A recent issue of the New Yorker magazine carried an article about the Anasazi, a native American tribe that quietly disappeared from its New Mexico homeland nearly 1,000 years ago. Why they suddenly fled has been one of the great mysteries for archaeologists working in the American Southwest.
One researcher, according to the article, has come up with at least a fragment of a theory that involves cannibalism.
But his studies have been hampered, in part by other researchers who cling to the long-held belief that the Anasazi were an oasis of enlightened leadership and culture, and in part by the Anasazis descendants, who simply dont want to help anyone rewrite their own history to include mankinds strongest taboo.
Whether or not cannibalism took place in the desert 10 centuries ago may never be determined with any certainty, but in the minds of people on both sides of this issue, the truth couldnt be any clearer. They just happen to hold different versions of what that truth might be.
This month, as we start the final countdown for the biggest calendar change any of us will ever experience (whether you want to view it as the turn of a century, a millennium or a computer-induced Armageddon makes no difference), such mysterieswhich have always been interesting to mehold special fascination. They make me wonder how well be judged, what our defining moments will be and who will fight to keep our memories in line with current mores.
Our cover story this month, a team effort that we call The 99 Greatest Moments in 99 Years of Business, is, perhaps, an outgrowth of that kind of introspection. It forced us to make a curious comparison: how big events from the first part of the century did affect us, vs. how we think the big events from the second part of the century will play out.
It also raised the question: How often do historic events make themselves immediately known? Certainly, the stock market crash of 29 was historic from the moment it happened. But was that due to its economic impact? Or to the deeper psychological grip that it maintains, even over people who werent born until two generations later?
If you insist on finding a business lesson in all of this (I avoid the temptation), it will have something to do with how you make decisionsand if you think too hard about it, you run the danger of becoming immobilized.
If all goes well, Ill live as much or more of my life in the 21st century as in the 20th, and Ill see some of the questions answered that we raised when preparing the 99 Greatest.
But as I look around the corner at this amazing moment in our calendar, thats no consolation. The simple fact is, I want the answers. I want them all. I want them now.
Bob Rosenbaum can be reached at (216) 529-8584, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.