” ‘Supposing a tree fell down, Pooh, when we were underneath it?’ ‘Supposing it didn’t,’ said Pooh. After careful thought Piglet was comforted by this.”

— A. A. Milne

2012 is now eighteen days old.  It is nearly impossible to be alive and alert this year and not hear predictions that the world will end when the Mayan calendar expires.  Doom and gloom prophecies seem to pop up everywhere these days, and it sometimes seems that there are people who would take comfort in the idea that their struggle may soon be over.  Throughout history there have been people who have predicted the end of the world again and again, yet here we still stand on a planet whose changes are undeniable and whose challenges can cause us to wonder whether this just might be the time when the prophets are correct.

If 2012 has our attention, I say that is a good thing.  Like others my age, I have lived a life buffered by the human inventions that shelter me from the harsh realities of nature.  I awoke this winter morning to a warm house, and I didn’t have to search for firewood last night to assure that my heat source would burn until morning.  Last summer, I could turn on the air conditioner and take a break from the heat if it became uncomfortable.  My region of the country, and even my part of the world, has been free of nature’s fury for most of my life.  Now the planet seems to be going through some changes.  Call it climate change or call it global warming, it really doesn’t matter what we name it — what matters is that our attention is being drawn to the fact that, in the end, we do not control the universe.

As one who makes a point of stepping outside of the unreal world of my controlled climate, I welcome the rumblings that draw my attention back to the power of nature and the vastness of the universe.  Like Pooh and Piglet, we have been sitting in the sheltering shade of a huge tree.  Now there are cracking sounds coming from its branches, and suddenly we begin to worry that the tree might fall and crush us.  Nothing has changed but our perspective; and I also welcome a shift in the way we see the world.  Perhaps when we begin to remember that the tree that brings shelter also could be the tree that falls and crushes what lies beneath it, we will pay attention to caring for the tree and looking out for all who enjoy its shade.

Does 2012 have your attention?  It certainly has mine.  Already I can feel the rumblings of change in my world.  Already the people I meet seem to be shifting their view of life.  When it seems that the tree might fall, we suddenly realize how much we value all that lies around its trunk.  2012 may not mark the end of the world, but it could be the beginning of the end of life as we have known it.  May we all be open to the awareness that life is precious and that the earth is ours to care for and not just to consume.  May we all look around us at the others who live in the shade of the sheltering tree and renew our love and appreciation for all who share our world.  Perhaps, one day, the tree will fall.  None of us can predict when or if that might happen.  But perhaps it won’t; and we should feel comforted by the thought that we can make the world in its sheltering shade a more loving and peaceful place to be.