The End of Time
Sorry I haven’t posted in a few days. My daughter had a long volleyball tournament in Reno and I went straight from there to a conference in Orlando, Florida. The Coronado Springs resort is quite pleasant. It’s built around a big, likely artificial lagoon. The main swimming pool surrounds a replica of a Mayan pyramid only they have a water slide instead of an altar for carrying out human sacrifices. My friend Pogblog is rather big on the whole business of Mayan time. The Mayans being agricultural had a sophisticated calendar system, but a very different conception of time from ours. The western calendar is linear and begins with a date that’s supposed to be based on the birth of Christ. Strangely, though Christ’s actual birthday in that calendar system is not January 1 in the year 1 (01:01:01). Instead it comes one week from the end of the calendar year, which means that Christ was either born in a year that’s BC or before Christ before the beginning of “Christian Time” or Christian time somehow began eleven months before the birth of Christ.
The whole Christian calendar actually doesn’t make a whole lot of sense when you think about matters. First, the religion believes both in the resurrection which suggests that Christ was in some sense reborn and it does occur to me that that particular “miracle” really should be the year 1 and Easter should mark the beginning of the year. Second, the Bible endorses the notion of the “End of Time” when God calls all true believers into a kind of perpetual paradise after frying the rest of us. It occurs to me that if these Christians were serious about this whole rapture business, they should check in with Hal Lindsey and start counting years and days in reverse (counting down instead of up) as we near the rapture. Personally, I believe that the Christian rapture is likely to be a lot more like God’s version of the y2k bug. There’s all this talk and preparation for the catastrophe, then not a whole lot appears to happen. Fwiw, If you ask my brother in law who happens to be a Jehovah’s Witness, we’ve been living at the end of days since World War 1, it’s just that no one told us gentiles.
Still, no matter how many dogs, women in bikinis, or pictures of mountains they stick on our calendars, it can't cover over the fact that our system of time is relentlessly flat and boxy. I'd just say that a calendar system that just goes year to year never differentiating one from the other implies that life and us don't have a whole lot of point against the backdrop of Western timemarking.
In any case, if you’ve ever seen one of those Mayan calendars, they look like big coins in that they are flattened embossed circles. The circularity is no accident, the Mayans believed that time was not linear, but continuous and circular. Pogblog tells me that we’ve hit some big date in Mayan time and that the new cycle brings on a spiritual awakening for everyone rather than this whole business of God picking teams at the end.
I imagine that thousands of kids a year go down that water slide built into the Mayan Temple at Disney’s Coronado resort without much thinking about the implications of calendars and time. There is no there in these thousands of acres of former swampland reshaped by Disney into a family vacation paradise. It’s really just a sanitized vacation version of a suburban development. The architecture is hauntingly similar. In fact, much of Orlando itself looks like any other place in America. Shopping centers have the same stores and layouts. Housing developments are all conceptualized around homes that contain all basic functions with each household having a yard and a place to park one’s horse or vehicle. Disney’s resorts more or less are designed in the same spirit.
Everything is standardized, sanitized, and anonymized. I was there for three days, western time, and after the second day I wasn’t exactly sure how long I had been there since there are no signs there of actual history or development. One gets the impression that no one’s ever been shot at Disney world, gotten divorced, or had a nervous breakdown. As long as you have money to keep spending there, you are free to enjoy its blandness as long as you can stand. There’s even a guard at the gate to make sure that no one who hasn’t booked at the resort drives in just to get a look around.
Unlike my friend Pogblog, I don’t know that the Mayans were necessarily swell people. At the same time, I’m not sure what they would think of having their sacred architecture turned into a water slide. I think they’d enjoy the pool and if they happened to have one of those credit card vouchers that comes with your room (Mayan credit cards would probably have been circular though where you go broke then get rich then go broke), they might have enjoyed the vaguely exotic drinks that come out of the poolside bar. I suspect they’d look at the assembled vacationers around their faux Mayan pyramid and wonder how such a bland, soul less people (at least based on the place) always confused passing time with their notions of the passage of time as a spiritual event. I mean first they came to find a fountain of youth, now they build these big fountains filled with youths.
Our Christian dominated culture seems so obsessed with the end of time and far too little concerned with the point of time, but that may be what happens when you hae a God who insists on choosing sides. I'm beginning to wonder if our own stagnant cutural spirituality is the result of tying ourselves into the literal Kantian box of a calendar system that looks on time as the number of times one body orbits another rather than as something that measures changes inside us.