Friday, February 8, 2008

Guatemala update

We've been incommunicado for four days, visiting Tikal, Yaxha, Antigua (of which some very interesting "more" in a later post) Chichicastenango, and now, Lago Atitlan, where the net connections at the hotel are much better.

Tuesday we started with the reassuringly sinister impression of a crocodile in the lake by the hotel. Soon enough, though, we found ourselves immersed in the ruins of Tikal, one of the largest Mayan cities during what the western world calls the Middle Ages. Tikal, a site inhabited for over 2,000 years, reached its peak during the Mayan classic period, +/-A.D. 230-900.

Despite their majestic vertical scale, the temples around the grand plaza manage to create an intimate space. They achieve this by being located close together; this was probably the nearest equivalent the ancient world ever saw to a skyscraper environment.

On the way to the grand plaza, we paused to watch howler monkeys and spider monkeys (one of the howlers was a mother carrying a baby) and marvel at a large woodpecker. During the day, wild, weird howls of the monkeys echoed through the woods as though they were the ghosts of the ancient Maya, lamenting their death from the very bowels of Xibalba, the Mayan underworld.

As we walked back to the car, I remarked to Neal that the experience of the woods, the trees, the shade, the sun and the clouds seemed to me today to be just as vital and important as the imposing ruins. It’s the combination of all these things that creates a day and creates an experience: not just the dream of the long-lost Maya, or the architecture of their cities. The day needs to be drunk in as one whole thing that sinks into the soul.

It’s a thing of this time, not of times past, and yet it carries within it the connections to the past. Every tree in the area is a direct descendant of a tree that the Maya looked at: every plant, every bird, every monkey.

In attempting to understand what Gurdjieff called “the laws of world creation and world maintenance,” we attempt to understand not just the workings of the universe—that would be drawing the question in terms too narrow.

Yes, too narrow.

Understanding world creation and world maintenance involves an effort to understand all worlds: the world of now, the world of then: the world of nature, the world of the Maya, the world of the passage of time. As I stand in front of the imposing fa├žade of temple one, I attempt to understand not only the Maya, but their connection to our own world, and how overuse of resources can lead to the collapse of civilizations. I try to understand how the vestiges of each successive generation of humanity echo down through the ages to future generations, changing how they view the world: and once again the question of what my own responsibility is arises.

I think we are all engaged in an enterprise here to “grok the planet;” to see and hear and feel and understand the wholeness of earth, the wholeness of time, and the wholeness of being—to understand these things from both an inner and an outer point of view. And I think we are here to help bind things together, to weld a new form of being and a new form of thinking into a seamless whole. The earth itself has a need, and humanity can help meet it. By seeing the connections, by using our hearts to find the connections between times, between places, between peoples.

We have the opportunity to offer ourselves to each other in the shadows these pyramids cast through time, by placing ourselves in the center of a humility acquired through perception. The perception of mortality, the perception of fragility that crumbling limestone delivers, and at the same time the perception of continuity, vitality, and abundance aroused by howler monkeys, woodpeckers, crocodiles, and orchids.

We are all in this great enterprise called conscious effort together. If we do not pull together, we will all fall apart.

May your roots find water, and your leaves know sun.

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