Time, a friend of mine once said, is but an arbitrary division of infinity. But when the calendar rolls over another hash mark on the path to forever, people stop and reflect.
There was a little more of that than usual this December. You remember. Just a week ago last Friday when, according to some readings of the ancient Mayans' calendar, the world came to an end.
More rational beings had already reassured/warned us that it was all due to people who couldn't read that calendar.
Saying the world would end when that stone disc ran out is like saying your car will quit for good when your odometer turns over 100,000 miles. (Well, maybe it will quit for good then. Or as soon as you send in your last payment.)
Except, in a way, the Mayans were right. So were the Kickapoo Indians who, round about 1997, dared to stage a reunion of two factions of the tribe that had been forcibly separated by the U.S. government more than 100 years previously.
They got together even though the prophecy that such an unlikely event would cause the world to end came from one of their own tribal wise men, bird by the name of Kenekuk.
They had their party anyway. A great time was had by all. And the world was still there afterward.
Sort of. Because, as an even older bird, a Greek philosopher called Heraclitus is supposed to have said, "No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river and he's not the same man."
The world ended on Dec. 21. The world ended at the 1997 Kickapoo powwow. And a moment ago. And 30 seconds from now.
The world, as it was, as we knew it, ends every blinking minute. People die. People are born. Friendships are made. And lost. Marriages. Divorces. Remarriages. Jobs begin. Careers end.
The fact that you didn't blow through that red light two blocks back means you didn't get creamed by a delivery truck. Or that you did.
Now is different than then, which was different than later. Get used to it.
Major Astro, RIP • The mass newspaper rerun last week of the classic editorial, "Yes, Virginia (there is a Santa Claus)" brought to mind something I meant to do two years ago.
That's when I read that Wichita TV personality Tom Leahy had died at the age of 87. Even though thousands of people would recognize Leahy, few people knew him by that name.
To kids growing up in Kansas and parts of Nebraska in the 1960s, heyday of the astronaut, he was Major Astro, afternoon kid show host on KARD-TV, who used his Space Scope to show old Warner Bros. cartoons, as well as a weird new thing called Japanese anime, specifically the original "Astro Boy."
Leahy's obituaries in The Wichita Eagle and elsewhere were a sort of anti-Virginia. It was as if they had said that Santa Claus was not only dead, but he was never anything more than an old ad man in a false beard. Or a phony space helmet. How disillusioning.
So here's what The Eagle should have published:
"WICHITA Maj. Charles E. "Buzz" Astro, 87, died Friday at McConnell Air Force Base of acute exposure to gamma rays. Born Sept. 13, 1922, in Pawhuska, Okla., son of Charles A. and Anne Morrow Astro, he was the first person on the moon. And on Mars. And on various of Saturn's moons. He married Edith Von Braun in 1945, and they had seven sons: Alan, Gus, John, Scott, Gordon, Wally and Deke. Funeral service will be Wednesday at Cape Canaveral, with immediate cremation and a final launch into space."
There. That's better.
Happy New Year.
George Pyle, a Tribune editorial writer, can still decipher messages written in Major Astro's Secret Space Code. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @debatestate.