As we were driving around Cornwall on our little holiday we had to stop the car to let a farmer go past with his sheep. I videoed them as they ran alongside us. The song in the background is 'Matchbox' by The Beatles, it happened to be playing on the CD player in my car.
I heard someone speaking recently about the oft repeated idea that people are hunters. It's pretty standard for people to talk of us in the long distant past as hunter gatherers. This chap, whose name escapes me, was talking about how he believes the evidence suggests that for the most part we were more gatherers than hunters. More of our time was concerned with being hunted than hunting. He then went on to talk about how our relationship with dogs (which began around 20,000 years ago according to him) is where our hunter status really comes from. Without them we'd have been stuck as mainly gatherer hunters with our prey being rats and insects.
In fact it's probably better to think of humans as just that: gatherer hunters. It seems that is what we have been for most of our time on this planet.
One of the things this chap said we'd notice in our culture if this kind of predominately preyed-upon mindset was truely the dominant part of our psychological make up would be the concept of sacrifice. If a group of animals is being chased by a Lion they will soon learn that you only have to be able to outrun the slowest of your number to live another day. Hence, it's not an unusual sight to see a Lion devouring its prey as other members of the herd walk about nearby. They know they're not going to be eaten, the Lion has what it wants. One of their number has been 'sacrificed' for the greater good. You see this on nature documentaries all the time.
So, what we're looking for is the concept of sacrifice in our culture today. Sacrifice required to appease an angry and hungry powerful being which once fed will leave us to our own devices for a bit... ring any bells?
Ever since I tried this new reality tunnel on for size it has proved useful. Seeing myself and fellow members of humanity as part of a gatherer hunter community makes more sense, even if it feeds our egos slightly less. For better or worse, we're more sheep than shepherds.