For those of us who cut our teeth on Indiana Jones, our childhoods were filled with imaginary quicksand and lava pits. Yet as we grew up the perils of trap riddled corridors lends more toward the authentic life threats of navigating a productive 401k, paying a mortgage, and the deadly abyss of dealing with endless opinions!
Interestingly enough the fictional character Indiana Jones was loosely based on a few extraordinary individuals. One such person was Gustaf Nordenskjold a Swiss scholar famed for documenting the first excavations of Mesa Verde. Sadly he didn’t carry a whip, defy death, or fight the Nazis. The Swiss are famous for chocolate, questionable banking practices, and a pocket knife cherished by the likes of MacGyver and boy scouts . However, any student of history knows the Swiss aren’t much for fighting Nazis.
Gazing down the giant cliff dwellings, like Gustaf we tired to imagine the Puebloan people. If only we had the DeLorean from “Back To The Future”! Sure I’d muck up the space time continuum but it’d be fun! (Curt and Laurens excellent adventure). Take that Bill and Ted!
We gradually fell in love with Puebloan philosophies and beliefs. From the earth they were born and to it they would return. Every tree, every beast, entwined within a complex and beautiful balance. Water a requirement of life, nature a sanctuary. Central to every cliff dwelling was a kiva. A subterranean structure used for worship and communal gatherings. Their creation story taught that it was their legacy to explore, leaving footprints over the surface of the earth.
The Puebloans had become master architects, and masons creating complex villages within cliff walls, planting crops, domesticating turkeys, constructing retaining walls, reservoir, irrigation, textiles, beading, artwork, and a vast trade network demonstrating their success. No longer nomadic the Puebloans flourished.
Yet, over time a growing population taxed available resources. For example: Piñon-juniper. the main fuel for heat, light, and building materials became scarce. Requiring 75 years to produce a germinating seed it’s unlikely to see a new growth Piñon-juniper in a lifetime . So how did a people who believed it their legacy to live in harmony with nature while exploring, end up overpopulating a region? The same way all of us end up failing. In the pursuit of a more comfortable life they compromised their beliefs!
Grappling with this truth, and trying to find balance, I haven’t written in months. Is this it, is this our legacy, our story? As a species does our laziness, arrogance, and selfishness overpower intellect, philosophy, belief, and conviction?
Are we doomed to repeat and rewrite these chapters over and over? Pursuing momentary happiness, yet never finding joy. Trading our beliefs and convictions for comforts and ease. Families that no longer speak, broken friendships, barren fields, scorched earth. Looking back at my life I’ve come to realize I laid every brick of my depressing and dismal prisons. Every hateful word and manipulative action.
I’ve spent countless hours wrestling with this. In the end I still don’t have an answer I like, but I found an answer I love. As the author of our story we have the ability to lift the pen. Change a few words, add a character, repair poor sentence structure. So why do we love Indiana Jones as a character? Because he was a bit of a jerk, a reluctant hero, but when it mattered the most he always did the right thing. He followed his heart, and lived by a code.
Perhaps it’s just that simple?
If your here for the feel good afterschool special, or the pictures stop while your ahead! Below this line there are no pictures, and no apologies. If something below this line offends you. You were warned!
Many years ago, frustrated with the simplicity of the North American Church life, I resigned from a great ministry position. I’d decided to go looking for the “what and why” of our failures, maybe write a book…….. (A practice I’d advise against!!!!!)
What I found was children living in dumps. Human beings cast out like refuse, eating the rubbish from tables of excess. I gazed at beaches covered in plastics, dead fish and birds suffering for the convenience of modern sensibilities. The endless bottles and wrappers of a throw away society. Entire mountain sides stripped of timber. I found vacation destinations set as a thin venire; a few blocks past the shiny themed façade were cities of shacks and shanties.
I met people plagued with easily treatable illnesses. Entire villages drinking from wells contaminated by live stock waste, children contracting malaria when a $5 net around their bed could drastically reduce the risk. I met people who marveled at the idea of reliable municipal power, water, and waste collection.
At this point you’ve realized I was in a 3rd world countries, and mostly you’d be correct. But where do you think the lumber from that stripped mountain side was heading? Where did the majority of that plastic waste come from, who was the consumer of the children’s labor hours? Why didn’t there government, social structure, representation, or non-profits help? Why did so many languages not have a word for philanthropy?
Even worse I found organizations robing themselves in ripped and holy rags, distorting and perverting belief and convictions as a fundraiser for personal gain. Faith healers, shams, thieves, and liars. I had found it and its name was greed, self, arrogance, and lust, it was lazy, yet always in the pursuit of self-satisfaction. It consumed everything, but was always hungry. I found evil, but it wasn’t a lurking monster in the shadows it was a reflection in the mirror.
Almost 10 years ago I spent months planning and preparing to kill myself. No tears, no shaking hands, I was miserable , lonely, and I hated every breath. I’d failed in every way, and with every glimpse in the mirror I knew the truth. My faith in religion, philosophy, and dogma had crumbled around me. What’s important to know is that I walked away from that moment realizing it’s better to fight for what’s Good than to give up. I’d learn that even the failures of trying to do the right thing are sweeter than the rewards of selfishness! To this day I rarely succeed!
When I didn’t have a friend in the world one guy would listen, and give advice. Often overly simplified, but always echoing of TRUTH. He still makes these profound statements as we backpack or share a beer, generally forgetting he ever said them. One such moto or creed which has really stuck with me is “Just Do The Thing” Although lacking context, this simple statement implies DOING THE RIGHT THING, THE HARD THING!
Sometimes it’s a bit of a surprise for people at festivals, or events when they discover that I’m a disciple of Jesus Christ. I get asked questions like, “you seriously believe in the divinity of Jesus” , “Ok for real no joking, your a logical, intelligent person, you’re telling me you believe in a God”! I always laugh, normally taking a sip of beer, and say something like “Trust me the answer is so much more beautiful!!!!”
For me nature is creation, there is a beautiful balance, water is life, air is sweet, sunrises sing like a symphony. I came from the dust and to it I will return. For the short time I’m here it’s my legacy to leave footprints upon the soil, tell stories, fix stuff, love people, share campfires, and proclaim the (Gospel) (good news). I don’t think this life is hopeless when you stop living it for yourself!
4 thoughts on “Mesa Verde”
Dear Curt, this was beautifully written and very thought provoking. And then some. I don’t know why but I knew there was something more to come and I kept scrolling and there it was. I knew. I knew there was a connection between us. I just felt it. I too have suffered with depression but my faith has helped me to keep making footsteps in the sand. Thank you again for a great post.
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I’m really glad this post was able to connect with you. Thank you for being so kind!
Very thoughtful post. I struggle with the concept of faith, especially given the examples of “religion” we see these days. Despite all that, I keep trying to do the right thing. Thanks for the reminder.
When using the examples of religion I see around me I too greatly struggle with faith. Especially when I put my faith in religion.
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