Are We Going to Hell in a Hand-basket? 3 of 5

When did mankind begin? What were their conditions of living? What were their understandings of living? As a Jew or as a Christian we hold that God created man, but the creation story in Genesis is too incomplete to be a reliable biogenesis, and as I contend not intended to be a realistic exegesis. At this it’s best seen as a metaphor, but in saying this I’m not also saying it’s just a story. It’s one based on reality but we don’t know the completeness of that reality. So we are left with questions about what we find and too often our interpretations are more politically guided than not.

If we take where we begin with humanity after Adam and Eve leave the Garden we find them pretty sophisticated already farming and herding. And when we have a small peek of those outside Adam and Eve’s immediate setting, where Cain went, they, under his leadership, built a city so we’re not looking at that primitive a people. Yet historically before this we uncovered people living a nomadic, hunter-gathering lifestyle showing little technological advance. Primitive man. Why aren’t we told their story in the Bible? It’s not the story God finds important and doesn’t have real meaning to the story he is telling, I guess. It’s a story we are left to discover for ourselves. In our research we’ve decided while primitive man isn’t very sophisticated they’re not short on technological abilities.

There lived in the Four Corners region of the United States, comprising southeastern Utah, northeastern Arizona, northwestern New Mexico, and southwestern Colorado, an ancient people sometimes called Anasazi, or ancient Pueblo Indians. Archeological discovery places them in the flatland around today’s city of Cortez beginning in the 12thCentury BC. They are classified as basket weavers who went through three periods, each period a modest change in their basketmaking revealing they had little contact with other peoples that would have introduced bigger changes in them.

From the flatland they could look up into a range of mountains reaching elevations of between 4,500 to 8,500 known now as the Mesa Verde. During this period of the 1100s BC Europeans are building cities, the Crusades were being fought, the Chinese are binding books, Africa is being developed and sophistication is everywhere. But not primitive people known as Anasazi. Around 900 AD they began moving from their flatland homes into the mountains in Mesa Verde. It’s here, in these mountains, we find technology is not tied to sophistication and that primitive man isn’t all that primitive and more than people who just grunt. Here they began building above ground and in-ground houses, pueblos, adobe structures, their version of a city.

The first time I visited the Mesa Verde was in the 90’s. By the 1200’s AD the 20,000 people who had inhabited this area had mysteriously disappeared leaving little trace of themselves as they moved southward. It wouldn’t be for another 400 years before Europeans came to this continent and settled and changed it forever. They would come with both technology and sophistication. But what I would discover as I walked through what these ancient people left behind was that while we had more tools their technological thinking was every bit as developed as our modern minds. And their sophistication was also developed, just different. They thought about the world as we think about the world. The only thing that limited them was their mostly isolation from others that would have expanded their minds even further.

What was mind-blowing was that in the canyons of the Mesa Verde, high up on those vertical cliffs in natural alcoves, they build their dwellings. Their rounds perfectly round, their squares perfectly square, the mathematics perfectly mathematical, and they had no T-squares, no slide rulers, no calculators to figure it all out. As I sat in one round Kiva, a gathering place for the men to discuss life and participate in their religious practices staring at the small hole known as a sipapu, the way to the underworld where all life comes from, I knew then the idea of primitive man I had been given all my life was wrong.

That Anasazi man, woman, child was just as much a child of Yahweh as Adam and Eve, as myself, and all I believe that applies to myself applied to them. Though I have the written “Word” and they didn’t they yet had God in their heart and in everything around them. While they may not have had the sophistication of knowledge I have because of the Bible, neither did Adam and Eve and those who followed, nor did the Anasazi or all the other so-called primitive people, but they had what they needed. And if we think that because they were closer to the beginning of time and had a more perfect idea of God, and therefore had a more harmonious unity with nature, as sin entered their world as it did mine all bets were off.

For us to idealize primitive man is for us to create a false story and we all walk through shadows tripping over the rocks we can’t see, and they didn’t see. While they had fire that gave them light the fire also created shadows. And yet they are without excuse. How much more true is that for us who have a light that does not give off shadows so we don’t trip over the rocks. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1: 1-5 NIV.)

People in the beginning were nomadic. Deeds of ownership for property and products of the mind and hands and what it creates are a modernism and that idea was too foreign for them to conceive. The people we encounter in the beginning chapters in Genesis are already in civilizations. Before this they were in small units, families, not people who grunt without words. Forget that concept. There is no reason to believe they didn’t have a language they understood and used with each other. They were hunter-gathers who followed the animals they would use for food and the berries and fruits and vegetables that naturally grew they would eat. In these small family units everything would be shared. Karl Marx popularized this saying in 1875 AD: “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs”. A good “old wives tale” but not very good as a reality. Sharing for early man was necessary to stay alive not just as an individual but as a family.

The problem with utopian idealism is that it only works for a few, less than six. It’s easy to understand why; sin nature always rises and destroys it. And let’s understand something very simple to understand, while they didn’t have formal deeds of ownership, where they built their living places and where they developed their hunting grounds they were thought of as “mine” not “yours’ and you’d better stay out. The early Europeans who began settling this country ran into this as they expanded into Indian territory. Each tribe had settled their land and no one outside the tribe had access to it without a fight. And fight they did. Including taking slaves from the other tribes.

The purpose of this section on primitive man is to disabuse you of the myth of man harmonious with nature. He was at war with himself, with his neighbor, and with God from the moment he/she stood up. But for all this chaos humanity found more goodness in life than chaos and we progressed. Yet every great civilization came to a place where they broke apart and died. I’m sure there were those who lamented; “Are we going to hell in a handbasket?” The fact that they fell apart answered their question.