Real Estate on Mars?

Real Estate on Mars?

By Rabbi Corinne Copnick

 

Image credit: https://www.goto-guatemala.com/guatemala-volcanoes.htm

In the spring of 2017, I was visiting Guatemala on a cruise stop-over. I stood in the very field – actually a games-playing site: a ball court — that marked the birthplace of the long-lost Mayan civilization. Considerable additional archeological excavation could be done on the adjacent fields if not for the fact that they are now private property. They belong to people who have built their houses and businesses there. No way they want them excavated. However, from the ball court, we could get the general idea of the vast Mayan culture. We could look into the distance and see the ring of fire – the volcanos – presenting a misted but ever-present danger. Add to the recurrent eruptions the earthquakes and other natural disasters that wreak their vengeance from time to time in this area. Add to that, the desperate poverty these disasters inflict. If you live here, you would do well to be God-fearing.

Or, when human-inflicted evils, like the mayhem of drug cartels and vicious gangs, are added to this mix, to flee.

The Mayans are long gone — although some remnants of that ancient people, now melded with Mexican culture, still profess to derive from that civilization. Our 21st century mathematicians still marvel at the complex astronomical knowledge of a proud people who sacrificed individuals to propitiate the fierce deities they invented to explain the volcanic eruptions: At the very same time they were exhibiting advanced mathematical knowledge and building complex structures, not to mention growing abundant crops on the fertile land, the prosperous Mayans were tearing out human hearts on the sacrificial altars of their religious cult.

And then they were gone. Although there are many theories, no one really knows why. Did an especially disastrous earthquake or volcano eruption occur, destroying everything in its wake? Were they carried away into outer space by aliens? Did the crops fail, so that they relocated? Apparently, the upper classes of Mayan culture disappeared, but the lower working classes remained. Similarly, when the ancient Jews were carried off to exile in Babylonia, only the upper echelon of society and the priests were taken; the “people” were left to fend for themselves.

* * * *

As I sat comfortably on a bus on my trip through modern day Guatemala, the poverty of the surrounding countryside was evident until we approached a small city on the way to Antigua. Here huge efforts were being made by the population to upgrade their way of life. We stopped at a new cultural and educational center of which the people were extremely proud. It featured, not unsurprisingly – astronomy being indigenous to their culture — a beautiful planetarium and a theatre. We tourists were also treated to traditional dancing and singing – and some modern compositions too.

The artistic side of Guatemalan life was further enhanced when we visited the Casa Santo Domingo in Antigua, which is actually three museums featuring different aspects of Guatemalan culture and combined in an aesthetically-conceived complex presided over by Dominican monks. For me, the most striking exhibit was a large display featuring ancient Mayan sculpture. Each sculpture of antiquity was accompanied by exquisite modern day sculptures (lent to the exhibit from galleries around the world) with the same themes – themes common to every culture in every generation: the elements, nature, motherhood, love, grief.   My daughter and I spent the entire day at this extraordinary Casa, itself surrounded by beautiful gardens. We drank wine, though, at the excellent restaurant because Guatemalan water is advisedly not for tourists who have not yet developed sufficient local microbes in their systems to avert intestinal disaster.

We also felt physically secure inside this complex because, in addition to the violent ramifications of the dangerous drug cartels and gang violence the population feared, Guatemalan borders were being besieged by desperate Venezuelan refugees seeking to flee the multiple disasters of their own corrupt country – including armed conflict at the border.

Over-population on a scale we do not know in the U.S. or Canada is a huge problem in Central America, in Southeast Asia, and in other parts of the world that I have visited. Why? Because these countries do not have the resources to cope with the needs of their own population, let alone the re-settling problems that so many new people bring in their wake. Their governments can’t handle it. Not while gangsters run their countries.

Maybe the Mayans of old knew what they were doing when they studied the planetary universe with astrological knowledge astonishing for their time. We earthlings may need the resources of some of those planets sooner than we think.

Anyone selling real estate on Mars?