An Excerpt from Jim Conrad's
NATURALIST NEWSLETTER
of August 8, 2010
Issued from Hacienda Chichen Resort adjoining Chichén Itzá Ruin in
YUCATÁN, MÉXICO

FOUR POINTS OF BEING A MAYA MAN

Last week I mentioned the Maya belief explained to me by José the shaman that Maya women are associated with the number three while Maya men are associated with the number four. This week I asked José , "Why three and four... ?"

The three points about Maya women, I learned, are that they are born, they bring forth life, and they die.

The four points about Maya men are that they are born, they take charge, they listen to and learn from Nature, and they die.

Though many up North would find this thinking unacceptably sexist -- I personally believe that with today's realities women are better equipped by genetic predisposition to "take charge" than men -- I was blown away by the notion that one of the four things Maya men are supposed to do is to listen to and learn from Nature.

I asked José how this listening to works. He looked at me as if I'd asked how a dog barks and then explained:

"You go into the fields, into the forests, you listen, and things talk with you... "

José had told me before about plants and animals talking to people, as when that mysterious little snake sometimes curls on a limb beside a trail speaking human words. Plus there are aluxob (ah-LOOSH-OHB, the "ob" being the plural suffix for the singular "alux"), or fairylike beings, who are guardians of specific parcels of land such as a cornfield, and must be kept happy with offerings if the land is to prosper, and those aluxob certainly speak if they want. However, this isn't the kind of Nature-talking José is referring to.

The communication just comes into one who listens, like a feeling or sensation, José says.

When asked what plants and animals talk about, José says that they say we must respect and protect Nature.

Well, "listening to and learning from Nature" is something that one of us insufferably idealistic and impractical people relegated to the fringe of society might come up with, so what a hoot that these down-to-earth Maya -- at least their religious people -- somehow have come up with the same notion, and give it such importance in their spiritual lives.

I don't try to reconcile these very welcome and right-feeling Nature-talking beliefs with other beliefs of the Maya I just can't accept or even visualize. For one thing, these days it's too hot and humid, and the horseflies are too bad, to do much of this kind of thinking to begin with.

Still, it's all quite beautiful, this soup of sensations and concepts simmering around me all the time, during moonlit nights, afternoon storms with lingering thunder and ubiquitous mud, the luxuriant greenness, the ever-shifting lines of leafcutter ants, iguanas perpetually watching but rushing away if you make eye contact, the swallows who in pairs swoop through the hut in one door and out the other, and now those tricky lines of energy with their vientos malos, the talking snakes, those aluxob always judging our respectfulness, and the Earth-nurturing understandings that just blossom in you when you listen, blossom like feelings, feelings a little like falling in love, but falling in love with everything.