The Mystery Of Time


Quite a bit, in some ways. At an infinite remove they touched the beliefs and customs of the tribes far north of the Rio Grande, so that symbols and habits of thought have come down to us, and they developed grains and vegetables which have been a mainstay of the white man’s life ever since. Even more, however, they left us a picture of what a primitive people can achieve. Mr. Thompson sums it up very well: The Maya rose to heights of spiritual grandeur, unfortified by which they could never have freed their culture from the shackles of a poor soil, a deleterious climate, inadequate methods of agriculture, and a pitifully restricted range of tools. Our own culture is the opposite of that of the Maya, for materially it has infinite wealth and resources, but spiritually it is desperately impoverished. In religious feeling and sense of duty, in happiness and tranquility, in painting and sculpture, in poetry and prose, in music, and in architecture, too, I think, but with less assurance, our present civilization is at low ebb, displaying vast mudflats of purposeless living and frustration. In such a sad plight we may well humble ourselves to inquire how and why the Maya, endowed with scant material resources, made a success of their life, whereas we, with all nature at our command, have fallen woefully short of that objective. The general answer to that inquiry, if we have the humility to make it, must lie in the greater spiritual wealth of the Maya, but the detailed story can be ours only if we busy ourselves in mastering the script in which the Maya classics are writ. Progress has been made, and “now at last the sacred influence of light appears, and from the walls of heaven shoots far into the bosom of dim night a glimmering dawn.”