Dec 23, 2012

Happy 14th B'ak'tun

Susan & I at Chichen Itza in 2009

Well Friday, Dec 21st came and went. Yesterday the sun rose again and last night we had another beautiful sunset. So much for the doomsday seers of the 2012 apocalypse.
Living down here in these ancient Mayan lands (re-branded as the Mayan Riviera), I have had some interest in this impending event. There were a few special events at some of the historic Mayan sites nearby to mark the date of the end of the 13th B’ak’tun (each B’ak’tun is 144,000 days, approximately 394 solar years). One friend from Paamul joined the more than 20,000 who showed up at the iconic Chichen Itza for “whooping, dancing, drum-beating ceremonies” - a great party it sounds like. According to one report, “The boisterous gathering Friday included Buddhists, pagan nature worshipers, druids and followers of Aztec and Maya religious traditions. Some kneeled in attitudes of prayer, some seated with arms outstretched in positions of meditation, all facing El Castillo, the massive main pyramid.”
Modern Mayans and most scholars hold no credence to this date being apocalyptic other than a reference point on a calendar that evolves into a new era.

Many years ago, anthropologists studying the highly advanced and detailed Mayan calendar noted that it was divided into ‘long count’ eras, and the current era, the 13th B’ak’tun ended on Dec 21, 2012 on our calendar. A book was published and out came the interpretations and misinterpretations.
Doomsday end-of-the-world prophecies and prophets have been around for many centuries. A chart I read this week listed 25 persons and groups, including some well known such as Nostradmus and Charles Manson, but many other ultimate fatalists I wasn’t aware of such as Martin Luther and Isaac Newton. Charismatic religious leaders such as John Wesley, Jean Dixon, up to Pat Robertson have predicted End of Days. The Jehovah’s Witness founders predicted the end of the world as we know it to be 1914, and then revised that date six more times, all of which have passed.

It is amusing and distressing to me that people around the world are so willing to embrace doomsday. What is it in our nature that seeks to give up on life on earth. While the idea of a better after-life may be a comfort to some, I think it lets us off the hook to make the best of it here and now. If we are convinced that the end is nigh, then what motivation is there to be good stewards of the earth and to get along with each other, other communities, other countries?
I’ve always thought that the idea of jurisdictional borders separating people is one of the most arbitrary and senseless concepts. How many battles, military and economic have been fought to subjugate one another? How many wars and deaths have there been through time to dominate our neighbors across these borders?
When I read science and history, I note two major puzzles: One is that from our evolution we are all related. Right across the globe, we share virtually all our genetic make up. As well, over the centuries, a great part of the world’s population have mixed and mingled their heritage. And yet great wars have been fought to claim the dominance of me and mine over you and yours.
The second is that when you look back over the maps of the world though time, borders have been drawn all over the place. These lines on the maps have been established and moved many times by conflict and bloodshed. We have behaved like wild animals fighting for territory and survival. We may be fighting with ‘higher’ rationalizations like my gods (my true path is better than your false path) or my cultural ways (my concept of freedom is superior to yours). These have never been proven. It is always been decided by power, that might is right.
Skulls glyphs at Chichen Itza

Back to the Mayans, and maybe a lesson we can learn from them.
Their great civilizations came and went in several periods, called the Pre-Classic (2000 BC to AD 250), the Classic period (AD 250 to 900) and continued to the Post-Classic period until the arrival of the Spanish. The Spanish destroyed many of their temples to use the same stones to build their own cathedrals. They also burned all the native written works they found.
During the Classic period, the Maya built large and thriving societies, but were always under stress from nature and inter tribal warfare. Their survival was largely dependent on rain to enable them to grow their crops and feed their people. The Maya developed sophisticated farming practices for planting and harvesting their corn from the thin soil under the jungle.
To the extent they could not control the weather, their priests prescribed bizarre rituals of blood sacrifice. To expand their influence they regularly went to war against neighboring communities, but only on times that were deemed auspicious by their priests. The greater cities grew like modern empires. The Classic period witnessed the peak of large-scale construction with grand pyramids, and roads throughout the jungle. This was the time of intellectual and artistic development. The Mayan population grew into the millions, before it collapsed and the major cities abandoned.
The prevailing hypotheses for the Maya collapse include overpopulation, exhaustion of the agriculture and environmental disasters from climate change.
Sound familiar?
No need to say more than Happy New B'ak'tun, Peace and Love.

Dec 18, 2012

Chillin’… and sweatin’...

For any regular readers, you will see I have not posted for over a month...I have been taking it easy this fall. “Chillin” may not sound like the thing to do in the warm tropical weather down here, but it is how I’m feeling.

After the mad scramble of building the casita last year, (and the work of getting the palapa built in the preceding years), it just seemed right to be to be enjoying our Mexican home more and working less. So far this fall, I built one cabinet, and helped Susan with some gardening, and other “to-do’s” will just happen in their own good time.
There is a saying down here: “‘Mañana’ doesn’t necessarily mean tomorrow, it just means ‘not today’.”
So I have been embracing the mañana spirit, and it feels good. I have had my feet up a good deal, and have managed to read several books.

Okay, and then there is the gettin’ older and my health thing:
It was December, a year ago, when I bent too far backwards playing beach volleyball and popped something in my lower back. In the weeks and months that followed, I was the walking wounded, with pains through my right hip and down my right leg.
I had some therapy on it and it seemed to be getting better slowly, but I still could not walk or run very far, so sports -- tennis and volleyball were out. Those who I consulted suggested it was a lower back issue, likely a herniated disk. Sometimes these get better on their own, and sometimes they need active procedures.
Fortunately I was not in any discomfort when I was sitting or lying down, so life went on, and I was determined to get it “fixed” when I got back up to Canada.
To make a long story shorter: back in Ontario, doctors, x-rays, an MRI, and specialists advised that there was no simple fix to recommend. It wasn’t critical enough to go the invasive surgery route, and back surgery was not very reliable or predictable. My research overwhelmingly discouraged back surgery, citing “FBSS” -- Failed Back Surgery Syndrome. Yikes!
So I went the physio route with slow and modest results. Basically, I was becoming a sedentary slug. And to be truthful, I was pretty depressed. My passion, tennis, was out of my life. For many years I have defined myself, my schedule of activity around tennis. The previous summer, for example, I played social and competitive tennis doubles about 5 days a week. Tennis was a sport and an exercise that could serve me into my dotage, and it was pulled out of my life.

Physio -- arrghh: have patience, lie on a mat doing stretching exercises and maybe there will be some recovery...boring!
A couple weeks ago our friends from Vancouver, Ken & Shirley came for a visit. Ken, I would say, is a fitness nut. He works in some exercise every day. So on this visit, he decided to find a gym to keep up his regimen. His on-line search recommended a place called Evolve in Playa, and he came back extolling the facility. A couple of days later, I went along, and by golly, I found exercises that I can do, work up a sweat, get my heart beating, and even mimic many of the physio drills I had been prescribed. However, these drills were on shiny machines with variable weights that I could adjust to my needs on and count out reps, “Five more, four more…” to the background tunes of techno-pop music. 
It ain’t tennis, but it’s a good workout, a good sweat, and I am guardedly optimistic that life goes on, and I’m not ready for the glue factory, yet.
And yeah, its not really chillin’ either.