History Doesn’t Repeat Itself, But It Rhymes
UPDATED: with the link to the article I couldn’t find earlier.
The above quotation is most often attributed to Mark Twain, however, there doesn’t appear to be any corroboration. Regardless of who said it, the idea itself is as old as the hills, and only more recently in the history of history have we begun to think of it as non-rhyming.
In the Myth of the Eternal Return (book notes here) Mircea Eliade differentiates between those societies that view time as cyclical, recurring, rhyming as it were, and those societies, such as Western culture as well as the Abrahamic religions view time as a line between two eternities: before creation, and after armageddon.
The example I use to illustrate rhyming in the larger scheme of thing, is Johann Sebastian Bach and Louis Armstrong. Both the products of western culture, both musical people of great talent who defined an entirely new way of looking at music, both of whom transformed the way the world’s musicians played. These two men are different in so many ways, yet they rhyme. They’ve done what very few people in all of our history ever have – they’ve changed everything for the better. I doubt anyone could argue that expanding our boundaries of expression through music somehow makes us worse off.
I recently read (and cannot recall where, and managed to confound whatever algorithm Google’s using) that signs are pointing towards another large-scale disaster that will take staggering numbers of lives. UPDATE: after some research (thanks to Bonnie’s post in the comments) I did finally find that article History Tells Us What Will Happen Next With Brexit-Trump by Tobias Stone.
The calendar we’re currently using, the Gregorian, isn’t suited for rhyme. As the calendar is linear, we tend not to think of events as rhyming. More just happenstance. There are a number of calendars that embed recurring structures into their calendar, the Maya in partcular. The calendar played such a central role in their society that their cyclical view of time informed the calendar, and it reinforced the cycles.
The Maya’s calendar, the long count in this instance, measures time in increments of 20 (with one exception of 18). 20 days grouped by 18 (360 days), these grouped by 20 (7,200 days), then these grouped by 20 and so on and so on. One of these measures, the baktun (144,000 days about 394 years), is key to understanding the measures of history. 13 baktun is 5,125 years which ended on 184.108.40.206.0, that is, December 21st, 2012 CE, and, more importantly, theAbysmal’s first New Year’s Day.
The above image is a grid which I first encountered in Jose Arguelles’ the Mayan Factor or Time and the Technosphere, I can’t remember which. Regardless, it is a map of the 13 baktun period arranged horizontally, and divided into 20 katun vertically. Each katun is 7,200 days, or over 19 1/2 years.
Our brains are organs that are well suited to perceiving patterns, such that choosing events that work with such a scheme and discarding those that don’t, or altering the date to make it harmonize better is tempting. However, the one thing that I find most intriguing is the central baktun. During the central baktun of the 13,between 747 BC and 353 BC. the world saw the wisdom of Gautama Buddha, Loa Tsu, Confucius, Pythagoras and others unfold. It’s worth noting, but I don’t read too much into it. We still got Newton.
With respect to history rhyming, the Maya also began observing what we’ve termed the short count. These are periods of 13 katun, which works out to about 256 years or so. I used it as a measure, in terms of years, and as I’ve mentioned earlier, came up with two surprising correlations:
2012: 220.127.116.11.0 end of 13 baktuns of the Fifth Sun
260 years earlier
1752: British adopt Gregorian Calendar, making it most widespread calendar ever
260 years earlier
1492: Columbus and co. brought the Julian Calendar to the Americas
I am focused more on history from an American perspective, and calendars of course, and this structure seems to rhyme with the Maya short count, and provide us with an interesting calendar schematic.
The point of all this? I’ve created my very own historical calendar (or theAbysmal proleptic calendar), whereby I hope to affix events within the structure of theAbysmal Calendar, in hopes of finding patterns in the course of events on Turtle Island (aka North America). There’s no shortage of documentation of recent events, however, the further back one goes, the less written accounts. Regardless, let’s see what we come up with.
Using the Maya’s numerology (there are other systems to which theAbysmal lends itself as well), I’ve broken the 260-year periods into 20 years (which I approximate to a generation, in terms of symbolic association – just like 1 second is about a heart beat).