Bushmen and Bone Readers

A gentle cleaning for the scorpion

(Greg) In a single morning in Botswana I was reminded of how different human lives can be, first by five San Bushmen and second by an old man in a little village called Gweta.

The Bushmen wandered Southern Africa long before all the tribes came down from the North. They are the nomadic hunters and gatherers made famous by the film “The Gods Must Be Crazy.” We were privileged to walk with them as they showed us how they make so much from so little: fire from sticks and zebra dung, water from digging a tuber root, and entertainment from simple fireside games. They walk at a slow pace but with intense awareness of their surroundings; smelling the air, examining tracks, peering through branches at distant game. Perhaps most notable was the fact that they carefully return everything to its natural state after touching it. They even dug a new hole for the scorpion they uncovered to show us, carefully placing it back in its new home. Though they carry only spears, arrows and a digging stick, they are armed with everything they have needed for a productive life in harmony with nature for millennia.

Our visit to the old man bone reader highlighted our differences in even more stark contrast. He was rumored to be over 90, sitting in the shade of a broken old fence, willing to give audience to visitors if they showed the proper respect.

We spoke about his days as a hunting guide and how things have changed since the 1930’s. Then I was asked to throw the bones so that he could read them and provide answers to any question I asked. I wanted to know if he saw good health in my future, so I wet the dirt in front of him with water, cradled the bones, shook them gently and threw them – like dice – on the ground. He stared at the bones making ominous hmmmphs and huffffs. I glanced up. Smiled. More hmmmmphs and huffffs. Finally his interpretation was offered and translated by our guide: “The old man says you are fortunate. Everything is perfect. You are a big man and have all you desire.” I was satisfied. But then the old man kept talking, “he wants to know if you have crops, but he really wants to know why you are travelling, you have all you need.” I humbly explained we grow some flowers at home but then admitted that I did not understand why he was surprised about our travels. Our guide explained,: “you see, for us, when we are happy and wealthy we are at home. Travel is only for when we need something, like food or supplies. The old man is confused. The bones say you have all you need, yet you still travel.”

We thanked the old man and took our leave, ever more appreciative of the bounty we have and the way we have chosen to use it.

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2 Responses to “Bushmen and Bone Readers”

  1. “you have all you need…” no kidding, right? and that you’ll just pad it many times over this year…You are a truly blessed Czech 🙂

  2. I am sure scorpion tastes just like a hot pocket. Miss you guys and our annual narly fall sailing trip with the CCC boys