Saturday, August 6, 2016

Antigua, Guatemala: Volcano Family


Volcano presence, Antigua, Guatemala. April 2016.


I wonder how the omnipresent threat of volcanic eruptions and earthquakes shapes the Guatemalan worldview today, and how it shaped the Mayan mental model pre-Spanish era. Is there a dismal, fatalistic view? Life's a bitch and then it has puppies, and then you die! Or a fatalistic, but enjoy-the-moment outlook: Carpe diem! Or something that's somewhere in between. Like, pray to God but keep rowing the boat to shore. Or: Shit happens.


Volcano presence, Antigua, Guatemala. April 2016.




In Antigua, there's no escaping the archaeological emoji of memento mori: remember you must die.
They are the crumbling stone carcasses left by massive shudderings from subterranean Earth giants. Maybe the fallen structures are the flip side of sand paintings that the artists swipe away after having spent many hours of painstaking placement of color and shape. Some to illustrate the impermanence of life. Some to dissipate toxic spirits after a healing.


Volcano presence, Antigua, Guatemala. April 2016.



Raise your eyes just a bit and, always hovering, are those volatile family members who appear placid now, but you know it's just a matter of time before they'll blow out their molten rage or poisonous gray ash. Will it be today? Tomorrow? A year? A generation?


Volcano presence, Antigua, Guatemala. April 2016.


A passage from Joan Didion's Year of Magical Thinking sticks with me:
"... many people I knew .. believed absolutely in their own management skills. They believed absolutely in the power of the telephone numbers they had at their fingertips, the right doctor, the major donor, the person who could facilitate a favor at State or Justice. The management skills of these people were in fact prodigious. The power of their telephone numbers was in fact unmatched. I had myself for most of my life shared the same core belief in my ability to control events. If my mother was suddenly hospitalized in Tunis I could arrange for the American consul to bring her English-language newspapers and get her onto an Air France flight to meet my brother in Paris. ...Yet ... Some events would just happen. This was one of those events. You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends."


Volcano presence, Antigua, Guatemala. April 2016.



When I drive by a nasty car crash, I think, "Remember, remember. Pay attention to your now. These people did not get up this morning thinking they'd be killed or maimed in a car crash."


Volcano presence, Antigua, Guatemala. April 2016.


In Aldous Huxley's book, The Island, there is the black, orange-beaked mynah that flies about the island, announcing: "Attention" and "Here and now, boys. Here and now, boys."

"That's what you always forget, isn't it? I mean, you forget to pay attention to what's happening And that's the same as not being here and now," said the little girl, Mary Sarojini MacPhail.


Volcano presence, Antigua, Guatemala. April 2016.



Antigua's volcanoes. Memento mori. Pay attention. Here and now, boys!


Volcano presence, Antigua, Guatemala. April 2016.



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