Ancient Teamwork

I just stumbled upon a CNN article entitled “Mammoth traps containing remains of 14 of the giant creatures discovered in Mexico”. It went on to say that anthropologists found a man-made trench in Tultepec, Mexico that was 5½ feet deep and 82 feet long. In it were mammoth bones, one even arranged symbolically, as well as the remains of camels and a horse. This trap is said to be 15,000 years old.

Creating something like that took a lot of planning and digging. It required vision. It required trust. It took imagination and teamwork and delayed gratification.

And then once the thing was built, they had to strategize and work together in the hunt. They had to drive these animals toward the trap, most likely with torches. Everyone would have had to have been on the same page.

Afterward, there was a lot of meat to share out. The article states that the tongue of a mammoth alone could weigh more than 26 pounds. And they also used the bones for tools. People would have had to communicate and agree to various work roles and outcomes.

And yet, when we think of “cavemen”, we still tend to imagine them grunting, and living nasty, dirty, brutish lives. Lest we forget, if it weren’t for their survival skills, none of us would be here today. And anthropologists have found art, musical instruments, tools, and ritual burials that attest to their sophistication as well.

These people did more than just grunt. Now there’s a trench in Mexico to prove it.

Photo by HO_INAH_AFP via Getty Images
Photo by HO_INAH_AFP via Getty Images

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Try Listening

I know a guy who talks so much that people actually scatter when they see him coming. He’s a nice guy. He means well. But he can suck, literally, hours out of your life as he holds forth on whatever he has chosen to blather on about on that particular day. And you’re expected to just stand there and say, “Uh huh.”

I doubt, even after all this time, that he knows much of anything about me. I can’t get a word in edgewise. And he doesn’t seem the least bit curious about anyone else. He never asks questions.

I think this is really sad. I personally would be bored silly if the only topic I was willing to discuss was me, me, me. I know me. I’ve done me. I’d much prefer to learn something new, or experience a unique perspective. This guy isn’t capable of that. His life seems very limited.

He also seems rather short-sighted. He doesn’t seem to notice people running away from him. I’ve seen people who have had to get rather rude to shut him up. One guy started his leaf blower right in the middle of a story. Mr. Talky-Pants didn’t even seem surprised or insulted. I bet things like that happen to him a lot. You’d think that someone who is that inwardly focused would be more aware of insults, but he lacks that quality.

When you are talking to someone, try listening as well. Every once in a while, check in with yourself and say, “Am I learning anything new?” If not, ask something. Show some interest in those around you. Keep doing that until it comes naturally to you. People will most likely be charmed by your sincere curiosity, even if it does take practice.

That, and knowledge is power.

A big rule of thumb is that if people are running from you, you are either too big of a proponent of open carry, or you most likely aren’t a pleasure to be around.


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Moving from a Dog’s Perspective

Hi, I’m Quagmire! My mom would describe me as a little black Dachshund with a milk mustache and a serious screw loose. I’ve been known to lunge at a cop’s ankles, but hey, I have no front teeth, so I’m only trying to prove a point. I’ve also brought some strange grocery items into the house, and I refuse to admit where they come from. (More on that here.) But for all my quirks, I know I’m loved. For a dog, that’s really all that matters.

Mom is allowing me to be a guest writer on her blog today because I think she realized I have a need to vent. I recently had a very strange week. I think it will help if I can talk about it for a change. You people don’t seem to understand me when I bark.

For about a month now, I’ve watched as mom has put things into boxes. And she seemed very stressed out. It didn’t seem like boxing stuff up was helping. I tried to tell her that, but she wasn’t listening.

Then, very recently, those boxes started disappearing. I mean, it was really kind of creepy. I’d go outside to play, and when I’d come back in, things would be gone, and mom would be all sweaty. I started getting stressed out, too, and clingy. Very, very clingy. I was afraid that mom might disappear next!

Then one day, these intruders came into the house! I tried to protect our territory by barking and growling, and for my trouble, I got closed into the back yard! When mom let me in again, every piece of furniture was gone! And mom seemed happy about it. Now when I barked, I could hear an echo. How strange.

Next thing I knew, I was being stuffed into our car. Stuffed is the right word. There wasn’t much room. It was full of boxes and stuff. I kind of felt like I was part of the stuff, so I insisted on sitting on mom’s lap as she drove. Normally she’d never allow that, but I think she could tell I was really freaked out.

Next thing I know, we pull into this driveway, and mom carries me into this back yard, sits on the grass, and says, “Check it out, buddy! This is all yours!”

I wandered around, sniffing all the new sniffs, and checking the perimeter for security breaches. There were none. (Darn.) I was thrilled to see there were plenty of little hidey-holes for when I want to be in stealth mode, and there was lots of soft grass for when I feel the need to wriggle around on my back.

And then… gasp! I discovered that there’s another dog on the other side of the fence! His name is Hendrix, and we are now fence running buddies. He gets me when I bark, and keeps me up on the good gossip. We plan to play poker when our parents aren’t home.

I was thrilled to see some of our stuff on the patio. It’s always nice to have familiar smells. But I did have a brief moment of panic when mom left me in the yard. And suddenly I could see those same intruders driving up! Mom! Make them go away! They stole everything from the house last time! Let me at ’em! Call the cops!

But I must admit I’m easily distracted. (Mom says I have the attention span of a hummingbird. So sue me.) I went back to playing with Hendrix.

I guess a few hours passed, and suddenly mom came out the back door of this house. What was she doing in there? She didn’t even let me do a preliminary security check!

But when she let me in, it was like Christmas morning. All our stuff was in there! Boxes and furniture everywhere. She let me inspect every nook and cranny.

I was really happy to see our bed, especially when I discovered that when I’m on it, I have a perfect view of the street. That will make my job of keeping everything under control a lot easier.

After all this excitement, as you can imagine, we decided to take a nap. As I drifted off to sleep in her arms, I heard mom say, “We’re home, Quaggie! We’re home.”

Since I know that home is another word for love, I am one happy dog.

Some assembly required.

A book about gratitude is a gift that keeps on giving!

And Now for Something COMPLETELY Different…

I thrive on routine. If you are into astrology, you could say that’s because I’m a Capricorn. If you study psychology, you might say it has something to do with my introversion.

Regardless. I may not have all my ducks in a row, but I can usually predict where they will wander off to and when. And I derive a great deal of comfort from that.

I’m also a planner. When I travel, for example, I generally know where I’m going and when and how. When something upsets my itinerary it tends to rattle me. This is why I am never comfortable at airports. There’s nothing quite like an airport to eff up your plans. Airports should have their own circle of hell in Dante’s Inferno.

I’ve been working since I was 10 years old. I like when I’ve gotten so familiar with a job that I can organize my tasks. It’s nice to have some idea what the day will probably look like. Tell me your end goal and then let me loose with a certain level of autonomy, and I’ll have my job running like a well-oiled machine in no time.

Which leads me to the one mistake upper management tends to make in every place I’ve ever known. They spend a great deal of time either fixing things that aren’t broken, or not consulting the stakeholders when something genuinely needs fixing. Either way, they always seem sincerely stunned when they have upset the apple cart and we mere underlings have to waste an enormous amount of time scrambling around to pick up the apples.

Here’s a thought: communicate. Get feedback before you make changes. Assume that your staff actually has some insight. Not only will morale improve, but chaos will also be kept to a minimum. What a concept.

Not exactly in a row, but they’ll get where they need to go.

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Untapped Depths

Every day we walk or drive past countless numbers of people without communicating with them in any meaningful way. That’s perfectly natural. It would be impossible to get anything done if we stopped to have intense conversations with everyone we encountered.

But lately I have been viewing all these strangers with fresh eyes. That’s because I’ve participated in a few storytelling events by a meet up group here in Seattle called Fresh Ground Stories. The stories that are told at this event have to be true and personal, and boy, are they ever.

We all look at a people without speaking to them and tend to make certain assumptions, but this group demonstrates loudly and clearly that there is much more to people than meets the eye. Whether it’s the petite young girl who had been abused by her father all her life and then finally confronted him as an adult, or the guy who made a documentary about a quirky homeless man, or the transgender woman who had struggled to feel accepted all her life, or the man who lost 100 pounds and overcame social anxiety, every person has a story, and often it’s a fascinating one.

Now when I see strangers on the street, I kind of have regrets. I may be passing over someone who has an amazing history that would enrich my life in its very telling. That guy might have been in the crowd when President Kennedy was assassinated. That lady might be the daughter of a suffragette. I’ll never know.

As I go about my daily business these days, people seem to have more density, more substance to them. I often think, “What’s your story?” I wish I had time to hear them all.

[Image credit:]
[Image credit:]