Well, here we are, embarking on the auspicious year of 2012, the year in which the current cycle (baktun) of the Long Count of the Mayan calendar comes to its conclusion. A lot of people have been speculating for some time about what that means, including some in Hollywood who have cashed in with their own special effects movie about a 2012 apocalypse. (The ancient Mayans would probably get a kick out of that Judeo-Christian overlay onto their tracking of long cycles of time, and our culture’s curious love of End Times scenarios. The Mayan calendar has, after all, gone through a dozen of these cycles before and the world is still here.)
Mayan calendar or not, I think it is true that we are reaching the culmination of a cycle and that the beginning of something new is at hand. Far from dreading it, though, we ought to be popping the champagne bottles and dancing our welcome to the changes on the horizon because, quite frankly, it’s about time. As we come to grips with the consequences of several centuries of exploitation — including devastating exploitation of the Earth — most everyone recognizes that we won’t be doing “business as usual” for much longer if we want to have a life-supporting planet to live on.
The good news, as I see it, is that most of the global challenges we face as we enter 2012 are the result of things humans have created, from dysfunctional economic systems to climate changing technologies. The reason that’s good news is that none of this has been imposed upon us from the outside. This is the reality we humans have created for ourselves, and therefore it is a reality we can change.
Not that it will be a cakewalk, because tumultuous change is, well, tumultuous. But I for one have a deep faith in humanity’s capacity to navigate these stormy seas, because, in spite of the cruelty and excesses of our shadow side, we are a species remarkably capable of envisioning what doesn’t yet exist and then going about bringing it forth. All I have to do is consider this computer I’m working on and ponder the enormous collaborative human ingenuity it represents to know that we are capable of greatness.
So often people become overwhelmed and discouraged when they think about how unresponsive and even obstructionist the present systems and power structures are in light of the magnitude of the changes that are called for. But I always remember Buckminster Fuller who said: “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”
I think Fuller had it right. It’s a waste of our time and energy to try to change those systems that are no longer serving our best interests, but will fight tooth and nail to keep themselves intact nonetheless. We are much better off envisioning the future we desire and collectively setting about to bring it forth, letting the old systems wither away of their own accord.
Now, as another great thinker and visionary, Albert Einstein, noted, a problem can’t be solved with the same consciousness that created it, so if we really want to address our present problems effectively, the new vision will need to arise out of a new consciousness. The old consciousness, which we have seen exemplified by Wall Street in recent years, is based on exploitation, greed, individualism and domination. The new consciousness that will open the door to the future that has a future is based on restoration, community, generosity and collaboration.
Personally, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if 2012 brings with it a growing, widespread awareness that our future is in our hands, and that if the leaders won’t lead then it’s up to the people to do so. We have the power, if we desire to use it, to unleash our imaginations, lay claim to the future we desire and come together to bring it forth. If we do, generations to come will look back at this time with amazement and profound gratitude for our vision and our courage.