Friday, October 1, 2010

Written in Stone?

Last night I was listening to an interview on the radio with John Anthony West who has done a lot of controversial research on ancient cultures. For example, he says that the sphinx was actually created by some civilization the preceded the Egyptians and that the erosion on its exterior was done by water, not wind. Of course, people who have a vested interest in their theory of the past don't even want to discuss this.

This type of reaction is not new. I was raised in the Catholic church and went to Catholic schools. We were taught that Catholicism became as big as it did because whenever people were introduced to it, they regarded it as so superior to whatever came before it, that they just abandoned those old ways and joined it. Of course, later in life when I read other history books, I discovered that this was not actually how it all happened.

Göbekli Tepe, located in Turkey, is the site I heard them discussing, so I looked it up and saw the photos. It appears to have been an ancient temple made of stone pillars 10-15 tons each, carved in raised relief with figures of various animals and people. Ground penetrating radar shows that there may be 18 more similar structures adjacent to the one that is unearthed. They estimate these sites to be older than the pyramids of Egypt or Stonehenge. Much of this work was done under the direction of the German archaeologist Klaus Schmidt.

Such a huge endeavor had to be organized and directed by a powerful person. A powerful vision must have been behind this work, and either the people agreed with this vision and worked toward it, or they were forced to work on it. The other obvious fact the stones give us is that these people had to be very skilled to carve raised relief figures into the stone columns at a time when other historians and archaeologists would not credit people with having tools to do such work.

Now the next amazing thing about this site is that someone then buried it under tons of dirt, which actually helped preserve it.

So the question we are facing is this. Why would people spend the immense amount of time and energy necessary to build such a complex, and then cover it over with dirt and abandon it?

A possible explanation could be this. Perhaps the political or religious structure that caused its creation later fell out of favor and people moved on.

Compare that to the structural changes in our society right now. At the beginning of the US, everyone was a farmer, craftsman, merchant or trader. Cottage industries were how most people made their living.

That was until the industrial age, when factories became the major employers and people quit working on farms or in home based businesses to go to work for the large employers. And that structure stayed in place until our present time.

However, as we now see major corporations closing down their US factories and offices in order to hire cheaper labor in other countries, the US workers are now left to create new ways of making a living.

Some people have gone back to farming, some in specialized organic farms or farms that raise heirloom varieties of plants that can command higher prices. Other people are inventing and marketing their own products. Others are creating specialized services that they can personally offer.

Although some people may be forced into these roles because they cannot get other employment comparable to what they used to have, it is, in essence the return of cottage industries, or home based businesses. Self employment and small businesses will be the wave of our future.

In a way, this may be like the ancient people covering up their old constructions once they have decided that they have moved beyond that model. Just a short time ago, people in the US grew up thinking that getting a job working in a large corporation was their career, their livelihood. Now people are looking at creating their own work, their own business, as their path in life.

Religions are following the same path as many of the churches which used to be full to capacity are now being shut down for lack of attendance, or hobbling along with a fraction of what they used to have. Meanwhile, although there are new megachurches replacing some of these, there is an increasing percentage of the population that chooses to not to belong to any organized religion, as many as one quarter of the population according to some surveys. There too, as individuals no longer are part of large organizations, their spiritual path or religion may be a self directed, home based activity.

These archaeological finds, contrasted with our current situation suggests that human history and the evolution of our societies and civilizations has been more of a rise and fall than a steady forward march. These excavations clearly show that humans were capable of great feats during the time of hunter gatherers, predating the rise of agricultural societies and the changes they engendered. Then after demonstrating they could do such things, people chose to abandon them.

We are now riding the cusp of another rise and fall era. Old structures are falling and new ones are rising. How we proceed from here will be the result of millions of individual decisions, which may look more organized to people looking back on us many years from now.

We can choose to ride this cusp coming from either love or fear. Be aware of what motivates your choices. We are already inhabiting new forms. Can you feel it? How are you navigating this ride?

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