Some people really believed the world would come to an end today. Despite the supposed cessation of the Mayan calendar and the numerical quirkiness of today's date (122112), I never believed the world would self-destruct in one quick blast on such a typical Friday. I believe it will happen more gradually than that. Who knows? Maybe it is happening already. This was a year of fear, loss, and devastation for so many. And while I suspect we have many more centuries—if not millenia—to look forward to, I cannot say I'm sorry to see 2012 come to an end.

I experienced my share of personal loss and strife this year, but countless others in this country lost their homes to a “superstorm” named “Sandy.” Far worse, the families of twenty innocent children lost their precious babies to a madman’s rampage in a school named Sandy Hook. What's even more disturbing is the fact that these events aren't so much anomalies as increasingly prevalent newspieces serving as harbingers of more predictable bad news to come. It’s enough to make one wish the Mayans were right.

But as the year draws to a close, we need to brace up and take heart. There are lessons to be learned—both individually and globally—from these tragic events. As individuals, we need to count our blessings each and every day that passes without our falling victim to tragedy. We need to hug our kids, spouses, and significant others; we need to laugh, sing, and not let ordinary stresses infect our interactions with strangers and loved ones. At the same time, we need to prepare our homes and our psyches for possible disaster.

As members of a global community, we need to sit up and take note: Our world is changing, and in all likelihood we are the ones changing it. If we’re clever enough to render the remotest corner of earth accessible by computer and cell phone (if not by car), then we need to start putting those same smarts to better use and figure out ways to stop crapping on our planet—and one another—with silly, selfish pursuits. Until we all take a good, hard, honest look inward and around us, we should expect more hurricanes—and massacres. Because, at the risk of sounding all New Age-y, we create our human reality through communal energy; the outer turbulence that seemingly victimizes us is often a manifestation of our own deep psychological and spiritual unrest.

None of us knows when or if the world will end. But until it does, it is up to us, through our collective consciousness, compassion for one another, and connection to something greater than ourselves, to ensure that we don’t hasten our own demise. As we head into the holidays and a new year, let’s each take time to look inward and come up with a personal plan for doing the hard work necessary to move toward a path of healing and growth, and away from the inevitable collision course wrought by avarice, indifference, and destruction.