I think “Empty grandeur” is the best way to describe a recent opportunity our family had to visit the ChinChén Itzá Mayan ruins.
Our group joined another couple and between us all paid for a Mayan who spoke English to be our guide. Through him we heard many extra little tidbits that we wouldn't have learned otherwise. And though the site is somewhat spread out, he knew the best locations to visit.
It was amazing to see how brilliant these “primitive” people were and yet how “blind” they were too.
- The Mayans worshiped the snake because he tells when the seasons change by the shedding of his skin.
- They also worshipped the eagle because they believed it was an all-seeing being who watched over them.
- And they worshipped the jaguar
- and they worshipped the sun, and ….
According to our guide, the Mayans created a solar calendar with 300+ days in a year and a lunar calendar with 200+ days in a year. The end of the calendar years have actually only coincided once in history to this point, the second time that both the solar and lunar Mayan calendar years ended on the same day was just Dec 21, 2012.
The media and the world seemed to be using this as a doomsday or “end of the world” prediction, but in reality it was just the end of a Mayan year in which both the solar and lunar years end on the same day. It was a rare occurrence, but we are still here.
Vendors of Mayan descent lined most of the trails along the grounds, displaying their handcrafted wares. Beautifully decorated Jaguar heads that make the sound of a Jaguar roar when you blow through them (like a whistle) were all over the place. And the vendors would blow them sporadically every few minutes. The sound was enough to make the hairs of your ams prickle.
One of our children wanted one as a souvenir and another wanted something with the eagle or snake on it, so we took the time to explain that these are creatures that God created, but that the people who lived here a long time ago had worshipped the creatures as false gods. And since we worship the true God, we do not want to bring any false gods into our home. They understood and were happy to choose different souvenirs.
Leaving the historical site behind, I had feelings of sadness because for all their intelligence, and for all of their religious-ness – the grandeur of their lives and their accomplishments today are empty, echoing, eroding monuments.
I was challenged to introspection by the thought:
“What kind of monuments am I creating by my life?
Am I laying up treasures here, or in Heaven?
Who do I worship?
What will the generations to come remember me for?
Will it make a difference in their lives?
or will they just say, ‘she had a grand life, and a religious life, but it was empty.’?”
If you'd like to learn more about Mexico, our family has created a fabulous resource appropriate for preschool to junior high. The book contains coloring and notebook pages in both English and Spanish with information and maps on each of the states in Mexico.