Something to ponder:

What do we mean when we worry about the “End of Civilization”?

“Years ago, anthropologist Margaret Mead was asked by a student what she considered to be the first sign of civilization in a culture. The student expected Mead to talk about fishhooks or clay pots or grinding stones.
But no. Mead said that the first sign of civilization in an ancient culture was a femur (thighbone) that had been broken and then healed. Mead explained that in the animal kingdom, if you break your leg, you die. You cannot run from danger, get to the river for a drink or hunt for food. You are meat for prowling beasts. No animal survives a broken leg long enough for the bone to heal.

A broken femur that has healed is evidence that someone has taken time to stay with the one who fell, has bound up the wound, has carried the person to safety and has tended the person through recovery. Helping someone else through difficulty is where civilization starts, Mead said.”

I do not know the origin of this quote. It was just sent to me by my beloved sister(-in-law) Jonni. It struck such a deep chord within me that I just had to share it with you all.

8 thoughts on “Compassion

  1. This thought-full observation about caring being the hallmark of civilization feels so true … but it also brought this to mind … some years ago, when we were living in the Texas Hill Country, we had a fair number of critters that lived on or near our property … foxes and coyotes, armadillos and roadrunners … and there were Rio Grande turkeys, of which there was a small group of hens that routinely crossed through the yard by our house … one of the hens we named Hop-along as she was profoundly lame, but she was never alone … if ever she lagged behind the rest of the hens, they would pause and wait for her to catch up … they might not have been able to fix her lameness, but they were a formidable group and would have given any coyote pause … there was no question in my mind that they were protecting her … so what is civilization really, when put in the context of the lack of protection experienced by so many marginalized groups of people these days?


    • Thank you, Liz, for sending this story. So beautiful! It’s a good question: We brag about & are so much attached to all our accomplishments (monuments, literature, technology, “fine arts”) that we use them to define “Civilization.” But what really matters? Are we all as “civilized” as those turkey hens? Maybe those who fear the “collapse of Civilization” are looking in the wrong direction. In response to the Mead quote, a friend wrote: “Kindness is becoming so scarce in today’s world – something so basic, critical and transformative! I would say our “civilization” is coming apart, only it’s really not at all civilized!”


    • … & the two does, each nursing her own fawns, who adopted a third when her mother was killed by a too-fast car (maybe a too-slow driver?), leaving her bleating the sad laments of a motherless deer.
      … & the way so many trees fall as storms visit the forest … even oldest ones go down missing all the younger ones about, or catching a younger one in their branching arms.
      The reminders that we are all related are all around us, always.
      & here we all, sharing stories … another way we show that we are…
      All My Relations! — Warren Peace


  2. sitting with these words. having read a few times so far, will continue to sit with them and read and then will write them downo in the Notebook in my “Margery” section
    and i have yet been able to give words to your last post…of liberation….but i come over and over and read and well, just sit with it. am doing a lot of that lately, the sitting with…..
    Thank You So Beyond for these gifts you give Us….


  3. We never know how compassion will be manifested bu we know it, sense it, feel it, when it touches us in ways unexpected…through actions or words shared, whether our own, or the words of others, whether intentional or just because we feel the need to share what moves through us, these all have the ability to uplift our spirits, wrap around us in caring and thoughtfulness. These acts reveal our humanity and simply put, are what help us to go on…


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