I don't mean to be morbid or anything, but what if the Mayan calendar is right?
Of course, I realize that there is considerable disagreement about whether or not the Mayan calendar actually predicts the end of the world due to "cataclysmic events" (like collisions with black holes, asteroids or a planet called "Nibiru") on Dec. 21, 2012. Some scholars insist that the prediction completely misrepresents the Mayan calendar, and that it is simply the end of a 5,125-year cycle. Others say that the transformation will be more spiritual than physical, and that 2012 simply represents the beginning of a wonderful new era for all of us who travel together on planet Earth.
That may be a positive, upbeat way of considering the possibilities, especially if you're a political candidate facing election in 2012. "Elect me and be spiritually transformed in 2012" makes a much better campaign slogan than "Elect me and meet Nibiru."
But it avoids the obvious question: What if Nibiru really is heading toward us, and Bruce Willis and his "Armageddon" drilling crew aren't available to blow the planet off course?
What if the world really does come to an end next December?
A friend of mine had a year sort of like that not too long ago. For reasons too complex and pretty much irrelevant to our discussion here, he and his wife were sure that he was going to die within a year. It wasn't something they were pleased about, but they were confident that it was unavoidable, and they were both resigned to it.
They decided not to share the information with anyone — they didn't want anyone else, especially their children, to be troubled or concerned. But between the two of them, they focused their attention on preparing for the inevitable, and doing everything they could to make whatever time they had left together more meaningful.
The first thing they did was make sure the family was going to be provided for financially. They took out a sizable insurance policy and put their financial affairs in order. He continued to work hard at his place of employment, but his work wasn't the focus of his life like it had been before. Instead, he looked for every opportunity to be with his family. He reached out to long-lost friends and tried to reconnect. Relationships mattered more; the acquisition of things mattered less. The final scores of basketball games — something that was awfully important to him before — seemed suddenly inconsequential, but going to a game with his sons was important.
What he learned that year couldn't be summarized in a box score. But it could be clearly seen in the eyes of his loved ones, and keenly felt in the hearts of all who watched this change take place in the life of a man who thought his life was ending.
At the end of the year, the man and his wife were both still there — living and breathing. And they were both profoundly grateful for it. But they were even more grateful for the lessons they had learned through a year of constant priority assessment and adjustment.
"I would never want to go through anything like that again," he told me a couple of years later. "But I'm a better person today for having gone through it."
Now, I'm not saying we should all approach 2012 like it's going to be a year of doom and gloom. Probably those naysayers are right: Nibiru is going to stay right where it is — wherever it is — and we can all look forward to the wondrous possibilities of 2013.
But instead of treating 2012 like it's just another year we have to endure, why not pretend that it's our last chance to become the kind of person we've always wanted to be? Why not allow 2012 to be the year of positive relationships and reconciliation with long-lost friends and family members — a year of doing the right things for the right reasons?
We can take a page from Tim McGraw, only instead of living like we were dyin', we can say that 2012 will be the year we can all learn and grow by living like we're Mayan.
And Nibiru is on its way.