Expect the unexpected

In 2012, a year that many people see as greatly significant, we have an opportunity to create a better world, writes Simon Marlow

The year 2012 carries a special significance for many people throughout the world. Prophecies abound, forecasting radical changes for the planet and humanity. Some view these prophecies as inevitable occurrences, others see them as expressions of our collective hopes and fears, while some see them as an array of possible futures that depend on human values and choices as to whether they materialise or not.

What is certain is that there is an unprecedented level of expectancy that something unusual is going to happen this year. And this is something that we can all capitalise on.

The future isn’t fixed; it depends on the choices we make. The path that we collectively tread has to be created by us all through trial and error, through the experience of the results of right choice and paying the price for the mistakes we make.

A dream that many of us share is that eventually humanity will express, fully and with abundance, the life, love and gifts of the soul. But how we get there depends on the choices we make, and right now we are at a critical moment of collective decision-making. Perhaps it is our recognition of this that has helped make 2012 appear to be of such importance. Our decisions now will tip the balance and set a course that could define the future for centuries to come.

Will humanity choose the path of a growing sense of responsibility, of right relationships, of co-operation? Or will we continue to be ruled by the habit of vicious conflict? My bet is that despite outer appearances to the contrary, humanity is choosing the way of responsibility. Evidence for this is increasing all the time, and here are just two out of many examples.

“Surprisingly, human violence is on a downward trend”

The first is the perhaps surprising assertion that human violence is on a downward trend. Naturally, we will immediately think of the various massacres that have taken place over the past century and wonder how this can possibly be true. But we need to remind ourselves that human consciousness has grown to the point where this sort of behaviour is seen as unacceptable. Indeed state violence and gratuitous aggression are now against international law and are universally condemned whenever they occur.

The psychologist Steven Pinker writes: “Even the mass murders of the twentieth century in Europe, China, and the Soviet Union probably killed a smaller proportion of the population than a typical hunter-gatherer feud or biblical conquest.” It seems to me that this is a marker that empathy and compassion are beginning to dominate human interaction.

The second is the growing realisation that co-operation wins over selfishness. The American evolutionary biologist David Sloan Wilson says that the ‘selfish gene’ theory that some of us have so eagerly embraced in recent years is deeply flawed. At a recent conference in London, he pointed out that species that learn to co-operate survive and flourish much better than those that are selfish and competitive: “The truth is that individuals can evolve to behave for the good of their groups and that cooperation is the signature adaptation of our own species.”

“Cooperation is the signature adaptation of our own species”

In reality the future contains a multitude of possibilities. Like the tiny strands of fibre that wind together to make a rope, these possibilities gradually coalesce through the choices that we make, reducing into fewer and fewer likelihoods until they emerge in the single reality that we call the present.

The present is that moment of enlightened creativity that turns possibility into actuality. We don’t have to be victims of an inevitable and calamitous fate. We can use our creative freewill to select and materialise a different and better world.