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Psychological and spiritual needs are just as important as physical needs

I recently learned of the existence of a small statue carved about 40,000 years ago and known as the Lion Man, found in 1939 in a cave in southern Germany and considered to be the oldest sculpture ever found so far. I mention the topic because I found it interesting to know the meaning of the statuette.

According to experts, the statue, about 30 centimeters high (one feet), was carved from ivory from the tusk of a mammoth. The unknown artist (Male? Female?) needed almost 400 hours of work to complete the work, a creation in which reality and the supernatural merge in such an exquisite way that even today, 40 millennia later, it continues to captivate us.

It should be obvious that while the artist carved the statue, the other people of his/her community continued with the tasks of obtaining food, defending themselves from dangerous animals, cleaning the cave, maintaining the fire, and caring for and protecting the little ones.

Why, then, was the creator (he or she) of the statue allowed to continue with his work that, from a certain point of view, contributed little for the material benefit of his community?

According to the experts (and this is what struck me deeply), while some dedicated themselves to providing for the material needs of the group, the artist provided for the emotional, psychological, and spiritual needs.

Although the exact use of the statuette (if it had one) is unknown, there is consensus that the Lion-Man represents a connection between humans and nature and simultaneously represented the connection between humans and the supernatural. It is very likely that the statue was associated with some story or myth (understood as a story that gives meaning and direction to life).

In other words, 40,000 years ago, during the Ice Age (the real Ice Age, not the one depicted in the movies) a group of humans (probably not the only ones nor the first) understood that the spiritual world is by least as important as the physical world and, therefore, he had no problem having an "unproductive" artist in his midst.

Stated even more clearly, those distant ancestors of ours (“ours” because they were already human beings like us) knew something that we have forgotten, that despite all their value, material possessions are worth little or nothing if one forgets to the psychological, emotional, and spiritual dimension of life.

In 1943, Abraham Maslow published his well-known pyramid of human needs, ranging from physical needs to the need to feel appreciated. Maslow later added another level, that of self-actualization and transcendence, something that Ice Age humans seem to have already known and practiced.

And they also knew another teaching, shared a couple of millennia ago by a well-known teacher: it is no use gaining the whole world and losing your soul. I wonder, then, if we, postmodern humanity, are not the true “cavemen”, while those we irreverently called “caveman” were truly and fully human. What other lessons will they still share with us?  

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