Mother Nature was uncommonly unkind this year. Haiti's earthquake left 230,000 dead, and monsoons left one-fifth of Pakistan underwater. An Antarctic collision between an iceberg and a glacier gouged out a chunk of sea ice the size of Luxembourg, an effusive Icelandic volcano stranded travelers across Europe, and the winter was so warm that Canadians couldn't even make ice for their Olympics. Mankind, meanwhile, seemed uncommonly hapless: BP couldn't plug the leak, lawmakers couldn't balance a checkbook, and an octopus made more accurate predictions than most economists did. Yet memory that deft makeup artist may brighten the year in hindsight. A certain seriousness has set in, as citizens served notice to their leaders that the rules have changed, the stakes have risen. There was a reason the world stopped to watch and wonder as 33 trapped miners returned one by one from their near grave: we wanted to celebrate grace under pressure, discipline in the face of despair. And not settle, in ourselves, for anything less.