Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Past and Present- Lather, Rinse, Repeat

One of the lessons you will learn during an archaeology internship is that the needs of human beings haven't changed, well, ever.  Food, water, shelter, companionship, procreation all have stayed pretty much the same since time immemorial.  Yes the cultural rules and customs all shift, but basically, humans really are pretty much the same as they've always been.

The past is something so frequently romanticized that we often overlook the reality of it.  My take on the past is that it was just as complicated, frustrating and silly as things are now.  Yes, of course the details change, but the basic expereinces don't.  People marry (or partner or contract), they have kids (who have to be potty trained, taught manners and grammar and all that fun stuff); they have conflicts and interactions and friendships with other individuals; they hoped; they dreamed; they got old (and frankly, probably complained about wrinkles and sagging parts and baldness and all the stuff we worry about), and they died.  I'm pretty sure nothing ever really changes.

As Samhain (All Soul's Night, Hallowe'en, Ancestor Night...) approaches, the time to reflect on the past, especially our ancestors, has arrived.  Part of my practice of honoring my ancestors is to accept that they were not very different from me.  They were real, living breathing people who loved and loved and were spiritual beings.  Their problems were similar to mine and the world they created is the same one I am creating.  We carry the burden of our pasts with us, whether you want to think about that in the genetic or the ideological or the cultural.  Without them, we are not us.  We all come from somewhere, even if we don't know or understand where that somewhere is.

For the next six weeks or so, I will spend time honoring and connecting with my ancestors, with the ancestors of my culture and with the ancestors of humanity. If they have messages for me, I will try to listen, and if not, I will reach out to them all the same.  We keep a candle in our house for those moments when we need to mourn or think about those people who have crossed over into the afterlife.  Any time we need to feel a connection, we light it.  We have created a space and process for dealing with grief and a need to touch our past.  It does not do to live in the past or to romanticize it, but we can't ignore it either.

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