Paintings On A Wall: When We Became Human


[image: Tokyo Story (Tokyo Monogatari, 1953) directed by Yasujiro Ozu]

I came across an interesting article that interviewed the poet, photographer, filmmaker, and singer/songwriter Kim Stafford. He described a story about when his son made a striking comment about our absolute need to communicate as humans. The words are classic.

“We didn’t become humans when we invented tools,” his son said. “We became human when we looked at the person sitting across the fire and began to tell stories.”

It isn’t just about surviving. It isn’t about facing another day. It is about enriching our lives. Feeding each other with experiences or lessons to be learned. Enabling each other to reflect on themselves and the world around them. When those humans painted their stories upon a rock wall of Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc Cave in France over 30,000 years ago, they were impelled by something deep inside to express a viewpoint for all to see. With the light of a fire, like some prehistoric cinema house, art was born to better express life, the world, and the hearts that pump within those said creators.

Why are we all  on multitudes of socially inclined media outlets? We are driven much as those band of hunters and gatherers who somehow yearned for something greater. A deep abiding curiosity and a will to create, that was stronger than the will to destroy. The desire to hold up a mirror to their present state and record a snapshot in painting or guttural words across the fire. I wonder tonight how those humans must have first felt the joy in discovering the act of creating an image or relating a story on a recent hunt.
I can read everyday, within social media, of stories that are good, bad, lively, sad, unforgiving, exciting, boring, twisty, clever, emotional, gripping, and the adjectives go on ad infinitum. Whether it clearly states in prose or wafts through vaporous symbolic corridors in poetry, our will, our need to communicate is stronger than ever. Someone’s experiences is another’s lesson in history. Someone’s heartbreak is another’s warning. Being human is channeling those ancestors 30,000 years ago, but in vastly different formats.

Anyone who knows me personally can tell you I am a huge international cinema lover. Ingmar Bergman, Akira Kurosawa, Wim Wenders, Yasujiro Ozu, Francois Truffuat, these are but a few of my teachers, my saviors, my storytelling friends. They inform me how cruel and beautiful life can be. In literature, it is Henry Miller, Ernest Hemingway, Malcolm Lowry, John Updike, Yukio Mishima, Jack Keroauc, James Joyce, and many more to open my mind and heart to the pleasures and troubles the world has to offer.  Even our parents. Our friends.  Our lovers.  They are storytellers…all. Each with their own individualistic form and identity.  Each with their brand of truth and perception to offer others.

What makes us human and when did we truly became as such?  This is endlessly debatable. My money is on the creative streak that burst forth from us and uniquely set us apart from all other things. The need to express something much more profound is uniquely human. We aspire to greater heights all through our history because of it. Even something simple on a social media platform can display example after example of that passionate striving for expressive greatness in everything from photographs to poetry to journals.

We are all poets in one way or another. We cannot help it. It is bred very deep within our souls.  I give thanks to those group of curiously experimental humans who felt compelled to tell a story on the side of a rock wall.  A painting of moving images of a hunt; a Paleolithic film if you will.  We can owe it all to them, for today we are still painting on walls.


[image: Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc Cave in southern France]


One thought on “Paintings On A Wall: When We Became Human

  1. I absolutely love this piece, Brake. I’ve tried to capture this sense of enchantment and wonder with our story-telling impulse in a couple of my blogs, but I never quite reach your eloquence and precision of language 🙂

    I often thought about showing my students cave paintings as a way to encourage a discussion about creativity, a way to de-mystify the creative process and writing in particular. You remind and inspire me as always with YOUR story telling ❤

    Liked by 1 person

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