Flavin’s Corner


Adult Education

We —

So tired of all the darkness in our lives

With no more angry words to say

Can come alive

Get into a car and drive

To the other side…

"Steppin’ Out," by Joe Jackson, from Night and Day, June, 1982.

Well, another summer is just about over. The children began school yesterday, at least here in Massachusetts, and I’m considering taking another night-class at Harvard. Most consider ‘adult education’ to be a means for working adults to get or continue an education, some associate those lessons most often taught in a bedroom, while others wax philosophically and counter Rene Descartes’ "Cogito ergo sum (I think therefore I am)," with "Everything worth knowing may be had from watching Jeopardy or Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?" I suppose it doesn’t matter where or how we better ourselves. It comes down to doing it or not…

The recidivism of youthful arrogance ("know-it-all" syndrome) seems to occur on a regular basis with Republicans, religious fundamentalists, and certain women who’ve forgotten the steps to that most personal of dances: the relationship shuffle. We know Republicans desire governmental tyranny, religious fundamentalists strive for moral domination, and women want… Well, the answer changes so often it’s unrealistic to be either specific or to generalize. They want what they want and men may as well attempt to read hard-water stains at the bottom of a toilet to prophesy a guess. We’ll undoubtedly complete the Human Genome Project, define the Grand Unification Theory, and manufacture socks that won’t fall down, before the answer is known to …what does woman want?

Adult males, contrariwise, make their wants known with ease, rivaling that of ice melting in a desert; it’s going to happen! Men generally demand their wants be known, fulfilled, and discussed at length and at the top of one’s lungs. It’s simple, actually, as modern men are separated from their remote ancestors by the ability to distinguish between a roll-on and stick deodorant. At least that's the working model…

Toward maintaining proper neuronal health, I’ve recently finished reading The Living Goddesses by Marija Gimbutas (California: U. of Calif. Press, 1999), a work published posthumously (Prof. Gimbutas passed away in 1994), with editing and supplementary contributions by Miriam Robbins Dexter. Gimbutas begins a chapter on the enigmatic markings dating from c. 6000-4000 BCE which she refers to as Old European Linear (others continue to use such antiquated terms as the Tordos or Vinca signs), reproduces a drawing of scratches made on an ox-rib some 300,000 years ago, and attempts to argue the various straight lines combined and later represented wedges, waves, chevrons, pubic triangles, and ultimately inspired our current letters V, W, and M. 300,000 years ago some hairy proto-person went squiggly on a bone in an effort to depict the concept of 'water' or a woman's privates? If anyone other than Prof. Gimbutas were to have advanced such an idea, we'd be forwarding writing examples to Saturday Night Live for possible employment!

Marks on an ox-rib, c. 300,000 BCE, from Pech de L'Azé, France.

As hominid adventures go: Handy Homo never made it out of Africa, Erect Homo cruised into Asia and Europe and died out c.300,000 years ago, Smart Homo ( called "archaic" and closely related to Erect Homo, as remains are often confused with late examples) dug the eternal ditch 200,000 years ago, and the cousins, Heidelberg Homo and Neander Homo, bummed around and avoided glaciers, eventually checking out without a forwarding address c.50,000-30,000 BCE in Europe, but earlier elsewhere. And, cheers and beers, then came those Smart Smart Homos around 120,000 BCE, though not much made it into symbolic parietal and portable "print" until around 40,000 BCE. So, that's the quickie tour! Now, back to Smart Homo (read: Homo sapiens or archaic humans).

The marks on the ox-rib from Pech de L'Azé have been discussed elsewhere (A Tale of Two Caves, François Bordes, Harper & Row, 1972, Fig. 17, and "Exploring the Mind of Ice Age Man," A. Marshack, National Geographic, Vol. 147, No. 1, 1975, p. 85), and whether they represent the results of dinner or show the ability of Homo sapiens to conceive and execute symbolic designs is a debate best put off for another time. To suggest these marks influenced later symbolism and writing would require 1) the marks maintained currency between 300,000 BCE and 6000 BCE, when Old European Linear arose, and 2) that various Homos were communicating with one another and could pass along symbolism.

Scratches or meaningful meander? Diffusion or independent invention? Possible or impossible? Personally, as archaic humans in Europe disappeared 150,000 years before modern humans showed up, that leaves Homo sapiens neanderthalensis to act as intermediaries, and I find that too burdensome. Sure, Neander Homo is no longer regarded as Homo sapiens stupidus, but demonstrating inter-species or inter-subspecies communication (beyond the occasional battle, snack, or leg-humping) is a page from Clan of The Cave Bear and belongs in the fiction section of the library. However, Prof. Gimbutas deserves credit for bringing the suggestion forward and inviting consideration. With her passing we lost a great mind and some debates suffer because of that loss.

Our abilities as modern humans are comparable to adulthood, with our proto-people ancestors as children of sorts. We further our education and they just played in caves. We rummage through the deep pockets of time for clues to our past, and they just played in caves. We imagine a future free of pettiness and pricey ISPs, and they just (say it with me…) played in caves. Not that there's anything wrong with playing in caves, mind you, it's just …adults are capable of playing anywhere they want. We decide when, where, and how we play. Well, that's not entirely true…

Some governments and certain religious groups still wish for total control and to treat us like children. The above (admittedly flippant) discussion, which implies a model of human evolution, would not be tolerated if a select few had the power over the many. All adults may be created equal, but there are those who believe it's okay to tell other adults what to do and how to think, and they can imprison or execute them if they don't get their way. We need adult education now more than ever…

Lost in the stacks,


return to main page