Human Spirituality Lives On

They had been following the trail of the wounded bull for three hours, jogging through the grass clumps and sparse brush, eyes fixed intensely on the ground, kneeling, pointing, jogging. Why was the bull climbing up the hillside? It did not matter, they must have food.

Through the rocks now, a track here and there-they followed. Coming around a cliff face, they froze. The bull was down and they would have food tonight in the camp, but that is not why they froze. A stone python with a head six meters wide was staring back at them, its mouth slightly open, guarding a cave, an entrance into the other world where the living dare not go…

Python Cave in Africa painting by Je'
Python Cave in Africa
painting by Je’

It is hard for us, in our temperature-controlled world, with food in the pantry and more at the supermarket, to enter into their world, the world our ancestors (and in their loins, we ourselves,) inhabited for nine-tenths of human life on earth. Then again, at some deep level, it is impossible for us to wipe the traces of hundreds of millennia of human experience from our collective memories.

We still jump when we hear a twig snap in the dark, we still feel comfort sitting around a fire or standing on the edge of a lake. Why? Few of us have huddled through a dark night in the wilderness, unseen predators growling around us, or endured a drought that withered our innards and set our minds silently screaming for just one gourd full of water.

We are still obsessed with staying alive, as were our ancestors, day in and day out. They had to keep moving, keep seeking resources and we still do this in whatever environment we find ourselves, whether the classroom, the board room or the office cubicle. We still think a lot about food and we still feel anxious about running out of resources-though for us, “resources” now takes the symbolic form of money.

We, who think we are so rational, so superior to our ancestors, still find meanings in signs and wonders. We talk of an Invisible Hand guiding the markets, study the stock market reports as our ancestors studied the skies and Alan Greenspan, chairman of the Federal Reserve, was called “The Oracle.” We refuse to label the thirteenth floor on our high rises. There is a twelfth floor and then there is a fourteenth floor, because who wants to go to the unlucky thirteenth?

Far from abandoning spirituality, we immerse ourselves in it, because we cannot do otherwise. TV shows about ghosts and films about devils are immensely popular. We may laugh at the immoral antics of the Greek pantheon or comment, as one student did, “What a bunch of dicks,” but are our idols-our sports and movie stars-any better? Are our heroes not flawed? Or do you consider the X-Men to be normal?


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