Today I went to explore some old lava deposit in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where over 25,000 petroglyphs have been carved on the rocks. One of the largest petroglyph sites in the world.
Many were carved 400 to 700 years ago and some up to 3,000 years ago. More ancient ones have probably been erased by the effect of weather and time.
As I was watching like a little child at those ancient carvings I wished for a moment that I could have been there when they were carved. So I could have understood what they really meant. Some seem to be prayers to the animals, the plants, the sky. Some more mysterious seems to represent mystical beings of human-like or animal-like shape. Some even more symbolic escaped totally my comprehension.
A local Puebloan Elder shared something that really struck me. He said that it is a western mind way to put signification on those carvings by projecting our own culture and belief system. And therefore it falls far off to really understand those carvings. But he also went further and said that somehow trying to understand them was not appropriate.
This really struck deep in my heart. Here I was walking this place, coming with my belief and ways to look at those ancient carvings but my colonized mind, that always try to "understand" was preventing me to really see and feel the deeper signification.
For a moment I slowed down and try to feel what it would have been to live in those quite desertic high places. Indeed I do lack the local culture and ancestry to fully grasp it. So I thought about my ancestors in France and Corsica who carved such drawings. Who they were. How the land spoke to them. How they prayers and honored the Earth. For a moment something connected me to our common humanity.
Here and there, 3000 years ago, we were singing, praying around the fire, hunting local animals, and looking at the night sky with awe, wonder, and big questions. Here and there, 3000 years ago, the Creator was speaking to us.
As my mind stepped out of the way for a short moment, and I could just be in the feeling, I could appreciate much more the beauty and significance of such art. For a moment the true meaning could be felt but not rationalized.
There was nothing to understand or take anymore, but just "Thank you" to be given.
I knew more by trying to know less.
I was just bearing witness. In silence. With my heart.
Bearing witness to the immense beauty of our diverse and common humanity.
For a moment, in that "Thank you", I felt more human than ever.