When I was in grammar school, I used to say that I wanted to grow up to be an archeologist. Having not yet discovered Economics, I could not think of any other way to combine my love of social studies, math and science all at once. Had I pursued that line of study, I hope that I would have had some intelligent things to say about the idea that the Mayan calendar predicted the end of the world on December 21, as did others. Since that day has come and gone, I think it is safe to say that any predictions based on those calendars foretelling the end of the world as we know it were incorrect. Now that we know that the world is not ending quite yet, I want to share some thoughts on what we did not lose on December 21, 2012, as the New Year unfolds.
The first thing we did not lose was our past. We did not lose the collective accumulation of human thoughts spanning thousands of years. We did not lose the writings of Buddha, the Bhagavad Gita, or the Gilgamesh Epic. We did not lose the Iliad or the Odyssey, nor did we lose the works of Shakespeare or the Declaration of Independence or the discoveries of Galileo or Einstein or the mapping of the human genome. And we did not lose the pieces of literature known collectively in some circles as simply “the Bible”. We did not lose the paintings of Michelangelo or da Vinci or Dali or the music of Beethoven, Bach, Mozart or Tchaikovsky, or, for that matter, Bob Dylan or Bob Marley. We still have at our disposal “Little Women” and “The Sound and the Fury” and can be entertained by the mysteries by Agatha Christie and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. We can still watch ballet or belly dancing or traditional African dance. We did not lose our memories of people such as Gandhi or Martin Luther King who gave our species insight into how to live together peacefully. And, individually, we did not lose the memories of loved ones who have passed from the Earth. While they do not all remain here, those of us who still live carry their legacies with us, and testify to the fact that they once graced this planet.
Nor did we lose our future. We did not lose our hopes for our own lives and for the lives of our children and our children’s children. We did not lose our plans for retirement or our dreams of traveling or the many other things that probably appear on our individual “bucket lists.” For us baby boomers, Social Security is still not something we can count on, but most of us believe that tomorrow is. We did not lose the opportunity to finally revise that one course or to finish making our way through the research agenda we outlined when we first applied for an academic position perhaps many years ago. And, as a species we did not lose the chance to finally “get it right” to build a world with justice and peace and without war or nuclear weapons. We did not lose hope.
And finally, we did not lose our present. We woke up on the 22nd in our familiar homes and if it had not been a Saturday, we would have gone to work at our usual jobs. Public transit still ran, and stoplights still worked, and food could be found in our usual grocery stores. In all but the most tragic cases, our children and spouses are still with us. In those cases where they are not, we have companions who are here to walk with us through the darkness of grief. We did not lose the smell of flowers in the spring or the feeling of the ocean sand between our toes or the warmth of the sun on our skin in the summer. We continue to revise our courses for next semester and to fine tune our research before sending it off for review by a journal and ponder, in our own way, the questions that brought us into the academic circle. We continue to hug our children good night and wish our partners well as they leave home each morning, hardly giving any thought to the idea that some people said that all of this would disappear only a few days ago. Indeed, it is perhaps the progression of our ordinary lives that is the greatest gift that we can find in having the world not end on December 21, 2012. May we continue on with hope in the future, appreciating where we have been and anticipating all that will be.
Wishing everyone a very Happy New Year!
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