I’m writing today in defense of cavemen. I think they get a bad rap. Negative human emotions and instincts inevitability get pushed back on cavemen. Why do boys fight – because of their caveman instincts. Likewise, personality traits that involve basic, self-serving instincts are blamed on our caveman roots. Social scientists say a man who sits on the couch after work and stares at the television does so because of caveman instincts – he leaves the cave in the morning to hunt and when the day is over brings home his gatherings and slumps down in front of the fire. Were there no cavemen who helped out washing dishes and caring for children?
We recorded one segment of a nationally televised morning show about a new archeological dig. Ethan is interested in archeology so we thought he’d enjoy the story. Prior to that, however, they had a psychologist talk about the general feeling in the country that we are busier now than ten years ago. The psychologist pointed to the recession-economy and how many workers are busier than prior to the recession. Talk about ultracrepidarianism, the psychologist’s specialty was cognitive brain functions, not on the macro-economic pressures on the U.S. workforce. And, he left out technology over the past ten years--specifically, the rise of smart phones, social media, and the portability of view-on-demand prime time television shows that have taken over down time. But, I digress. His finding is that Americans take less time to reflect and think and that we are busier than ten years ago. The interviewer asked, “Why do you think that is, doctor?” He replied, “I think it has to do with the caveman brain. In order to survive back then, the caveman had to constantly fidget and do things. We are simply following in our caveman footsteps.”
Really, cavemen were fidgeters, restless and impatient? I don’t think so. Besides, even if that were true, wouldn’t we have evolved out of that pattern? No, says the psychologist, he thinks that the busier cavemen succeeded more, would therefore be superior to the others, and eventually took over.
I had the pleasure of meeting some quite senior native Americans whose tribes live in the plains states. It’s well-known that Pacific Northwest Indians had plenty of downtime because of the abundance of seafood. They could be sedentary instead of nomadic. In the plains, however, Indians had to be mobile, flexible, and ingenious. The plains Indians I talked to were peaceful and well-rested. Their parents were nomadic and taught them the ways of the tribe yet they were not fidgeters or restless. They knew how and when to work hard and then how to rest and relax. This is in contrast to the psychologist’s ultracrepidarian assumptions about cavemen life. I wonder if the same psychologist would say that Ethan’s enthusiasm for archeology thus has to do with caveman roots, too.
Nonetheless, we seem to be busier than ten years ago. I think worship of God in the Episcopal tradition is a bulwark against increasing busyness. The time we spend in worship leaves room for thought and reflection. We can leave our busyness, our fidgeting nature, and our anxieties at the door. When we enter into worship of God, we are told in Scripture to “be still, and know that I am God.” (Ps 46:10)
As the escalating busy season of Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s looms ahead, let us take time for worship, reflection, prayer, and peace.