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Mayan Calendar display inside the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington D.C., image cc: NCReedplayer
As most people know, Friday, December 21st, 2012 marked the end of the remarkable Mayan Long Count calendar. This day had been anticipated by Mayan people for an incredible 1,872,000 days— approximately equal to 5125.36 years!
We have been working within a much shorter timespan (around 1000 days) since we launched the FOP project (its three-year birthday is January 1st, 2013). We’re happy to look forward to seeing whether today, one day AFTER what some had suggested would be the end of the world, will actually be the start of new era. So, we’re taking a moment to pause and imagine what might have prompted the Mayans to think so far into their future, so long ago. And, what might prompt those of us here now to ever look that far into the future of “our” times?
Contemporary humans have generated “material sightlines” that actually compel us to consider long-term futures. They make up many of the topics we so often address in this blog. The motivations to consider deep futures can appear less than admirable when they take the form of massive plastic gyres in the ocean, escalating levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, or tons of nuclear waste waiting to be stored underground or inside of mountains for the next million years. Without these human-designed material circumstances threatening our species long-term existence, would we have reason to think for the long count? It seems the Mayan civilization, despite its relatively small-scale, felt itself to be deeply enmeshed in a larger geo-cosmological configuration. We’d like to think that contemporary humans are capable of doing that too.
December 22, 2013 marks an important opportunity. We’re still here! Which means we still have time to reassess what kind of present we’re in the midst of creating. We still have time to consider how humans might configure into life on planet Earth, and beyond, between now and 5,000 years from now— in 7138. How might we engage, newly, the question of long-term thinking and imagining? How might we take up this task continuously, to engage the geologic “now” as if unfolds? It’s an open question, but we do have a little bit longer (geologically) to see if we’re up to the task. Here’s to new beginnings—and to creatively navigating the geologic now.
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