Sunday, June 3, 2012

Lessons from the Ancients

Last week with our dear friends, the Burnetts, we visited Chaco Culture National Historic Park in northwest New Mexico. Some 800-1200 years ago this sprawling “city” was home to a large number of  the Ancient Pueblo Peoples. The intricacies of design, the clear understanding of archaeoastronomy, and a sophisticated use of masonry tells us a great deal about these people who, though thought to be nomadic, put down considerable roots for several hundred years and then vanished for reasons that are not clear.
We learned many facts about these people but as we walked the several miles of archeological ruins with our Park Service ranger, I found myself thinking more about those things that we cannot learn from the physical site. Since we do not have to carry water from a distant place or drag huge stones many miles in order to cut and stack the raw materials into a home, not to mention how far beyond necessity we are accustomed to living, it is hard to grasp the nature of living, giving birth, learning how to use your surroundings to sustain a population and finally dying with little or no possessions to call your own. How ingenious they must have been, how careful not to waste a thing, how brave to experiment with the unknown. But how free they were to ‘pick up and go’ when necessary because they had so few possessions to deal with. This is gross over-simplification, of course, but it intrigued me.
As someone who has a lot of “stuff” and enjoys it a great deal, I can also confess that I frequently feel a bit guilty for having so much more than I need. That’s what I was thinking as I stood amid the sacred kivas and imagined teeming life all around. Did these people feel happiness or was life too difficult to have even considered such a thing? Is happiness an invention of our times as we acquired more and more so that we can indeed be happy? Those who know me well will know that I’m not giving up my creature comforts for a life of strict austerity. But I do feel a need to reexamine what feels like necessity to me. And given the state of our invested nest egg, I have some serious motivation to make careful decisions. I think just asking the question “Is this a need or a want?” might yield more thoughtfulness at point of purchase. Just sayin’.

Anyway, the few days we spent with our friends was refreshing and a great deal of it always is. One of life’s true blessings is friendship over a period of many years with people who care for you as you do for them. Four days of laughter and conversation, along with beautiful scenery, wonderful food and plentiful margaritas...well, who could ask for anything more?

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like you had a wonderful time - I'm so glad! And I agree - it's definitely time to start asking ourselves - "need or want"?

    Cheers dear!