Notes From Our Minister May 2021

Rev. Joe Cherry


Deep in the core of our humanity lies Story. Story is one of the core elements of our homo sapien evolution. It is, according to some, the ability to Story that allowed Homo sapiens to become the dominant animal on the planet.

            The Cognitive Revolution happened to Homo sapiens between 70,000 and 30,000 years ago. According to Yuval Noah Harari’s book Sapiens, A Brief History of Humankind, it was in this stage of our evolution that Homo sapiens developed the ability to share stories about things that were less immediate and less concrete. It was during this period that we developed an imagination that went beyond time and space, it was our time as a species that we moved from the concrete to the conceptual.

            Now I know that 70,000-30,000 years ago doesn’t seem that long ago when you consider the history of Homo sapiens is about 200,000 years long. Before that we collectively acted much as the other two major humanoid groups, Homo erectus and homo Neanderthals. We existed in groups of no more than 150, like the other humans, until this Cognitive Revolution. Afterwards, with our minds capable of more, we became capable of more.

            We created stories. Stories of events in the past, certainly.  Stories of potential futures and stories of things that could never have been.

            Stories that helped us to explore the meaning of life and death.

            The origin of religious beliefs probably begins in the stories that deal with life and death. 

We humans wrote and repeated these tales, and refined and edited these tales, as we struggled to work out the meaning of life.

            Anchored in our own common humanity, and in our own incomplete knowledge of the universe, our ancient ancestors used this new power of narrative to explore the question “Why am I here?”

            We, too, wrestle with these existential questions. We, too, have incomplete knowledge of the universe.

Just like the people who put their hand on the wall in the Cueva de los Manos, located in present day Argentina (pictured above), we, too, are a people of story.  These humans put their hands on these walls during the Paleolithic Period, and yet their impulse to create and tell story is as close to us today as the next heartbeat.

Yours, in faith,

Rev. Joe