The documentary (based on the book) “Guns, Germs, and Steel,” by Jared Diamond, professor of geology and physiology at UCLA, chronicles an interdisciplinary attempt by Diamond to explain why Eurasian civilizations have survived and conquered other civilizations, while at the same time maintaining that this dominance is not due to any intellectual, moral, or genetic superiority. Diamond began to explore this dilemma after being impacted by a conversation with Yali, a politician in New Guinea, who asked: “Why is it that you white people developed so much cargo and brought it to New Guinea, but we black people had little cargo of our own?”
Why do we have so much cargo?
As I’m getting older, I’m beginning to understand that I don’t need as much of the “cargo” I’ve carried with me as I once did. I find that I want to have objects that are beautiful to me, and that I can enjoy when I happen to glance at them. But I don’t want as much of that “stuff” around me as I once had.
And as I’m getting older, I also understand that much of the cargo I’ve carried is not just the external cargo, the “things” I’ve accumulated, although they are, for sure, part of what I carry. I am beginning to understand that most of the cargo has been my own internal cargo – feelings, thoughts, and ways of being that no longer serve me, and have not served me for a long, long time.
Robert Bly writes of carrying a huge sack on our backs. For most of our lives, we carry a sack of others’ expectations, and thoughts, and judgments on our back. As we go through our lives, the sack gets bigger and bigger, and as we go through our lives, we are more and more weighed down by that huge sack of expectations, experiences, memories, and unforgiven things in our lives.
Most of us are so busy working and doing important things in the world – and getting credit for doing that important work – that we do not reflect on what is driving us, what is burdening us, what is really behind all the activity and the work and the importance.
What a burden that is!
“Are you carrying, Heavy burdens?, and you don’t know what to do
Are you sad? And disponded, wondering how you’ll make it through
Is your heart heavy, laiden? With many, many cares
Why not do, like many others, Oh
Take it to the lord in prayer… ” words and music by Dr. Charles Hayes
I am certain that people of all places and in all times have been burdened by what they are carrying on their backs. As I reflect during this time of my life, I have come to see that some of what I carry with me belongs to someone else! So I’ve been carrying not only my own cargo, but the cargo of others, perhaps the cargo of others from many generations back!
Part of the wisdom of life, it seems, is to let go of that cargo, that heavy load of expectations and others’ dreams for us, of shame and guilt over what we have not done, but about who we are. How do we let go?
I think of “letting go” as the real work of life. We all carry too much “cargo,” to be sure, and it weighs us down, makes today’s problems seem bigger than they are, fogs up the beauty of who we really are – shining bits of light, here to shine our beauty into the world.
What cargo are you carrying with you today? Can you let go?
What cargo can you take from that long, dirt-covered sack you are dragging, take a look at it, and leave it here, now?
Can I join you in this work, this work of letting go?