Thursday, June 14, 2012

40,800 B.K. -- Before Kilroy

We existed.

We were here, where you are now.

We lived. We struggled. We loved. We are no more.

This is my hand. I am --
we were -- human like you.

Do not forget us.

BEHOLD the power of art -- the expression of common humanity -- engaging us, challenging us from some prehistoric terra incognita that modern-day Spain now occupies. It's amazing what one can say with a simple handprint, amazing what a powerful symbol of humanity it is.

Especially when it's at least 40,800 years old -- the oldest cave paintings known to exist. Especially when it's possible, perhaps even likely, the art was created by Neanderthals.

Michelangelo famously depicted God giving Adam life -- giving Adam everything that made him truly human -- with the touch of His finger, reaching out to pour Himself into man . . . through Adam's own finger.

Is it far-fetched to think of those handprints from the mist of prehistory in a similar way? That prehistoric man, perhaps even one of an extinct branch of our own human species, put an outline of his own hand onto a cave wall so that those who came after might press their own hands into his own,
and therefore he might live on somehow?

I'd like to think that. I'd like to think we'd look at the wonder of a simple outline of a hand, one that predates the birth of Christ by at least 38,800 years, and realize that even the humblest things -- the simplest child's art, even -- is fraught with meaning. That they connect us in ways that we realize . . . and even more that we don't.

Prehistoric man could not have begun to imagine our world -- the postmodern world of 2012. But there he is, nevertheless, trying to touch us. Impart some of who he was -- that he was -- to us, either his distant descendants or the long-distant kissing cousins he would never know.

I wonder whatever our generation leaves behind for whatever, and whoever, may follow will say as much as a simple handprint. I wonder what Future Man -- if he were to find a 2012 handprint on a wall fragment amid the ruins of some long-buried, long-forgotten North American metropolis -- will think of it.

What might he think of the primitives who left behind such a thing?

Hello in there. Hello.

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