Sunday, November 27, 2011

The End Of The World As We Know It?

A friend called me last night to tell me about a newly discovered Mayan artifact which supports the 2012 Apocalypse Theory. Apparently, in addition to a 1,300-year-old inscription in Tabasco, Mexico, there is now a second Maya reference to the ending of the 13th Long Count. A brick was found -- one of thousands -- at nearby Comalcalco with an inscription -- also one of thousands -- mentioning the date December 21st. Folks who are quick to see conspiracies and prophecies jumped on the discovery, and suddenly it was all over the news: more evidence for the end of the world.

Except this isn't exactly the case.

First of all, the new Comalcalco brick does not even mention the year 2012; instead, it references only December 21st (which could be in any year, not just 2012). Secondly, respected archeologists (Linda Schele among them, who is one of my heroes) have repeatedly said there is no evidence to suggest the Maya expected anything special to happen in 2012. They referenced many events far, far into the future, and December 21st, 2012 -- although significant because it marked the end of the thirteenth bak'tun -- was just one of several dates, and not even the last one. Also, the brick in question has been kicking around for years in the National Institute of Anthropology and History in Mexico, so it's not a new discovery. And the brick and its inscription were not meant to be seen by anyone, either; the brick was designed to face inward, toward the center of the building, with its outward side covered in stucco (just like the thousands of other bricks in the construction of the building at Comalcalco).

Finally, the monument at Tortuguero -- which sports the first and only mention of the complete date of December 21st, 2012 -- was meant to commemorate a steam bath. Tortuguero's king at that time, Bahlam Ajaw, apparently had a birthday on which date the sun shone in the same position as it will on December 21st, 2012 -- hence the mention of that particular date. Nothing to do with apocalypse. No comets. No poles shifting. Just a nice monument commemorating the opening of a religious bath and the king who would probably use it.

Still, it does make me wonder. The Tortuguero inscription mentions the god Bolon Yokte, who was present at the start of the thirteenth bak'tun in 3114 BC. According to some interpretations, this god will return or "descend" from something black (a black sky?) on that date. Sounds pretty scary. I hope Bolon Yokte isn't too nasty of a guy.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Still Trying to Figure out Karma

One of my fellow author-friends on the Kindleboards suggested that I should try blogging about my everyday life, and about topics that interest me other than those actually mentioned in my books. Well, here's my first attempt. Animals, past lives, the unfathomable magnetic draw of Dr. Sheldon Cooper and his hilarious sayings, the sexiness of Johnny Depp, hurricane force winds, the value of trees...these are just some of topics occupying my thoughts these days, but right now I'm thinking about the meaning of life. Specifically, whether Karma exists. Heavy subject, that. Yet it's one I've been pondering pretty regularly since last year, when my poor little cat died from multiple issues (stroke, kidney stones, Pancreatitis). Why does all life on earth seem to be organized around the experience of suffering? What good is pain? What does it do for the soul? And why did my Persian cat, who couldn't possibly have wracked up any bad Karma, suffer through an agonizing last week of his life?

Lately I've been reading a lot about the Near Death Experience, and I've been watching television programs in which people describe their encounters with death. These folks talk about moving toward the light, going into a warm, comforting and brilliant presence that some attribute to God's love. There they are met by dead loved ones, and are often shown a playback of all the deeds they'd committed while alive -- a "life review" in which they not only feel their own emotions during the replay of every event, but also the emotions of those they'd interacted with. During this life review, some Near Death Experiencers are asked what good they'd done...and this is the part that troubles me.

You see, good is in the eye of the beholder. One person's good deed might be another person's worst nightmare, depending upon one's sanity, society, species, etc. I'm sure there have been plenty of murderers who thought they were doing victims a favor by killing them. And the concept of good for a typical 20th-century American is probably not going to match that of a native of a remote tribe in the Amazon. Also, what about animals? They don't make choices between good or evil. Some animals never even lay eyes upon another of their kind except for rare chance encounters for mating, so these animals don't even have the social interaction in which a good deed might occur.

Good is a human idea. Good is a device that keeps our human society functioning smoothly. Good did not exist in the time of the dinosaurs. And yet there seems plenty of evidence that, not only do animals have souls -- presumably dinosaurs did, too -- but they also go to the very same plane of existence as ourselves upon death. So what "life review" for them? Before human beings arrived on the scene, what did a Near Death Experience look like for a T-Rex, for example? Were dinosaurs shown their worldly deeds? Was a Tyrannosaurus made to feel the pain of the Brontosaurus he ate for lunch?

All I can surmise is that the question "What good have you done?" was asked of these Near Death Experiencers because it would somehow initiate a more productive life when they returned to our earthly plane. Perhaps that question -- and indeed the whole life review itself -- only occurs in the Near Death Experience, not the Death Experience.

Because I know my little cat had a soul. He had thoughts and feelings. He felt love and pain. But for him, there was no right or wrong. So how could the Near Death Experience apply to him? Whatever laws of Karma exist must do so outside of time and outside of human society. If Karma is real, it must be a natural phenomena, like gravity, that applies to all living things.

I guess it's something I'll still be pondering for years to come.