Friday, March 4, 2011

The Blackbird Comes to a Decision

Most discussions of the Maya Calendar revolve around what is known as the Long Count, which is a calendar that is over 5,000 years in length and due to complete its current cycle sometime around December 21, 2012.

The Maya also have two other calendars - both shorter in duration. The 260 day count of days is commonly known as the Tzolk'in. The Tzolk'in was combined with a 365-day vague solar year known as the Haab' to form a synchronized cycle lasting for 52 Haab's. This is called the Calendar Round.

Because they are intertwined the Tzolk'in and Haab' cycle together much like a pair of gears, with each day's turn resulting in a different pairing of days. This means that it takes a total of 18,890 unique days (equivalent to roughly 51-3/4 years on our Gregorian calendar) to completely cycle through every possible combination of days in the Calendar Round.

I read somewhere recently that according to this ancient system of time that a person attains the status of elder upon reaching this age of 51-3/4 years. Apparently the process of experiencing each of the 18,890 unique days at least once bestows some kind of experiential wisdom upon a person. Whether this is true or not, I don't know. But I find this idea rather fascinating because in my case this age milestone is due to arrive sometime this evening.

To commemorate the event I am reposting a short parable found recently on Paulo Coelho's blog. It's called "The Blackbird Comes to a Decision".

An old blackbird found a piece of bread and flew off with it. When they saw this, the younger birds pursued him in order to attack.

Confronted by imminent battle, the blackbird dropped the piece of bread into the mouth of a snake, thinking to himself:

‘When you’re old, you see things differently. I lost a meal, it’s true, but I can always find another piece of bread tomorrow.

“However, if I had hung on to it, I would have started a war in the skies; the winner would become the object of envy, the others would gang up on him, hatred would fill the hearts of birds and it could all go on for years.

“That is the wisdom of old age: knowing how to exchange immediate victories for lasting conquests."

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