I'd be surprised if you haven't heard that this Friday is the end of the Mayan calendar. Whether you believe the world will end or not, it’s given many an excuse to reflect on where the human project is and where it should be headed. My friends at New Society Publishers are doing exactly that kind of reflection through a blog carnival. There are fascinating entries here about how to prepare for the end from a variety of New Society authors. Here's my contribution about how to prepare for the end of the world, or the beginning of a new one:
Colonize Space. This may seem counter-intuitive. With all the earthbound problems we have, we should concentrate on colonizing space? This sounds nutty. And it used to sound nutty to me too. I changed my mind when I realized that our curiosity, unstoppable need to explore, and talent for discovering and even creating new worlds is an essential part of human nature, and also the reason why we’ve flourished on this planet. New tools, technologies and worlds give us different ways to respond to changing conditions, which is essential to long-term survival.
Plus, we’ll never stop exploring. And we shouldn’t try to. Instead, we should double down on arguably the most essential part of who we are, and colonize space. Besides, it’s not smart to put all our eggs in one basket, the earth. It will die someday. We don’t have to go with it.
Build Community. If we can’t leave earth, the best way to prepare for a disaster is become part of or create a diverse community based on mutual aid and self-sufficiency. This means belonging to a community where members are totally committed to each other, includes members from all walks of life, and is set up to produce all that members need to live – food, water, shelter, and energy.
Why is this the best preparation? Well, community has long been the best way to survive. Evolution favors cooperative species. The saying, "safety in numbers" is hackneyed but true. Diversity of skills and perspectives offer a community options for survival and make it more resilient. Not to mention that working in groups is highly productive. Our greatest accomplishments – like the moon shot or democracy – are collective endeavors. Surviving into the “long now” may be the biggest accomplishment we can strive for. This is the explicit aim of many indigenous tribes. An African proverb comes to mind, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
Enjoy Now. A new world awaits us in each minute of our harried day-to-day lives. And the future is always created in the present, moment by moment. There’s no better way to prepare for the end than to enjoy every moment. Nearly every wisdom tradition affirms the power of now. It's a timeless theme of literature the world over. Nobel Laureate T. S. Eliot, the greatest English language poet of the 20th century, wrote in “Burnt Norton,”:
Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future,
And time future contained in time past.
If all time is eternally present
All time is unredeemable.
This last line is particularly poignant. There’s nothing so precious as time. Therefore, there’s nothing so precious as the present. So go prepare for the end – explore, connect, and live fully in the present. For some strange reason creating a truly good life this way is also the best preparation for disaster. So there may be no better way to prepare for anything, including the end, but to live fully.
Here are the other entries in the blog carnival:
Day One: It's the End of the World as we Know it…or is it? New Society Publishers