Monday, July 9, 2012


[Looking for another document, I found this -- written six years ago, still true.]

On the Orkney Islands (north of Scotland) there is a 5,000-year-old ceremonial tomb. I have walked through its low, narrow entrance tunnel on two occasions. Both times stunned. The engineering is amazing: a huge domed ceiling, three precisely carved side passages and the tunnel designed so that on only one day a year, the winter solstice, the setting sun shines through and lights up the whole chamber.

 Nearby is Scara Brae, a Neolithic village occupied from 2,500 – 2,000 B.C. by a community of between 75 and 100 people, who lived in peace and prospered in co-joined dwellings complete with indoor plumbing. Five hundred years – 4,000 years ago.

We as a species have a certain arrogance, perhaps hubris, about our high-tech civilization, which we think began, at the earliest, a few hundred years ago. We have a tendency to see our distant ancestors as primitive, brutish, and devoid of culture. We are not looking deeply. In the grand scheme of things, in the entire chronology of the universe and our planet [roughly 4.5 billion years] humans, as we think of humans, have been around less than 100,000 years, the tiniest fraction of all time.

For at least 50,000 of those years – in most ancient cultures – women were honored. Our ancestors’ ancestors believed the fundamental cosmic force was feminine. Many worshipped a female deity. In their communities— hunter/gatherers perched on the edges of savannahs, or early farmers in small hamlets or villages -- they shared ceremonies, dances and stories that reflected gratitude toward the whole living world and their participation with other species in the round of life.

These attitudes (the inherent worth of all individuals, and the interconnected web of life of which we are a part) today struggle for general acceptance. Some of us despair, thinking that these attitudes are reflected only as the names of certain mountains or stars or as oblique, so-called pagan symbols tucked into the cathedrals of the more hierarchical, anthropocentric and patriarchal cultures that followed. But the round of life is intrinsically, a circle. Season follows season. And, if we look deeply, we can still learn from those who lived in the springtime of our species. We don’t have to give up air conditioning or computers . . . we need only abandon the fantasy that we are above the past and separate from the rest of life on earth.

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