A Game of Life
In the United States today many people were watching college football – American football, that is. With an elongated oval-shaped ball covered in a brown-stained pigskin fabric, two teams of eleven men will run, throw, kick, and tackle each other in order to score points. Mankind has been doing that throughout the ages, even in Mayan mythology.
In the game of American football there have been many cases of family involvement. Fathers and sons, brothers, cousins, and even twin brothers have all participated. Ronde and Tiki Barber, Devin and Jason McCourty, Maurkice and Mike Pouncey, Rex and Rob Ryan…All were twin brothers who loved playing ball. They enjoyed it almost as much as Xbalanque and Hunahpo, called the “hero twins” of Mayan mythology. Mayan mythology is rich in its oral tradition but there is also a sacred book called the “Popol Vish”. It was transcribed in the mid-1500’s as a way of translating an ancient hieroglyphic. The book supposedly contains the creation myths and history of the Quiche Maya of Guatemala.
As is true in many cultures, there are several myths about the creation of the world and mankind. Most of these stories feature the sea creator-god Gucumatz and the sky creator-god Heart of Sky. Ear;y attempts at creating human beings apparently failed in Mayan legend and did so for various reasons. Eventually, there is a flood myth that destroys all the failed beings.
The two sons of Xpiyacoc, the matchmaker deity, and Xmucane, the midwife of humanity, loved to play and they spent their waking hours playing with dice and balls. Their play was loud, however, and disturbed the lords or gods of the Underworld who challenged them to come “below” and play a ballgame. Once in the Underworld, the boys were mocked and, in the House of Darkness, killed. They were buried at a place called the Place of the Ballgame Sacrifice. One of the boys’ head was placed in a tree and later bore fruit, the fruit known as calabash.
A maiden came upon the tree one day and reached up to pick some fruit. As her hands touched the calabash, it turned into the young man’s head. The head seemed to spit on the maiden who became pregnant with the Hero Twins. The twins grew up much like their father and uncle and, like them, angered the spirits of the Underworld with their loud ball-playing.
As their father and brother had once done, the Hero Twins descended to the Underworld. They stayed one night at each of the chambers – the Dark House, the Razor House, The Cold House, the Jaguar House, and the House of Fire. Eventually, having survived each test and night, they did play the dark lords and won their game. The Underworld gods were not good sports in losing, though, and burned the Twins to death. The Twins came back from the dead and vanquished the dark lords, breaking the power death had over mankind. Legend says the Hero Twins then became the sun and the moon.
Some of today’s games will be played under the sun and some at night under the moon. Often we think we only have a few hours or chances to do something. The truth is we have all the time in the world. Even when it seems the game is over, it really isn’t. Even when the score says we lost, we really haven’t. Life’s game is about learning. Life is pace, not a race. We stay in the game and win when we stay present in our life.