As the 'end' of the Mayan calendar approaches, philosophy professor Joseph Felser joined Ian Punnett to discuss why mankind has for so long been fascinated with the end of days. According to Felser, the emergence of the calendric system can be traced to archaic times, where it was developed as a means for people to deal with anxiety caused by their increasing distance from the cycles of nature. "These calendars were intellectual constructions meant to put people in touch with rhythms that they no longer directly felt," he said.
Felser presented the concept of cyclical time, noting in particular that many ancient cultures based time on natural seasonal patterns. This notion is reflected in the Mayan calendar, which charts cycles that, rather than ending, simply transition to the next age. Western civilization forced these cycles into a linear form and applied literal interpretations to things once understood symbolically, Felser explained. As a result, we view the end of the Mayan calendar as an actual historic event, instead of the psycho-spiritual shift in consciousness they believed it to be, he added.
The idea of time as a sequence of moments starting with a great beginning and marching towards a great ending is rooted in our religious conceptions, Felser continued. But we do not have to experience time in this way, he said. Referencing the vision of a 19th-century shaman named Black Elk, Felser suggested that regular people can know the harmonious timelessness of eternity by getting back to their natural cycles and learning to go with the flow. Felser also shared his own altered time experience, in which he described feeling a sense of discontinuity as the universe appeared to blink on and off.
In the first half-hour, Capt. Kelly Sweeney commented on a proposal to establish a privately operated fleet to accompany commercial ships in pirate-infested waters (related article). The plan is the idea of maritime insurance companies, who end up paying the price when their ships are hijacked. Sweeney questioned who would ultimately have authority over this new private anti-pirate fleet. He suggested simply arming the crews of commercial vessels and increasing the presence of international navies in areas where piracy is a problem.
Two suns appeared side-by-side on a video captured in China this past week. According to University of Illinois astronomer Jim Kaler, the double sun image is a "pretty darn rare" optical illusion, similar to a mirage, and not fully explainable by science. More from Life's Little Mysteries.
Bumper music from Saturday March 05, 2011