Sunday, December 8, 2013

Abstract - "Eclipse 2012"

"Tryptic, acrylic medium on canvas, 60" x 45" x 1.5"
"Look how the floor of heaven is thick inlaid with patines of bright gold. There's not the smallest orb which thou behold'st, but in his motion like an angel sings. Such harmony is in immortal souls, but whilst this muddy vesture of decay doth grossly close it in, we cannot hear it." (Merchant of Venice)

Sunday, January 20, 2013

SketchCrawl #38 - Washington, DC

Two days before the presidential inauguration there was a lot of activity on the National Mall.  
Folks hocking memorial magnets ....

and even memorial condoms!  

The guy selling memorial condoms is actually a very cool
jazz sax player from Brooklyn, NY!
I took part in a World Wide Sketch Crawl where artist globally sketch on the same day.  There were about 8 of my fellow artists from the DCSketchbook Crawl who joined me on the Mall yesterday.  
We even got a little bit of coverage from PBS' InaugBlog! (video)

Friday, December 21, 2012

Maya Time


Guatemala-Maya children playing in a Mexican refugee camp circa 1994

Why Didn't the World End Today?

Because Maya Time is Round

What will you tell your children when they ask why the world didn't end on 12/21/12, like the Maya said?  Will you dismiss the question by saying, "Oh, that was just ancient superstition"? If you do you will be missing an opportunity to share a unique and wonderful perspective on time, quite different from our own.

You might start by dispelling three lingering myths created about the Maya:

Myth #1: The Maya civilization suddenly disappeared.

Maya are seven million strong, living today in Mexico and Central America.  While their city-states fell into ruin and the Maya were enslaved by the Spanish Conquistadors, the Maya peoples, languages, culture and life-ways continue to this day.

Myth #2: The Maya were extraterrestrial beings

This myth comes from a book called "Chariots of the Gods" that misinterprets a Maya glyph of Pakal the Great as an astronaut launching into space.

Myth #3: The Maya predicted the end of the world on 12/21/12.

The Maya never predicted the end of the world.  Rather, they calculated the end of their incredible calendar, or rather the end of one gigantic cycle within their calendar.  And this is where the cool part begins.

Is Time a Line or a Circle?

In the west we tend to think of time as a line.  Even our calendars are represented by square days, one after another, row upon row, straight, with a beginning and an end.  In fact, the whole concept of an "end of time" comes from the Western Bible -- the inspiration for many of the doomsday predictions ascribed to  12/21/12. The Popol Vuh: the Sacred Book of the Quiche-Maya People makes no reference to the end of time.  That's because for the Maya "time" is not a line, but a circle!

A Wheel Within a Wheel, Within a Wheel...

As agricultural people, the Maya have always been acutely aware of the many interconnected cycles of life on planet earth as well as in the sky.  Unlike our linear calendar, the Maya calendar is round, represented by a series of smaller cycles within larger cycles, within still larger cycles.   The first cycle,  considered the Maya "week," is made up of 13 days.  Why thirteen? According to some modern Maya that is because there are 13 articulations in the human body (2 ankles, 2 knees, 2 hip joints, 2 wrists, 2 elbows, 2 shoulder joints and 1 neck = 13).  The next cycle could be considered the Maya "month" made up of 20 days.  The third cycle is a solar year, made up of 365 days (Haab).  It takes 52 years to go all the way around the big cycle -- the Calendar Round.   The Maya calendar is considered as accurate, if not more accurate than our Gregorian calendar, since it does not have to adjust inconsistencies using a "leap year." 

Life is a Cycle of "Sowing & Dawning"

Ixmucane (Grandmother of Corn) - L.A. Benson
The Maya see the life cycle as a complementary process of "sowing" and "dawning."  Seeds are "sown" in the earth and "dawn" as crops.  When a child is conceived a human seed has been sown.  When the child is born s/he is dawned.  The Spanish euphemism for birth, "Dar luz"  means "to give light" and comes from this indigenous concept of "dawning" a human being.  When the human being dies s/he is buried or 'sown' into the earth again, only to 'dawn' in the sky as a star.   In fact, the pathway to the underworld is the Milky Way or Wakah Chan.  The complementary relationship of "sowing" and "dawning" is seen at the cosmic level in the Maya creation myth of Heart of Earth and Heart of Sky.

Is the Maya Calendar Still Used?

Absolutely! The ancient Maya were legendary astronomers and timekeepers.  The Highland Maya of Guatemala continue the tradition of counting days.  Traditional communities will often have couples who serve as "Day-keepers" who continue using the calendars.  The husband (Father-Mother) is a priest of shaman and the wife (Mother-Father) is often a midwife for the community.  For a fascinating account of modern Maya day-keepers read Time and the Highland Maya.  For a concise read up on the Maya Calendar I would start with  Wikipedia.  

Is Anything Supposed to Happen on 12/21/12?

Yes!  Something really cool.  

The Maya have a Tree of Life.  But unlike the Western tree in the Garden of Eden, the Maya Tree of LIfe or Sacred Tree is in the sky.  We call it the Milky Way.  Every winter solstice we see the Milky Way from a slightly different perspective.   It takes our Solar System 26,000 years to return to a position where we can view the the Milky Way from the same perspective.  This is exactly when all the Maya calendars and the Long Count calendar return to their starting point.  At sunrise, on the Winter Solstice, 12/21/12 the Maya Sacred Tree completes its 26,000 year cycle to start again.  So, instead of the world ending today, it has been reborn into the next cycle of Maya time!

The Maya glyph of Pakal the Great is not an extraterrestrial astronaut, but an astronomer-king studying the ancient skies.  Personally I think this is much cooler than silly myths of extraterrestrials and failed doomsday predictions, don't you?