Ascending Mexico’s highlands: Part One. Subiendo el altiplano: Parte Uno.

Stone heads of La Venta . The Olmecs.  (Walker is well-behind 20-ton sculpture)

We’ve just returned from a wonderful trip, commencing at the Gulf of Mexico, near Villahermosa, gradually moving upland to about 7000 feet, at San Cristóbal de las Casas, in Chiapas – the southern-most state.  

Up front, I want to tell readers what a peaceful experience we’ve had, living and traveling in Mexico.  Yes, all countries have violence.  (Look at daily mass-shootings, of four-or-more victims in schools and churches in US, and compare that to cartel corpses hanging from bridges in Mexico – along with some violent robberies – asking which is worse – not that anyone wishes to compete in these categories!)  O, may equality of opportunity come soon, to both lands!  AMEN.  

From the sculpture park at La Venta, our attentive and thorough tour-guide, Marina Aguirre, took us to the Lacandon jungle where a small number of Mayan families have governed the jungle, and retained many of their ancient cultural practices.  We stayed at a welcoming but modest inn, called TOP CHE run by one of these families, and we also visited nearby ruins on the mighty Usumacinta River, by boat, not by “rafting”. 

TOP CHE Camp, Lacandon jungle

Grandfather Enrique, & clan : grandaughter Top Che, biggest smile, back row.

River boat, to Yaxchilán ruins.

Our sturdy, steady, river pilot –he looks like a La Venta head! no?

Marina addresses group of 17 at entry of protective maze to Yaxchilán.

Great mound & stele, along “superhighway” of river.

More to come, in Part Two : Palenque, and San Cristóbal de las Casas.

 

 

 

 

 

TWO BOOKS : Why Religion?, AND, The Alphabet Versus The Goddess

Admit it.  You’re a believer.  You believe in something, many things.  Anyone who has ever taken Philosophy 101 has heard this question: why is there something rather than nothing? (Nothing is what the rocks dream of, wrote Aristotle.)  You “believe” but the varieties of belief are vast.  Perhaps you believe in a god of wrath who, like santa claus, knows naughty from nice ;  or in ha satan (Hebrew for the accuser: AKA satan, the boogey man) ;  or in material reductionism (a determinism which denies free will, arguing that atomic force-fields comprise reality, denying that you have any choice) ;  or in a Messiah (ever-present, or yet to come, and/or in an attendant Holy Ghost) ;  or in The Church of Medicine (no heretics or free-thinkers allowed) ;  or naturopathy ;  or in sex-drugs-and rock’n’roll ;  or simply in gardening your beliefs.   Interpretation is everything.  And culture shapes our beliefs.  So, on to the two books . . . 

I’ve just finished reading both books depicted above, back to back.   What a fabulous experience!  I read the Alphabet book first, but at 450 pages, I suggest you start with Why Religion?, as it’s faster paced, and gripping.  I’ve enjoyed several books by Elaine Pagels, and am stunned by the candor of her storytelling here.  It’s autobiographical — painfully so.  She relates the loss of her first child, age 6, followed by the death of her husband, a prominent physicist, a year later while on a group hike, shortly after they had adopted two infants.  (I’ll put her book alongside a classic by CS Lewis, titled A Grief Observed.)  While the Pagels book could be prickly for someone recovering from loss of a loved one, her telling contains blessings, and surprises.  (Read it before gifting it.)  It contains much wisdom about consoling the bereaved.  She deals with anger, rage, superstition, alcoholism, depression, theology, and much more.

Next, The Alphabet Versus the Goddess, was written by a nuerosurgeon who was also a competent scholar with interests in history, anthropology, language, and gender-issues.  He, too, is a great storyteller — and his book argues compellingly that the world became a crueler place due to the invention of reading and writing, when matriarchy was displaced by patriarchy (and by its male hunting-parties and armies).  Momma! –this book is an education. And it’s in the collection at Merida English Library, with a Dewey number of 302.22.

The Pagels book can also be found there, as I have donated my copy to the collection.