The Mayans were quite an advanced civilization. They had agriculture, written language and, as we’ve been learning in story after story this week, a calendar. Mayan civilization itself ended hundreds of years ago, but the calendar ticked along until....December 21, 2012.
Cue the scary music! A sizable proportion of the population, it seems, believes the world will end with the end of the Mayan calendar. NASA went so far as to hold a Google chat where people could ask questions about whether asteroids or other celestial bodies were hurtling toward earth. Astronomers assured people that nothing is scheduled to hit this week. Indeed, the end of the Mayan calendar isn’t quite the story it seems at first glance. When our own calendar “ends” on December 31 every year, we don’t worry about doomsday scenarios. We know the calendar simply starts over again, and likewise, if the Mayans were still around, I'm guessing they would have celebrated the end of one (long) calendar and the beginning of another.
But it raises the usual doomsday questions. Here’s one a friend posed in an email recently: if you thought the world was ending, would you still go to work?
I imagine most of us would not choose to face an imminent doomsday scenario by leaving our loved ones, battling traffic (would there still be rush hour?) and then sitting in a beige office sending emails about a meeting we’d prefer not to attend anyway, scheduled to take place some time in the future. The future! We’d spend our precious few days with people we loved, doing things we loved.
Or at least that’s what we tell ourselves. But let’s take a minute to define “imminent.” It means hanging over one’s head. Impending. About to happen. Forthcoming. The reality is that all of our own personal worlds will be ending at some point. If you’re reading this, the odds are good that your (and my) personal doomsday scenarios will happen in the next 60 years. Sixty years is kind of a blip, cosmically. It certainly will take place a long time before the next Mayan calendar flip-over (October 13, 4772).
So in other words, we’re all facing an imminent doomsday scenario. And yet we keep going to work, which for some folks at least means leaving our loved ones and battling traffic to send emails about a meeting no one wanted to attend anyway. We say we wouldn’t do that if we knew the world was ending. But we do know the world is ending. Life is a terminal condition.
To be sure, civilization would grind to a halt if we didn’t distinguish between doomsday in a week, and doomsday in the next half-century. We can hunker in our homes, but eventually we have to eat, which means earning money to do so. Nonetheless, I think there’s a case to be made for at least keeping the doomsday scenario in the back of your head as you evaluate how you’re spending your time. There are many reasons we work, but 40 hours per week is a lot to spend on something you don’t enjoy and find meaningful, given that an asteroid is hurtling toward your own personal existence, and eventually all of our Mayan calendars won’t flip over again.
Does your life’s work fit in with the doomsday scenario?
In other news: check out the update of my website, with links to a specific page devoted just to the What the Most Successful People Do... series. The next ebook, What the Most Successful People Do on the Weekend, will be out on December 31.
Photo courtesy flickr user amber.kennedy