Working on my newspaper column the other day, I researched the whole 2012 apocalypse theory. If you’ve spent 2011 being happy, productive, and intellectual, you might not know that the Mayan calendar ENDS on December 22, 2012. Because this is America, where critical thinking skills would mean the end of the entertainment industry, a number of folks have seized on this revelation and have come up with some wonderful (if you’re a columnist) theories about how we’re all going to go blotto this year.
People are even bugging NASA, since one of the finer theories has an invisible planet slamming into the earth in May, or maybe December, they’re not sure. This invisible planet hides behind the sun a lot, like a feral cat who really wants the tuna but doesn’t want you to see her eat it. Apparently, the planet Nibiru will dash out from its hiding place and smack us (also like a cat). I digress.
The real point is that the NASA astrobiologist who must answer questions from the public for his sins, said this: “My calendar ends every year on December 31, but I don’t expect the world to follow suit.”
The Mayan calendar, of course, doesn’t “end” any more than our calendars do; it merely starts another cycle. If the apocalypse comes upon us this year, it won’t be because the ancient wisdom has finally caught up with us, although it might happen because we believe in Mayan hocus-pocus, but refuse to see how our lifestyles are really destroying the planet. I digress again, see “critical thinking” above.
Anyway, what I started wondering was this: If I really believed that this was the last year we’d have a planet, what would I do differently?
Turns out, this is not a helpful question to ask, since the first thing I’d do would be to cash in the retirement and go to Europe. I would also have dessert every day, and would cancel my dentist’s appointments.
But what if I really do need to make some changes, and not just small ones like “Do yoga every day, numbnut”? What if it really is time to think globally about, oh, New Year’s resolutions?
Normally, I don’t make New Year’s resolutions, because January just isn’t the time. Usually I start resolving things somewhere around the first of May, when the spring semester is over, and the summer is full of possibility. THAT’S the time for personal resolutions, when it looks like there’s some hope of sticking to them. January is the time for curling up with the dog and being kind to yourself, and also the dog.
Nonetheless, I have been thinking about the planet, and two things apply. One: we are the most materialistic culture I can think of, and I am no different. We like stuff, and we want lots of it. Two: we consume like there’s always going to be lots of whatever we want.
My friend Janet, before whose wisdom and talent I am repeatedly humbled, celebrated the Christmas season by exploring her own freezer and refrigerator. She fed her family from what she already had, so that she could help others who didn’t have as much. You can track her progress here. I was so inspired, I tried to follow suit, but gave up when the swarm descended on us, and we were faced with the possibility of mustard relish tacos.
The principle, however, is sound. The old Appalachian maxim used to be “Make do, make it yourself, or do without.” Those were people who understood frugality. My non-resolution this year is similar: “Less.” Less materialism. Less waste. Less fuss. Less fuel.
Perhaps there’s a corollary, too: “More.” More sharing. More laughing. More giving stuff away. More walking around town. If the world blows up, we won’t have lost anything, and if we make it through the year, well, maybe “less” will catch on.