December 21, 2012, came and went without incident. The world did not end, except for the 153,319.64 people I talked about earlier. It pretty much went right on for the rest of us. Yesterday, my long-time friend, Jake, was among the 153,319.64. Jake’s recently diagnosed stage IV cancer got the best of him, as it will some of the others among the 153,319.64. We will all be counted among their number one day. Yesterday was Jake’s day. Don’t mourn for Jake . . . mourn for the great loss to his family and loved ones . . . mourn for yourselves. It’ll be your day soon enough.
Isn’t that a cheerful, rosy thought this rainy Friday morning? Wake up to that as you drink your first cup of coffee and you’ll probably hit the back button on your browser pretty quick. Before you do that, though, stop and be glad that you are still here, that you haven’t taken your place among the 153,319.64. You could have, you know.
There’s a lot of things that will come and go without the world ending. The elections came and went and the world did not end, though many thought it might if things didn’t go their way. Notre Dame was literally dismembered, chewed up, and spit out by Alabama, but the world didn’t end, though some Fighting Irish fans think it may have. Perhaps they have not recovered, yet. Soon, like all sports fans, they will begin to muse about next year. Maybe next year will be the year. We all have that wellspring of hope that the new year will bring the good fortune we missed out on last year. The new year will bring just what we need. That is our hope and there’s no reason to let go of it, yet. We may have to later, but not now. As soon as our despair is over, we can get fully involved with the hoping business.
I recently read an article that indicated some modern Mayan shamans were gearing up for a lawsuit. WHAT??? First, just who are these modern Mayan shamans?? Second, who are they going to sue?? Third, and why?? Somehow, the term modern Mayan shamans does not instill in me much confidence. Are they going to sue persons of European descent? That would only be suitable for the Incas and the Aztecs. Mayan civilization experienced its zenith and demise prior to any Europeans even knowing about any “New World.” The Mayans were in disarray, decline, and death as a civilization in Pre-Columbian times. Can’t blame that one on white Europeans. All we can be blamed for is misinterpreting their calendar, or the lack of its continuation. And even if we did, what are the damages?
Perhaps there are newspaper headlines in Southern Mexico and Guatemala that read, “Modern Mayan Shamans Claim Damages Over Calendar Faux-Pas.” Now, I don’t wish the modern Mayan shamans any bad luck, or any bad press, but both come when they want to and like a bad house guest, leave only after they’ve stayed far too long. It’s not my fault, and I don’t want the expense of having to defend myself from such a dubious claim. It is possible that were I named in such a suit, I would have to go all the way down to Mexico City to defend myself in a Mexican court. Perhaps they will sue in the International Court in The Hague. They would have about as much enforceable jurisdiction as a Federal court in Mexico on a tort case involving US media outlets and citizens.
Many of the people in Southern Mexico, the Yucatan, and Guatemala are of mestizo heritage. That’s what we were taught in schools. Now, I think, perhaps, this term has become pejorative and is no longer used. They are now Mexico’s indigenous people. Apparently, some of them still practice Mayan shamanism, but have no doubt given up practicing the human sacrifice part, which caused many the forerunner of a mestizo and full-fledged Mayan to breathe a sigh of relief. While Yaqui indians in the Sonora and Chihuahua (and their deserts in the USA) still get to legally collect and ingest peyote, as was their religious custom, I suppose the modern Mayan shamans have been barred from continuing their human sacrifice program. It was a messy, dangerous business, anyway.
Manuel has been employed by us for nearly ten years. He is from the Mexican State of Chiapas. Manuel is a mestizo, he says. His Native American heritage is obvious when you meet him. Manuel is well on the way to becoming a US citizen, and is studying for his citizenship test. We’re all crazy about Manuel. He is a good man and likes working for us as much as we like having him work for us . . . in fact, we work together.
I asked Manuel about the Mayan calendar. He shrugged his shoulders and said, “No se.”
I asked him about modern Mayan shamans. He shrugged his shoulders and said, “No se.”
Now, perhaps, many would take his seeming reticence as some sort of indication of a conspiracy . . . those with suspicious natures who think every simple avoidance of a question has a furtive connection to some sort of purposeful evasion. I began to eye Manuel carefully, thinking that he was concealing something from me. The wheel in my mind turned slowly and deliberately.
“Manuel, don’t you want be enjoined to this class of Mayan shaman plaintiffs and win big damage awards, thus freeing yourself from the awful burden of having to work for a living?” I asked.
“No,” said Manuel. “Soy de Christo, y todos de las personas del pueblo de mio, tambien.” Of course I already knew this. Manuel is a Christian, and a Protestant to boot, from a very small village in the mountainous part of Chiapas. Early on in the days of the conquistadores his Mayan shamanistic heritge must have been damaged by some European missionary, who at that time was no doubt Roman Catholic, meaning that his people were doubly converted.
Though I can recall the conversation, I cannot recall if Manuel was speaking Spanish or English. In most of our conversations, I speak in my passable Spanish and he speaks in his excellent English. We like to communicate in this manner. I get to practice my Spanish, which occasionally is a source of great amusement for him, and over the last ten years I have taught him much English. We have taught each other, never having any problem with communication. We rapidly switch back and forth from English to Spanish, each occasionally slowing the other down and asking for a repeat.
“No tengo la palabra,” I will say to him.
“I don’t know that word,” he will say to me. Then, the lesson is on. Him speaking in Spanish and me speaking in English, a reversal of our normal mode of communication, usually ending in guffaws of laughter. Manuel is quick to laugh. We share that. We also share the same God. Neither one of us knows much about Mayan shamans. Manuel may know more than he lets on, and I’m sure he does, but it is not important to him. His reticence is not conspiratorial.
“What day is it according to the Mayan calendar?” I ask him in Spanish.
“No se. The Mayans didn’t speak Spanish or English. They spoke Mayan. My grandmother and grandfather were familiar with a dialect of the old tongue (idioma viejo), but it was lost in our father’s generation,” he says back in English or Spanish, I can’t be certain which. “I know that today is the eleventh day of January, 2013. That is all I know.”
“Don’t you know anything about the Mayan calendar?” I ask him, thinking now that I know more about it than he does, since I have read about it on the internet, and what I read has to be true since it is on the internet.
“I know they had one,” says Manuel, “But it was of no significance to me or my family. Hoy, el dia es Viernes, once de Enero. Here and in Chiapas, it is Friday, the eleventh of January. It is payday. Where is my check?”
I look through the envelopes in my hand, find his, and hand him his check. He earned this money the old-fashioned way; he worked for it. He tuned to climb back up in the bucket truck. He is an excellent lineman, having learned valuable skills working for us that will serve him wherever he goes, if he ever chooses to go. We hope he chooses to stay. He has done so for the last ten years. I expect he knows more about power-line work than Mayan calendars, which is, perhaps, a far more profitable think to know about, unless this lawsuit thing proceeds. Even if it did, I expect a Mayan, Mayan shaman, and Mexican attorneys will just about starve to death before anyone actually collects a single cent of any award from a superfluous lawsuit.
Maybe they had best learn some valuable, marketable skills, like Manuel.