tibet in the Himalayas. It would be cool to go on an African safari or float down the Amazon River. Maybe I’m jaded, but the effort required to get to an exotic location almost counters whatever I expect to see there. It might be nice to spend a couple of weeks on a tropical island, just lying on the beach, swimming with dolphins, drinking Mai Tais. The reality is, I’d probably end up sunburned, bitten by a jelly fish, and hung-over. And, at the end of the day, there isn’t any place I can go that is going to make my life more complete.
If thrill-seeking or world traveling isn’t enough, I can’t imagine NBC’s fall line-up would hold much allure as the final days ticked away. Yes, I can live without 30 Rock and The Office. Although I’d really like to see President Obama win re-election, he wouldn’t even have a chance to start a second term. Politics, business, finance, sports — everything that occupies my mind on a daily basis would be meaningless. So, what does that leave? What is really important when all the distractions are stripped away? And let’s face it; most things are distractions when it comes down to it.
As I write this, I’m preparing to go to my Aunt Ginny’s funeral (which may be a reason why this topic is on my mind). Aunt Ginny was a sweet woman and a humble civil servant who worked incredibly hard for her family, as well as the State of Tennessee. While I didn’t know her inner thoughts, she seemed content with her life. Even when a stroke severely limited her ability to speak, she continued to chatter away. Realizing she wasn’t making any sense, she’d simply laugh at herself and say “Fiddlesticks.” At the end, she was ready to let go of this world.
Over a year ago, my Uncle Bill passed away from pancreatic cancer. He was a professor, spending most of his career at the Harvard Business School. Relatively young and successful, he had the means to do almost anything with the time he had left. Yet, he continued to read and teach, because those were the things he loved to do. While he had written academic books, he always wanted to try his hand with a novel (He ended up writing three). When we see that the end is near and we don’t have much we want to change, that’s a good sign we’re living the way we should.
For most of us, it doesn’t make sense to actually live our lives based on a short-term time horizon. For one thing, we would run out of money long before we ran out of breath. There are also goals which are bigger and take longer than a few months to realize. It’s funny how living a good life often requires a lifetime. Still, there is something powerful about making the most of every day and living with a sense of urgency. It might help bring some things into focus, while allowing not so-important things to fade into the background. So, no more stalling. The world ends December 21st. What would I do?
After I ran around in a state of panic, I hope I’d eventually settle down and try to be silent and listen. Listen to myself, to others, and, if He’s talking, to God. I would want to make sure I had resolved any issues with my family and friends and, possibly, any enemies too. I’d probably spend quite a bit of time in prayer and meditation — Not because I’m so holy; mostly because I’m scared and guilt-ridden. If all we have is till the end of the year, I’m going to be thinking a lot about the afterlife. Finally, if I’m quiet enough, I often find comfort in the awareness that there is a God and He cares for me.
Ideally, I’d be there for others who might be freaking out. I’d tell them that, while the end of the world is a big story, it might be overrated. I mean, we’re all going to die; it’s just a matter of timing. Naturally, we all want to put it off till the last minute but, if it’s inevitable, why not embrace it? If we’ve found peace in our lives, there’s no reason we can’t find it in death too. Or, maybe, it’s the other way around. When we accept that the world will end for each of us; that is when we find real peace in this life. In the immortal words of Michael Stipe of REM, “It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine.”
If the world ends on December 21st, what would you do?
editor: Greg Eckard
Jeff Fulmer lives in Nashville Tennessee and is the author of the book Hometown Prophet. If God spoke through a prophet today, would we really want to hear what he has to say? For more information, visit the Hometown Prophet website. Follow on Twitter or like on Facebook.
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