“Over the years, they’ve found the remains of an extinct Ice Age camel…” (National Geographic News), is not something one would expect to hear about a cave in Colorado. Craig Childs writes about his experiences volunteering at this dig in The Animal Dialogs. It’s called Porcupine Cave, and it was discovered by miners at the turn of the 20th century. Excavations have yielded specimens dating as far back as 1.5 million years, challenging long-held beliefs about large mammal movement from one continent to another. “We’re having to rewrite a lot of things because of this cave” said vertebrate paleontologist Elaine Anderson of the Denver Museum.
Caves have long been a part of our lives, from our earliest dwellings, to shaping our view of our lives in our world: from El Castillo and Chauvet Cave through Plato, and to the present work at Porcupine Cave. I can’t help but wonder if Plato had seen some of these early cave paintings, inspiring his now famous allegory. I’d be willing to bet Jose Saramago (Nobel Prize, 1998) knew of them when he wrote his The Cave.
We are fascinated by what we can divine from finding the old, and we love making stories up about who they were and what their lives were like. Are these 40,000 year old class art projects, or were these ancestors of ours, chained to the walls in a philosophy experiment?
It makes me wonder what archaeologists thousands of years from now will say about us. These ancient time spans make even the Native viewpoint of considering the next seven generations in whatever decisions they make, seem short sighted. Even so, that perspective builds into their lives, a gradual transition that allows for adaptation in harmony with their surroundings and with the earth. The Amish have a similar way, where they look at new innovations and technology, ask how adopting it might change their lives, and make a conscious choice to accept it or not. It may seem arbitrary to us that some use rubber tires and some don’t. The point is they are CONSCIOUS about what technology they CHOOSE, a perspective we could all learn a lot from and begin to adapt.
But what about our modern way of life that only takes into account quarterly earnings, and is carnivorous for the next gadget? I find it interesting that in all the gospels, Jesus was only moved to anger a few times. He had nothing but love and kindness for lepers, and for prostitutes. For the poor he encouraged us to help, and did so himself. He asked us to be model citizens, like the good Samaritan who helped someone he didn’t know, just because he met someone in need, and he had the resources to help. But when Jesus entered the Temple Courts in Jerusalem and saw people selling things and exchanging money, he was livid. He got so angry that he raged on the verge of violence, overturning tables and throwing things. What was the one thing that moved Jesus to rage? Commerce. 2000 years ago, Christ saw the dangers of unbridled commerce, and of putting it before humanity, and I suspect it was one of the reasons his ideas were crucified then, and continue to be crucified today. And now, we live in another dinosaur age, where the relics of inhuman commerce drive us to the brink of finding ourselves in a hidden cave, turning to stone for archaeologists to unearth thousands of years from now. What do we want them to say about us?