2012: And so it begins

The year is a little less than a full day old and already I’ve seen at least three stories on the Winter Solstice 2012 Doomsday predictions—including one in which NASA (thankfully) debunks the whole idea. The NASA story does a wonderful job of explaining, in layman’s terms, how these predictions (and a bad movie or two) originate with the ending of the Mayan Long Count Calendar. It just so happens too, that on December 21, 2012, the planets in our solar system will be in alignment, a very cool event that occurs only every 2,600 years.

Personally, I’ve been waiting for a while to get on to a new year. 2011 was filled with challenges and worry. There were unexpected family issues to deal with and a scary diagnosis for my love. It turned out to be far less serious than it could have been, but her condition still required radical surgery and resulted in post surgical complications and a drawn-out recovery. There was the tree that flew into our roof during a mini-hurricane and our dog’s scary seizure late in the year. With the exception of our marriage ceremony in June, it was a year to get over and put away fast. I’m not afraid of a planet hitting the earth or solar flares or magnetic pole reversal in 2012. I’m just relieved that a year that felt like it would never end finally did.

What I am afraid of is how well—or how badly—those who believe the world is soon ending will behave. Remember 1999? I had enough bottled water, peanut butter, canned food and toilet paper in my basement to supply a small town with emergency rations. A few hundred dollars in small bills was tucked into the dish cabinet and we had a full tank of gas in the car come New Year’s Eve. I had piles of batteries, a radio with a hand crank and four fondue sets, just in case. I’m still finding the occasional box of candles. We’d come through a nasty ice storm a couple of years earlier that made us aware of the need to keep some extra essentials around the house—and we were prepared.

As we brought in 2000 with a Martha Stewart fudge cake and some champagne—absolutely nothing happened— and we were relieved. The bottled water was good for long car trips, the peanut butter went into cookies and the batteries and fondue sets came in handy a few years later during a cascading grid failure. Everyone laughed about the supplies they’d stocked away. We hadn’t really been sure what the danger might be—but it had passed, with us unscathed and our preparations were quickly forgotten.

In 2012, there are going to be generally rational people—fed by a steady diet of media speculation, “news” and so-called experts—who are going to worry that the world will end in December. I’ve already seen TV shows on the brisk trade in empty missile silos that double as underground hideouts. I’m sure there are updated equivalents of Cold War bomb shelters being built as I type this. Too, there are going to be religious extremists who, expecting the Rapture, have set their sights on December 21 as a possible date. At the very worst, there may be those who may try to bring a doomsday about, thinking they are an instrument of destiny or faith.

I’m hoping the only really noticeable effect for most of us will be minor shortages of essentials towards the end of the year, once the hoarding begins in earnest. It’s going to happen. Hopefully too, one thing that won’t be in short supply is the grace not to say “I told you so” to those who are truly embarrassed when we all wake up on December 22, 2012.

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