I visited Bru na Boinne in County Meath, Ireland on Friday. It is the site of several Neolithic tombs, and I was able to go into Newgrange with a tour. It is the best known Irish passage tomb. Archeologists have dated it from 3,000 BC. Older than the pyramids and Stonehenge. It was designed so that on the Winter Solstice, the sun would come in through a small window box over the entry, down a long, very narrow passage way, and shine onto a Basin stone. The stone held the remains of people, and it is believed that they were the most revered in their community.
The stones have designs carved into them that have influenced art - for 5000 years. No one knows what the marks mean, but they are also found in other communities across Spain and Portugal.
Standing in the interior space of Newgrange, seeing the markings, the amazing corbeled central ceiling, and knowing that it was designed to have the sun line up perfectly for a few days of the year was very moving. I put my palms on many of the stones, and felt the same stones that people moved, 5,000 years ago, and touched by many since then. I thought of the desire we all have to be remembered in some way - by creating art, writing, changing society, or even through everyday kindnesses. The people who built this tomb had the same desire to create, to find meaning in their lives, a connection to the greater world through the path of the sun and seasons.
The urge to leave something of ourselves, to find meaning in our lives and world, is a difficult urge to satisfy. It was a powerful experience to be in the same room as 5,000 years of humanity.