Monthly Archives: May 2013

Civilization is a spiritual labor

“Civilization is a spiritual labor, an openness to revelation, a venture of faith, subsisting to a great degree on things no more substantial than myths and visions and prophetic dreams; thus it can be destroyed not only by invading armies or economic collapse, but also by simple disenchantment.”

– David Bentley Hart

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Ancient cave art in Mexico

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Discovered: A Cave Art Complex That Could Be the Lascaux of Mexico

Mexican National Institute of Anthropology

In 1940, an 18-year-old apprentice mechanic named Marcel Ravidat was walking with three friends and a dog named Robot in the woods near Montignac, France. Ravidat happened upon a hole that happened to lead, Alice in Wonderland-like, to an underground cave. And that cave, it happened, was the home of some 600 paintings and 1,500 engravings, the work of humans who lived some 17,000 years ago. The caves’ walls were the craggy canvases for humanity’s oldest known experiments with art.

We may have another Lascaux on our hands. Only this one is set in Mexico. Archaeologists just announced that they’ve uncovered nearly 5,000 cave paintings at 11 different sites in the Sierra de San Carlos, a mountain range in the state of Tamaulipas. The paintings, which are striking in their vividness, are thought to be the work of hunter-gatherers who traveled the area in their wanderings. The artwork has not yet been dated, but the Tamaulipas region overall, archaeologists believe, was occupied by nomadic tribes as early as 6000 BC — so there’s a chance the paintings could be some 8,000 years old.

Mexican National Institute of Anthropology

The paintings depict humans, as well as animals (deer and lizards and, delightfully, centipedes). They depict weapons used in the hunt. They depict seemingly abstract scenes. They depict skyscapes. They hint at their painters’ concepts of religion and astronomy. And they do all this in bright shades of red and yellow and black and white — the products of organic dyes and minerals that have proven remarkably long-lasting. “The paintings,” io9’s George Dvorsky put it, “are offering an unprecedented glimpse into [Mexico’s] pre-Hispanic culture and life, including depictions of hunting, fishing, and gathering.”

Indeed. One cave alone contains some 1,550 different scenes.

The paintings, archaeologists say, were likely produced by at least three distinct groups of hunter-gatherers in the region. Which is a remarkable estimation on its own, since, prior to their discovery, archaeologists didn’t believe that pre-Hispanic people would have lived in the mountainous area. “Before it was said that there was nothing,” archaeologist Gustavo Ramírez, of the Mexican National Institute of Anthropology and History, said of the region, “when in fact it was inhabited by one or more cultures.”

Mexican National Institute of Anthropology

The paintings should offer valuable insight into those cultures — in part because they seem to be the only evidence that the cultures have left behind. “We have not found any ancient objects linked to the context,” Ramírez explained: the pottery and bones and other objects that form the detritus of civilization are, in this case, missing. “And because the paintings are on ravine walls and in the rainy season the sediments are washed away, all we have is gravel.”

Gravel, that is, and awesome, vaguely impressionistic cave paintings. And also, just as importantly, we have the dyes and minerals used to make the paint itself. Now that the discovery of the caves has been announced, the archaeologists will perform a chemical analysis to determine the exact components of the colors that cling to the rocks. And from there, they hope, they’ll be able to figure out just how long ago it was that some ancient human, roaming the mountains of Mexico, took sight of a centipede and decided to turn it into art.

Mexican National Institute of Anthropology

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What gives? Amazon won’t publish this review

I’ve tweaked this review a couple of times and re-submitted it, but Amazon responds with a no-go. You tell me. What’s wrong with this review? The book is “The King of Prussia and a Peanut Butter Sandwich” by Alice Fleming.

Russian Mennonites and Kansas Wheat, May 24, 2013
Amazon Verified Purchase(What’s this?)
This review is from: The King of Prussia and a Peanut Butter Sandwich (Paperback)

This is a read-aloud or a young reader’s book that traces the steps of a group of Mennonites, from Germany to Russia to Kansas. The reason for the trekking was the Mennonites’ conviction against participation in military service- a point which the book makes clear. Frederick the Great inaugurated mandatory military service which the Mennonites were unwilling to perform. Catherine the Great of Russia offered the Mennonites exemption from military service for 100 years in exchange for developing the Crimean Peninsula for agricultural purposes.

The story doesn’t focus exclusively on the religious beliefs of the Mennonites. Farming is the second track that carries this train. Perhaps the most interesting part of the book was the telling of how the Mennonite children sifted through sacks of wheat grain looking for the best specimens in preparation for the move to Kansas.

About half of the book is illustrations, which engaged the children.

“King of Prussia” fit in well with our homeschool curriculum. Appearances are made by historical figures/events Ulysses S. Grant, Kansas Grasshopper Plague of 1874 (circa the time of Laura Ingalls Wilder books), emerging nationalism in Europe. And Frederick and Catherine, too.

There isn’t actually any peanut butter sandwich in the story. The author is trying to connect the wheat of the story with daily fare of the child reading the book.

The binding is a little unusual. It has no spine because it is a staple-bound kind of book. But the book seems just a little too large to go spineless. It makes it a little difficult to keep on the book shelf because of this feature. All the same, I think that its a piece of history that is rare to find in children’s books, and it is worth owning.

 

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Man the animal

Man has called himself (among other things): the rational animal; the moral animal; the consciously choosing animal; the deliberately evil animal; the political animal; the toolmaking animal; the historical animal; the commodity-making animal; the economical animal; the foreseeing animal; the promising animal; the death-knowing animal; the art-making or aesthetic animal; the explaining animal; the cause-bearing animal; the classifying animal; the measuring animal; the counting animal; the metaphor-making animal; the talking animal; the laughing animal; the religious animal; the spiritual animal; the metaphysical animal; the wondering animal… Man, it seems, is the self-predicating animal.

– Raymond Tallis, The Explicit Animal

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See the animals

we enjoy having our patrons come out and see the animals slaughtered. Actually, the 7- to 12-year old children have no problem slitting throats while their parents cower inside their Prius listening to “All Things Considered.” Who is really facing life here?

– Joel Salatin in interview w Mother Earth News full interview

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Metrics of quality

…industrialism brings on a paralyzing gluttony and greed in which the quality of life is quantified.

– John Senior, quoted by Cindy Rollins @CindyOrdoAmoris

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Grace is mediated, sometimes

Grace is mediated, sometimes, perhaps often, through our encounter with others.

– RJ Snell

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