Lillies of the Field
January 29th, 2010 by Sonja

The LightFamily’s favorite magazine is National Geographic.  We all like it and read it/browse it for different reasons.  LightBoy loves the articles about space and the ocean.  LightGirl and LightHusband love the photography and the articles about far away places.  Me, I love the articles about different cultures and people.  So we all get something from this treasure each month.  They get stored in a basket in our “reading room.”  Does your home have a “reading room?”  You know the one … with a “special” white “throne”.  Yeah … that one.

So this morning I wandered into the “reading” room and found an article in the December 2009 issue of NatGeo (as it is sometimes called these days) about one of the last hunter-gatherer societies to survive in these modern times.  There are only about 6,000 people in this tribe which makes it’s home in northern Tanzania in Africa.  And an expanding population is now encroaching upon it’s formerly uninhabitable territory.  The days of being just hunter-gatherers are probably numbered, but the article is quite good.  The author lived amongst the people with a particular camp for two weeks and does a remarkable job of giving a fly on the wall view of their life (including a baboon hunt with only his pocket knife).

I recommend this article to you if you like learning about other people groups and other cultures. It really is fascinating and the author writes it quite well.  But I was struck by his description of the way in which the Hadza live.  Specifically, by their lack of worry.  This is mentioned several times in the article, but strikingly here:

Dirt roads are now carved into the edges of the Hadza bush. A paved road is within a four-day walk. From many high points there is decent cell phone reception. Most Hadza, including Onwas, have learned to speak some Swahili, in order to communicate with other groups. I was asked by a few of the younger Hadza hunters if I could give them a gun, to make it easier to harvest game. Onwas himself, though he’s scarcely ventured beyond the periphery of the bush, senses that profound changes are coming. This does not appear to bother him. Onwas, as he repeatedly told me, doesn’t worry about the future. He doesn’t worry about anything. No Hadza I met, in fact, seemed prone to worry. It was a mind-set that astounded me, for the Hadza, to my way of thinking, have very legitimate worries. Will I eat tomorrow? Will something eat me tomorrow? Yet they live a remarkably present-tense existence.

This may be one reason farming has never appealed to the Hadza—growing crops requires planning; seeds are sown now for plants that won’t be edible for months. Domestic animals must be fed and protected long before they’re ready to butcher. To a Hadza, this makes no sense. Why grow food or rear animals when it’s being done for you, naturally, in the bush? When they want berries, they walk to a berry shrub. When they desire baobab fruit, they visit a baobab tree. Honey waits for them in wild hives. And they keep their meat in the biggest storehouse in the world—their land. All that’s required is a bit of stalking and a well-shot arrow. (emphasis added)

And I remembered Jesus’ words to us in Luke 12:

22Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. 23Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. 24Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! 25Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? 26Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?

27“Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 28If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! 29And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. 30For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.

32“Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. 33Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 34For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

So was Jesus recommending that we turn back the clock even then (the year ~30 CE) to become hunter-gatherers?  I don’t think so.  It may seem somewhat idyllic to us now, because we did not take stock of the unintended consequences of our modern conveniences.  But turning back to what was is impossible, first of all.  But maybe there are lessons to be learned?

So the next words from Jesus after telling us not to worry, are … but you need to worry.  That it’s a tension to be managed.  A balancing act … that going over the edge either one way or the other is not good and not what He wants from any of us.  He wants us to be watching, yet reclining, relaxed and worry-free.

35“Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, 36like men waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him. 37It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. I tell you the truth, he will dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them. 38It will be good for those servants whose master finds them ready, even if he comes in the second or third watch of the night. 39But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. 40You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.”

41Peter asked, “Lord, are you telling this parable to us, or to everyone?”

42The Lord answered, “Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom the master puts in charge of his servants to give them their food allowance at the proper time? 43It will be good for that servant whom the master finds doing so when he returns. 44I tell you the truth, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. 45But suppose the servant says to himself, ‘My master is taking a long time in coming,’ and he then begins to beat the menservants and maidservants and to eat and drink and get drunk. 46The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the unbelievers.

47“That servant who knows his master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what his master wants will be beaten with many blows. 48But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.

The Hadza

They grow no food, raise no livestock, and live without rules or calendars. They are living a hunter-gatherer existence that is little changed from 10,000 years ago. What do
they know that we’ve forgotten?

The Hadza tend to be gregarious people, and Onwas readily agreed. He said I’d be the first foreigner ever to live in his camp. He promised to send his son to a particular tree at the edge of the bush to meet me when I was scheduled to arrive, in three weeks.

Sure enough, three weeks later, when my interpreter and I arrived by Land Rover in the bush, there was Onwas’s son Ngaola waiting for us. Apparently, Onwas had noted the stages of the moon, and when he felt enough time had passed, he sent his son to the tree. I asked Ngaola if he’d waited a long time for me. “No,” he said. “Only a few days.”

Hmmm … So, I wonder what do they know that we seem to have forgotten?

3 Responses  
  • Erin writes:
    January 30th, 20101:25 pmat

    I enjoyed that article too, and had some of the same thoughts you did. Why is it they don’t worry? Is it because they lack things like modern medicine that their future really is that tentative?

    Then I thought, “What would it be like not to worry? Not to have to plan to pay for the kids’ college? Retirement? Not have a mortgage?”

    It’s idealistic for sure, but interesting to think about.

  • Sonja writes:
    January 30th, 20103:51 pmat

    Was it in the article? Or somewhere else that I read that the epidemics and diseases we currently experience are a result of living in towns, villages and cities … i.e. a settled agrarian life. People groups who lived (or currently) live a hunter-gatherer life style do not experience the ravages of those diseases. I can’t remember what the explanation was, but it made sense. They don’t need all the savings for education, because … they educate the kids by apprentice. It’s quite elegant when you think of it. But also pretty utopian.

    I found it interesting that when they had harsh disagreements with one another, one of the parties to the disagreement would move out for a while. They would just check out and move away. Sometimes they’d come back. Sometimes not. Either way, everyone was okay with it and no one seemed to hold any grudges in that system.

  • Erin writes:
    February 3rd, 201012:13 pmat

    I think there could be a healthy balance somewhere between this lifestyle and modern life…but don’t know that we’ll ever find it. I mean, you and I would probably both be dead by now without modern medicine. At least one of my children would not have survived birth, either. If I was still alive, I’d be nearly blind (but probably wouldn’t have diabetes).

    However, the consumerist, selfish, suburban life we live has it’s drawbacks. For one thing, community would be built-in, we wouldn’t have to go looking for it. For another, we’d get to live in direct connection with nature, rather than isolated inside buildings.

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