(Time and Again . . . )
Versions of the Mayan calendar, in slightly modified and embellished forms, are now being used by groups of non-Mayan. They see it as a potential tool for transcending negative qualities they associate with Western Industrial Civilization. Sensing a need for radical change, and knowing how calendars exert powerful influences over perceptions of the Universe, they feel a need to disassociate themselves completely from the Gregorian mindset, a mindset they feel perverts the experience of true time. To do this, they seek to create an alternative community using their version of the Mayan calendar exclusively. I wish them well.
For me there remains a question: “How large can they allow that community to become?” Does our faith, or lack of it, limit us to forming small enclaves, holing up in the hills, and arming ourselves to the teeth? Can we attain a lasting transformation by substituting one system of ordering the Universe with another? Maybe we need to think beyond “systems” of ordering the Universe altogether. We have models to do this. They are products of our own culture or the sloughing-off of it. They are not taught in our schools. We are just beginning to ask, “Why not?”
My favorite calendar (which after all is just a method of telling the time of the year) is used by the tribal culture inhabiting the Emerald Islands of Andaman. On this string of islands off the Eastern coast of India, in the Bay of Bengal, inhabitants use the aromas of different flowering shrubs and trees to identify the changing of the seasons. While our technically sophisticated culture would define this approach as primitive and simplistic, theirs remains totally immune to worrying about or waiting for the New Millennium.
There are many ways to know this world. The abstract, rational intellect is only one of them. In spite of its seeming effectiveness, its seeming precision, it may be the crudest of our available faculties. When Marco Polo briefly visited these islands in the 13th century, he declared the people nothing more than savage “head hunters.” Apparently, in searching for routes to new profit, he was too busy to stop and smell the roses. As our year slips into the Next Millennium, or not, may we avoid that same mistake.
Time beyond dogma The whole concept that a single day’s dawning can usher in a New Millennium is an interesting supposition. As with any supposition, there exist distinct possibilities for its use. We can use it to spawn new and liberating perspectives. Or we can create a vehicle that lashes out at the integrity of other beliefs. How do we choose one path over the other? Why on Earth does it matter? And who decides who decides?
I think it will be far more fruitful to spend our time finding mutually benefi-cial solutions than arguing about whose calendar is best. The history of calendrics is already complicated enough without us adding our own hidden agendas and stupid proclamations. Calendars should be simple tools for keeping track of dates, not used to enforce credence of a particular belief system.
The New Millennium I’m waiting for is simply a clean slate. A new beginning. It begins when we stop believing that a final solution is had by substituting one belief system for another. There are models for being in this world that don’t create new territories to protect. We need to find them again. Test them out. Hopefully, while retaining a sense of humor (what a novel idea). The next rung on the Temporal Ladder requires New Ways of Thinking. New Ways of Being. As Albert Einstein once said, “Serious problems cannot be dealt with at the level of thinking that created them.”
In future articles I will explore some of these New Ways. Surprisingly, they were spawned in the juices of our own Western Culture. One was the fin de siècle perspective which surfaced briefly at the end of the last century. It flour-ished until the rising militarism of this century snuffed it out. But it didn’t die before laying a firm foundation for a new level of “thinking.” Or more specifically, a new way of “being” in the World. In the New Millennium, thinking as we know it may become a thing of the past.
This is the first article of a series that will appear in Alternatives as we run-up to the Millenium. Look for Part II in the spring Equinox issue of Alternatives Magazine.
William P. Benz is an Artist, Writer,and Poet living in North Portland. He Specializes in Design of Information Filters, the Surfacing of Mental Models, and the Creative Reintegration of Defective WorldViews. He also counts himself a Member,in Good Standing,of that Select Group of 157,484 West Coast WEB Designers. Visit his WEB Space at http://www.aracnet.com/~wpbenz. Or send email.