As you may know, a lot of people were anticipating December 21st, 2012 with bated breath.
I have a friend, quite an intelligent fellow with degrees and a family and a good job and everything, who was really preparing himself for the end. He contemplated how to spend his last night. “Should I stay up all night with my partner? Should I spend the time with my kids? Should I dance wildly, or meditate?”
Finally he came to the conclusion that if this really was the end of the world, it was the last chance he would ever have to get a good night’s sleep, so he turned in early.
When my friend woke up in the middle of the night and discovered he was still here, he felt mixed emotions. He was relieved: we would all live to see another day, another year, another decade. He felt a little disappointed: all that anticipation, and it is just another night like any other. He felt a little resentful: for listening to so many people who seemed so confident about knowing so many things. And he felt a little foolish. I don’t need to tell you why.
So now December 21st, 2012 has come and gone and the world did not come to an end… or did it? Although California did not sink into the sea, and Mount St. Helen did not erupt, and aliens did not land, and Elvis did not resurrect from the dead, some people experienced some other things: less visible, less dramatic, but perhaps even more significant than a mere change of scenery.
What is it that creates the world as we know it? What is it that creates your world and my world and his world and her world, which we each become convinced is actually “the world?”
It is not yet two weeks since the tragic and horrific shooting in Connecticut. That event triggered many different responses in different people, according to which “world” they were living in. To many parents, the shooting came as a reminder of the deep gratitude we feel for our children. To many, the shooting came as a reminder that the proliferation of guns in the United States is way beyond out of control. To others, the shooting came as a reminder of the woeful state of inadequacy for how we care for the mentally ill in this country. And to Wayne LaPierre, president of the National Rifle Association, the shooting came as an obvious and indisputable sign that we need armed guards in every classroom.
Same event, but completely different significance and meaning according to the world you live in.
So here is a possibility to chew on, dear friend, on your Christmas eve, and I’d really love to hear your response to this.
What if we are all mildly hallucinating, in our own unique and personal way? What if what you call “the world” is actually the end result of external events which are being perceived through incredibly complex filters of fear, ambition, greed, and endless refractions of projection? The experience of this “world” in turn create responses that reverberate out and create new events. What if what we call “the world” is actually a mixture of objective reality with massive amounts of interpretation and filtering?
From that perspective, the end of the world is not precipitated by volcanoes erupting, or floods, or alien invasion, but by a dramatically shifted relationship to your own reactivity to things.
In many ways I consider myself to be a lucky man. I get to travel around the world talking about these things, and much more important, listening to other people telling me about their experience. I work with coaching clients over the phone from all different parts of the world. I have been hearing that many, many people are indeed experiencing “the end of the world.” I have been hearing so many stories of people coming face to face with their own projections and fantasies, and seeing all the ways they have given meaning to things that were actually quite neutral and benign.
Take Robert, for example, who just recently told me that he looked at his wife one morning and realized that he hardly knew her at all. What he knew was his image of her, his projection, his resentment about her not being the way he wanted her to be. Or take Nicole, who just in the last month had the same kind of recognition about men in general, and realized that she had seen every actual and potential partner in her life through a smoke screen of fear. Or take Neil, who has been struggling for so many years with trying to get his business to run the way that he wanted, and just in the last weeks started to wake up to the fact (now obvious to him but before obscure), that all of his efforts were counterproductive. I could go on and on, but I would much rather that you do instead of me.
December 21st did not turn out to be the end of the earth, or the end of the New York Stock Exchange, or the final episode of How I Met Your Mother. For many people, however, this has turned out to be the end of the world as they knew it, and the beginning of something completely unknown.
If you have got this far, then please, it is your turn now. Take a few minutes to write your own experience for me below. Have you arrived at the end of the world?