As I write this, we have 353 days left before the Mayan Apocalypto upsets the Earth's apple cart on December 21, 2012. That's when the 5,000-year-old Mayan calendar ends, and if you pay any attention to popular culture, you have no doubt read or heard that it will mark the "end of the world," or at the least a "cosmic change in consciousness."
Modern scientists assure us that no such thing will happen, though they do point out that on that date for the first time in 26,000 years the sun will be aligned with the center of the Milky Way. What does that mean? Probably nothing.
Sandra Noble, executive director of the Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies in Florida, says, "For the ancient Maya, it was a huge celebration to make it to the end of a whole cycle." However, she adds, to call December 21st a doomsday or moment of cosmic shifting is "a complete fabrication and a chance for a lot of people to cash in." (Have I mentioned the Flyer's first — and last — "end of the world" advertising special section for the December 15th issue?) I kid. I think.
But what if we knew we really only had 353 days left on this planet? How would it alter human behavior? I believe it would bring about a change of consciousness. There'd be no reason to keep chasing the dollar or trying to build up your 401(k). No reason not to use your savings to travel the globe, to take that trip to Machu Picchu or the Taj Mahal or Mount Kilimanjaro. Cash would flow freely. The recession would end. Taverns would flourish.
There'd be no reason for politicians to trash each other or grasp for PAC money, no reason for them not to act like statesmen instead of self-interested weasels. No reason for billionaires not to dispense some of their vast wealth to make life easier for the disadvantaged. No reason for racism, since we'd all be on the same boat to oblivion. Families would become closer, old feuds would be forgotten. Troops would come home. Church membership would swell, and congregations would focus on spirituality rather than politics. Heck, the Cubs could win the World Series, because the other players might think, why not?
But the world probably isn't going to end on December 21, 2012, and most of mankind will continue in its follies, its delusions and vanities, its greed and small-mindedness, missing the big picture as our days on Mother Earth grow shorter. Maybe the Mayans had the right idea, after all.
The lady doth protest too much, methinks. — William Shakespeare
Is there such a thing as "bad activism"? I'm asking because I'm seeing a lot of criticism of the folks who are protesting the Memphis Zoo's encroachment onto the Greensward at Overton Park.
Exactly seven years ago this week, I wrote a column decrying a proposal by city engineers to turn the Overton Park Greensward into an 18-foot-deep "detention basin" designed to stop flooding in Midtown. The engineers claimed we'd hardly notice the football-field-sized bowl. "Except," I wrote then, "when it rains hard, at which time, users of Overton Park would probably notice a large, 18-foot-deep lake in the Greensward. Or afterward, a large, muddy, trash-filled depression."
The U.S. Civil War ended in 1865, but there are many who will tell you that we're still fighting it and will find evidence of such in Jackson Baker's cover story about the current battle over General Nathan Bedford Forrest's statue and gravesite in Memphis ...