Thursday, June 25, 2009

Some Very Cool Flutes

I'm taking a light-hearted break from "The God Thing" to delight in the story in yesterday's news about the very very old flutes found in a cave in Germany, not far from where the carved female figurine (whose discovery was announced about a month ago) was also found. The flutes, made from bird bones and ivory, are almost as old as the "Venus" figurine--at least 35,000 years.

Maybe this post isn't an absolute break from "The God Thing" since the Venus figurine may well represent a very early "God image" of sorts, mostly likely used in long ago rituals of some kind. Perhaps flute music was part of the rituals, whatever they may have been.

What I love about these discoveries is the tangible evidence, reaching farther and farther back in time, of human creativity and artistic expression. They are reminders to me of just how essential and fundamental such activities are for us as a species. They inspire me to marvel and to wonder, and to count my own creative endeavors as part of this ancient human lineage.

Art and music are not luxuries reserved for times of plenty and the leisure life. They are, quite simply, deeply human endeavors. When we ignore them (or cut them from our schools and from our lives), we do so at our peril. What suffers is our humanity (and probably other species too).

One could certainly argue that these discoveries also underscore the antiquity of "ritual" and of "the religious impulse" of us human beings. I won't quibble with that.

But I would note that an inclination toward ritual and "religion" (I almost hesitate to use that word, since it connotes for us big entities, like the world religions we know best today) is not necessarily the same thing as a "theological impulse".

It is quite possible to have meaningful, even transcendent, ritual and art and music without "God" (by whatever name or designation).

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