What keeps us human?
Food with a Friend
Perhaps my favorite film of all time is “Cave of Forgotten Dreams” (available for rent on iTunes), the 2011 documentary directed by Werner Herzog about one of the world’s great masterpieces of human art: the paintings in the Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc cave in the Ardèche region of southern France.
These paintings were created in 30,000 BCE. The earliest known sample dates to 32,900 before present. It was a time when Neanderthals and the earliest humans lived together on the earth. Part of the distinction between them was that the earliest humans show evidence of spiritual and ritual practice. They used music and art to express this ritual tradition.
Many elements of the shape of the cave are reflected in the architectural design of more recent sacred spaces, including, for example, the medieval cathedrals of Europe.
Perhaps my favorite evidence of the ritual tradition is a large stone table shaped just as we would shape an altar today. There is the skull of a bear on the altar, located in a protector- space just at the place where the outer part of the cave moves towards its inside. There is the remains of 30,000 year old charcoal there where incense was burned as an offering. Every spiritual tradition of the world today in my awareness burns incense of some kind as an offering. For first nations peoples of Canada, it is often cedar, sweet grass or sage.
The past never goes anywhere: it is like the central part of a tree trunk whose rings grow around it but never replace it.
We, too, grow from our roots.
I smile to think that it is perhaps not an accident that I so very much love the art of Paris, and that some of my favorite composers are German: Mozart, Beethoven, Bach. Cauvet cave is in France, but just over the way in Germany – as we are told in the Herzog film – was found a 30,000 year old flute made from the radius bone of a vulture. It plays a pentatonic scale: “The Star Spangled Banner” is an example of a piece written in the pentatonic musical scale. It is still such a familiar sound to our ears today. They painted in France; in Germany, they made music.
What makes us human today is, indeed, much the same as it has always been. One of the oldest, I dare say, expressions of our humanity – even older than 30,000 year old art - is the ritual of sharing food with friends.
This is the invitation of the sixth of “7 Ways to Take a Deep Breath”. Share food with a friend.
If you can, do it without a cell phone, or Netflix, or other distractions. Be present with each other; listen to one another. Speak, and be heard. It is part of what keeps us human.
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Wishing you joy,
Copyright © 2018 Adela Sandness