Column: 2012

Is it just me, or do you feel slightly better about your break knowing that on top of the holidays, New Year’s and awkward visits with old friends, you also survived the end of the world? Well done, friend. Our first week back in school will be rife with the obligatory answers to how our break was, and now you have a clever reply to use over and over and over again.
Oh, you know. I just survived the end of the world. No big deal.

Did you ever see the movie titled 2012? Me neither. Probably because you don’t need to see the world destroyed with special effects assaulting your eyes and ears for 158 minutes. According to the movie, we should have been expecting cataclysmic natural disasters that would definitely kill you and me.

(Let’s face it. Neither of us is fit enough to dodge flaming meteorites while simultaneously leaping across magma-filled cracks splintering the earth …)

Thankfully, it didn’t go down like that. If you are like me, then you’ve been hearing the whisper of 2012 prophecies since middle school. Something about the Mayan calendar. Some sort of ancient prophecy. It was never entirely clear –– mostly because it is all hogwash.

And this hogwash has succeeded in little, save an easy party theme. Our shallow apocalyptic anxieties have been loud enough to deafen those who look at 2012 as a reawakening of critical consciousness. I don’t intend to criticize other ideas or interpretations of 2012. There are countless theories on 2012 that range from plausible to nonsensical, but they all rest on a common criticism of society: It is not working.

Perhaps here we can look toward social movements in South America that call upon the concept of “Buen Vivir.” The rough translation is “living well,” but the deeper meaning is far more expansive. Buen Vivir is a fullness in life that cannot easily be measured quantitatively –– no GDP, no paycheck amount, no number of friend requests. Part of living well is learning how to give value qualitatively. After all, how can we assign a number to that which we value for spiritual, cultural or environmental reasons?

But, how do we begin to accomplish this? Let me share with you a story from my own winter break.

It must be written in parenting guides that the best place to lecture your son or daughter is in the car. This is exactly the inescapable place where my father recited the lecture entitled “What You Should Do With Your Life.” Let me save you the details and suffice to say it is a long list that includes internship and career fairs, applications, phone interviews, pantsuits and a formidable amount of ass-kissing. You’ve likely heard it before, too.

I explained in response that before I could feverishly send off resumes and excitedly register for my free LinkedIn account, I needed to find paths of work that aligned with my values, or how I felt I could live well with others.

“Yes well, you need to make money, too.”

Yes. Yes, I do! But the world doesn’t need more successful people. It needs more people with the sense to actively balance their values. Our lives have increasingly reflected an emphasis on economic value and have done so at the detriment of community.

Buen Vivir, on the other hand, asserts that living well is only possible within the context of community. Here, the definition of community is extended to non-human communities such as the ecological and the spiritual.

So, how do we create balance amongst our values?

Perhaps striving for a perfect balance is unrealistic if not impossible, but we can strive to minimize what we feel is an imbalance. In this way, balance is a goal to constantly move toward. One of the difficulties with balance is that it takes time. Often, this is time that we may not have or may not feel we have. But perhaps, here is a starting place.

Let us be aware of any imbalances with the way we use our time. After all, if you were counting down the days until the end of the world, I bet you’ve got a lot of free time on your hands now.

To brag to ELLI PEARSON about your 2012 predictions, email her at epearson@ucdavis.edu.

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