Will Hunt writes the story of archaeologist and artist Carolyn Boyd’s quest for the key to unfolding the mystery of the ancient rock paintings in the caves near Dead Mans Pass near the Rio Grande. This director of SHUMLA (Studying Human Use of Materials, Land, and Art) has “developed a system to understand this enigmatic art.” He elaborates: “Working like a detective, she discovered a symbolic code that reveals narratives in the paintings, which she believes can be read, almost like an ancient language.” Of course, she has her detractors, but her narratives seem very plausible and, at least, very telling of our fascination with man’s drive to understand his reason very being on the planet.
Boyd refused to believe what Harry Shafer writes in his Ancient Texas, “‘The meanings [of a culture’s symbols] are lost when a culture comes to an end.'” She struck out to undercover connections between then and now. The human narrative woven into all symbols. And she succeeds in a remarkable way.
She said she was “reading a story that hadn’t been read for thousands of years. ‘I was looking at an account of the formation of the cosmos . . . with multiple levels of meaning. It is a creation story, a prescription for ritual, in a sense, a cosmological map.”
What cave paintings are you leaving behind? Do you have a creation story, a prescription for ritual, a cosmological map? Is is decipherable? Will it survive thousands of years? Is there enough life in it to embue with enduring meaning? Where does our culture stand at the moment? How do you stand in it?
Reena Lazar is the Executive Director of Peace It Together, a program for students which
provides a unique dialogue and filmmaking program that offers youth the opportunity to connect deeply with their so-called “enemy” while co-creating short films that can be used as peace-building tools throughout the world.
Listen to some students express their experience in this program in haiku form. Clearly the program had a powerful impact on them.
“Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” Picasso
I went out to buy groceries and came back with a book. I forgot the groceries. But in my life, the two are almost synonymous. I went into the bookstore to find The Sacred Contract of America by Caroline Myss. Not in the store–would have to order. Too hungry. Browsed through the shelves and found this gem: Pathways to Bliss: Mythology and Personal Transformation from the collected works of Joseph Campbell.
Bliss is what I believe we all seek: “. . . bliss is: that deep sense of being present, of doing what you absolutely must do to be yourself.” In our culture, most of us have lost the model for finding bliss because we do not have the guides to show us how to get there. Or even more disheartening, we chase the almighty dollar thinking that it will take us there. But as we are experiencing here in America, that plan does not work so well because one day you can wake up and the money is gone. And with it, your attempts at bliss. True bliss comes from having one foot in the here and now and one foot in the eternal. And it is myth that serves as our guide.
He suggests the first place to look if you are feeling lost, unable to find your bliss, is to look to the myths of your childhood. They are there whether you accepted or rejected them. I rejected my cultural myths and have spent a lifetime looking to replace them. Ironically, it looks as if the country I live in has caught up with me. She seems to have lost her myths as a loud and confused cadre attempts to taut the symbol of the myth as the myth. They are lost in their own hall of mirrors not understanding that the myth is “transparent to the transcendent.” They espouse one myth as THE myth thereby losing the transcendent quality of the myth. “And one of the problems with the popularization of religious ideas is that the god becomes a final fact and is no longer intself transparent to the transcendent.”