Let’s hear it for civilization.

When Margaret Mead was asked what marked the first sign of civilization, people were surprised to hear her say a healed femur. They expected maybe ancient weaponry or farming equipment, inventions, communal housing, religious artifacts. But a healed femur shows community. A femur doesn’t heal itself but requires someone to assist in the setting of it. People helping people, and not simply abandoning the weak or injured:

Years ago, the anthropologist Margaret Mead was asked by a student what she considered to be the first sign of civilization in a culture. The student expected Mead to talk about clay pots, tools for hunting, grinding-stones, or religious artifacts. But no. Mead said that the first evidence of civilization was a 15,000 years old fractured femur found in an archaeological site. A femur is the longest bone in the body, linking hip to knee. In societies without the benefits of modern medicine, it takes about six weeks of rest for a fractured femur to heal. This particular bone had been broken and had healed. Mead explained that in the animal kingdom, if you break your leg, you die. You cannot run from danger, you cannot drink or hunt for food. Wounded in this way, you are meat for your predators. No creature survives a broken leg long enough for the bone to heal. You are eaten first. A broken femur that has healed is evidence that another person has taken time to stay with the fallen, has bound up the wound, has carried the person to safety and has tended them through recovery. A healed femur indicates that someone has helped a fellow human, rather than abandoning them to save their own life.

Remy Bloomingfeld, in Forbes Magazine: “How a 15,000 Year-Old Bone Could Help You Through the Coronavirus.”

And we have seen this as we go through this coronavirus. People helping people, not abandoning the sick or weak, but working together to protect them. But how can those of us at home due to immunocompromise or other factors reach out and help? How can we, too, make a difference? Remy Bloomingfeld suggests practicing lovingkindness:

“Close your eyes and lay down, inhaling and exhaling deeply and slowly.

Once you’ve regulated your breathing to long slow breaths, focus your energy on the beating of your heart.

Random thoughts may enter your mind, but send them away. 

Focus on the beating of your heart, and give thanks for the wonderful job it does of keeping you alive, without you even being aware of it.

Now, imagine the energy coming from your heart as the energy of love, bringing sustenance and peace to all beings.

Give that energy a color that most represents love, for you.

Now imagine your love filling the whole of your body, from your toes to your heels, to your ankles to your knees. Right up your legs. In the center of your stomach, to the top of your chest, your shoulders, your arms and your fingers. Feel the colorful energy filling your head.

And now imagine that energy of love moving out from your body to fill the whole room.

Now, it’s filling the whole of your home. Every person, every animal, plant and insect under your roof.

Imagine the colorful energy of love filling your whole neighborhood. Every living being in your neighborhood is being filled with your love.

The love from your heart is spreading to everyone in your community.

And now, it’s spreading to the whole country, bringing love, sustenance and peace to all beings.

Focus back on your breathing and imagine the powerful love from your heart spreading out over every country to every living thing in the world.”

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