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Resolution for a New Baktun

by Bill Meacham on December 31st, 2012

The solstice has come and gone, and with it the turn of the Mayan Long Count calendar. We’re still here. The world has not ended (the Maya did not think it would). The flying saucer people have not landed. A cosmic vortex of profound enlightenment has not swept over us; or if it has, its effects are not yet evident. So now what?

It is the traditional time for New Year’s resolutions. What if we made a resolution, not for a year but for 5,125 of them? That’s how long the full cycle of the Mayan calendar runs.

But why should we even care about the Maya and their calendar? After all, the calendar makers lived a long time ago; they were war-like and superstitious; they were unable to prevent the collapse of their civilization; and their astronomy, although impressive, was not as good as ours.

Here’s why: For all the flaws of its makers, the Long Count calendar is a magnificent achievement and it still captures the imagination of people world-wide. There is something glorious, something commanding and majestic, about the vision of a cycle of more than 50 centuries. There’s something organic about it as well. It’s not just multiples of 20. There is a cycle of 18 also, and a cycle of 13. (See my earlier blog post for the details.) It is not just a product of the intellect spinning out sterile recurrences; it has soul.

We can make use of that soul, if we choose to do so. We can tune in to it, so that what we initiate now will have lots of momentum behind it. It is like planting while the moon is waxing.(1) Why not make a resolution that will grow for centuries?

If we did, what resolution would we make? It would have to be intended for something beyond merely ourselves, and beyond our friends and families and descendants, perhaps beyond even our species. It would have to be for something beyond our neighborhoods, states and nations, perhaps beyond even our planet. Our resolution would have be for something lasting.

Here is the philosophical part: Only what is good lasts. What is evil, what is malicious, eventually becomes self-destructive. Sow hatred, and you will be consumed by it. Sow love, and you will be nourished. Sow pettiness, jealousy, revenge, greed, and you will never be satisfied. Sow generosity and beneficence, and you will be rewarded and fulfilled.

We are all connected with each other and with the natural world around us. We are part of interconnected, interdependent systems. In such systems the thriving of the individual parts is necessary for the thriving of the whole, and the thriving of the whole is necessary for the thriving of the parts. We are created, defined, and sustained by our relationships with each other and with the natural world.(2) So let’s resolve to nurture the whole of which we are a part and thereby nurture ourselves. The basic principle is simple: Figure out something good to do or start or create, something that will last a long time and keep producing goodness. Then make it happen.

But that is awfully abstract. What it will look like on the ground is up to each one of us.

What are your talents and skills? What can you put to use for the benefit of all?

What excites you and motivates you? What would keep you happily occupied for the long run?

What do you want to be in place for the 205th generation after yours?

Notes

(1) Gardeners for centuries have used this practice to increase their yields. Whether or not there is a measurable physical basis for it, there is certainly an effect on the gardener’s confidence and feeling of harmony with natural cycles; and those feelings affect how the gardener treats her plants. And there is some evidence that there is indeed a physical basis. See, for instance, http://aussieorganicgardening.com/?p=32, http://www.gardeningbythemoon.com/lunarfacts.html, and http://www.420magazine.com/forums/cultivation-scientific-data/167178-moon-phases-power-holds-planting.html.

(2) Kathleen Dean Moore in DeMocker, “If Your House Is On Fire.”

References

DeMocker, Mary. “If Your House Is On Fire: Kathleen Dean Moore On The Moral Urgency Of Climate Change.” Chapel Hill, NC: The Sun magazine, Issue 444, pp. 5-15. Online publication http://thesunmagazine.org/issues/444/if_your_house_is_on_fire as of 30 December 2012.

From → Philosophy

6 Comments
  1. Mike Ignatowski permalink

    After your last post on this subject I asked a similar question on my Facebook page. The most interesting answer I got was from my sister, a long time teacher. She decided that the most important thing she could do for the long term was to help others get better. As she put it: “When I help a young teacher learn their craft, I am helping every student that teacher will ever have. So if you help encourage someone, help raise up someone, help improve one person’s life you are setting off a chain reaction that will reach well into the future.” Well said.

  2. Another beautiful essay, Bill! The idea of a long-term resolution–beyond our lifetime, beyond states and nations, beyond our species and planet–holds immense appeal for me.

  3. Kim permalink

    If we were to make one resolution for 5125 years, I think it would have to be something that contributes to the sustainability of Earth’s ecosystem.

  4. Parmenides permalink

    That is a great question: what can we do that will have positive effects still visible after 5000 years or longer. But you don’t offer even one answer. I can’t think of anything whose effects won’t fade out long before that, except science and engineering.

    • My wife advised me to leave it open-ended so people would think of their own solutions. She generally has good advice.

      You could say that the inventions of agriculture and writing have had long-term effects. Certainly physical stuff deteriorates, but cultural stuff can replicate from generation to generation and last longer. (Assuming that generations of humans continue, of course.) Perhaps the cultural memes of compassion and working for the good of the whole would be candidates. (I didn’t say that the resolutions had to be original.)

  5. The most interesting stuff I’ve read about the Mayans is in the two recent books 1491 and 1493 by Charles C. Mann.

    Traveling from Merida to Uxmal in the Yucatan in 1998 I was struck to to see along the way people living in dwellings exactly the same as shown in the archaeological exhibits in the museum in Merida.

    The museum also had a replica of the bas relief of a queen pulling a string of thorns through her tongue to keep her blood flowing, a technique noted in “The Blood of Kings” by Schele and Miller as a means of attaining ecstatic states.

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