And I feel fine. So, we’re in the last charted month of the Mayan calendar, and the 21st of this month, as interpreted, is the date of the ‘end of the world’ – at least the calendar, which has gone for cycles and cycles (centuries and centuries) is ending.
So, I am taking a few moment to consider the end of the world and how it impacts us, our minds and how we might be able to deal with this rather profound event (whether it happens as a catastrophe or something else)…
The Mayans and their Calendar
From history, we understand that the Mayans prioritized their history and the recording of time. (Please excuse any inaccuracies in translations or my truncation of a complex system of measurement). Their calendar, which was made up of 260-day tzolkin ‘solar years’, 18980-day (or 52 solar year) calendar round, 394-year Baktuns , and finally the Long Count which is written as 126.96.36.199 (including the smaller units of measurement after the cycles) which comes out to 1872000 days or 5125.36 years – which appears to ‘end’ on either December 21st or 23rd, 2012. There are some explanations for the lengths of some of the groupings of time – that the 260 days were used to calculate pregnancy length, that the 52 years was ‘a generation’ passing… there may be some connection there, I’m not quite sure… But I do recall seeing the gods of the sky and underworld and earth carved in the stones of Mayan ruins and realized that their pictoral illustration of these beings was very important to them. From what I understand, at the end of each cycle, every completion, there was a celebration and sacrifice for ‘making it to the end’. Sometimes there was an expectation of a change taking place from one segment of time to another – and I believe that sometimes certain things would be destroyed to allow for a rebirth or rebuild signifying the new period.
Was the end of the Mayan calendar denoting the end of the world? With only shards of their history available to us right now, it would be a bit of a stretch for us to assume that it was. Sandra Noble, executive director of the Foundation for the Advancement of the MesoAmerican Studies, considers the portrayal of December 2012 as a doomsday event to be “a complete fabrication and a chance for a lot of people to cash in.” One item of note, is that all of the smaller categories of time (excluding the Long Count) were repeated within the period ‘one size up’ – that for every ending, it signified the beginning of a new cycle that began again, slightly differently within the higher structure, but following a path that had been followed before. Hmmm. I wonder how the saying “we can only step into the same river once” fits in here…
What if you only had a month to live? A little longer?
A question that many people ask when trying to figure out priorities is “if you only had a month to live, what would you do?” Apparently the answer is an indicator of what you should be focusing on in your life. I know that many people would quit their job – I love my job, but if I didn’t have any future financial responsibilities, I’d rather spend my time with the people I love, travelling and visiting them. Sometimes with a short time frame that this theoretical question poses, individuals can see a glaring inconsistency, but I like to change it up just a little bit. If you still had to plan for future consequences but knew that in a relatively short time you life might end, what would you focus on? What would you do differently?
Even if you continue to do something that gives you no pleasure or that drains you in some way – what are some reasons why you would keep doing it? That’s a fun one – write them down, because they often seem less important in black and white, or they may remind you of someone else. These written words are actually an inherited ‘requirement’ that may not play out in your life right now. If you look at it as a trend of changing rather than an on-off switch, what might you include more of or less of in your daily functioning? Be aware that others may react negatively to your change (we tend to like consistency of action in those around us). I suppose that you could say you were kicking the bucket, because I guess we all are in the process of it, but I prefer to rather keep this saying from the movie The Shawshank Redemption in mind – “you better get busy living, or get busy dying.”
What’s the end of Your world mean to you?
I was speaking to a friend whose company was going through a staff reduction process (rounds of firings) and she said that many people were acting strangely. She mentioned she was under a great deal of stress to continue working with them, but others were becoming angry, despondent or a combination of inconsistent behaviours which she was worried would actually put them on the chopping block. I mentioned that they might be in the middle of the grieving process – whether their job, the jobs of others / structure of the company or a loss of good times of the past. This could be affecting them emotionally and, in turn, changing their behaviour. Would the end of a job be the end of your world? How about a relationship or a way of life you’re experiencing now? Sometimes a bit of ‘worse case scenario planning’ can help to exercise our option muscles. If your first answer to the question “what if ________ were taken from me today?” is “I don’t know”, it’s a place from which to start. With a sense of curiosity it is an interesting problem to mull over.
Not with a bang, but a whimper?
T. S. Eliot is quoted when writing about how the world ends for ‘hollow men’. It seems that throughout time there have been apocalyptic endings foretold – used as warnings or strong suggestions to change the direction in which we are going… or else. I was just thinking about airplanes and their trajectories from point A to point B. With a small shift in one direction or another, the destination (after hour of flight at high speed over long distances) can be categorically different. What would happen if this ‘ending’ was nothing more than a suggestion to make a slight change in ourselves that would make a big impact in the world over time? I think that there would be a number of people who would be disappointed. No dramatic finale – just a minute modification that may not be noticeable but would swing ‘us’ in a different direction. Which direction/ I guess that’s up to us. That’s our responsibility – and like any change, our past may or may not be our fault, but the course we set from this time forward is ours to choose. So our future may be hollow, or we can be ful’filled’ and, with nothing more than a whisper, rather than a whimper, find a new bearing that takes us more positively into a time yet to come.
Keep Calm and Carry On?
A re-remembered phrase from England in the second world war that seems popular on posters and cards (my favourite take on it is “Keep Clam and Proofread”!) may or may not be good advise – as always, it depends. As I’ve mentioned before, the mind tends to believe what we or others say about ourselves, and maybe by extension, the world. If we expect a doomsday outcome, then our attention goes to the ‘signs’ that things are getting worse and worse, which tends to reinforce our way of thinking and the downward spiral accelerates. OR, we could see this, as any ending leading to another beginning, to turn a page (no matter how marred, messy or full) to a blank, new one – full of possibilities. And do we all have to start a new chapter calmly? Well, if calm isn’t your ‘thing’, it might be interesting to explore this as a new option, or maybe just use your strengths and twirl, spin or roll into this new age excitedly, joyfully or playfully (tapping into any strengths you have or love). As the adage goes, it’s not the destination in life as much as the journey through it. Maybe the end of the Mayan calendar is simply giving us an opportunity to choose a path that best supports us, those we love around us, our community (both local and global) – to choose our path and carry on.
May the rest of the calendar days be filled with love, and those that follow with a renewed focus and anticipation for the future.
PS (as it’s now past the end of the Mayan calendar, what are you going to do with your blank, non-preset life from now on? Some suggestions below…) J