In April, I received the news that Mincaye died. He was of the Auca Indian tribe in Ecuador.

Years ago, I watched him — a warrior from what anthropologists considered to be one of the most lethal tribes from any society known to man, push a toy car back and forth with my daughter (who this year graduates from Stuarts Draft).

He shared about the tribe’s good, bad and ugly ways. One interesting perspective was that due to legends of tribal annihilation, mayhem or plague that would result from outsiders infiltrating their ranks; they would always take the offensive. They lived in a constant “end of their world” fear.

All of us have now lived through several cycles of “end of our world” prophecies, predictions and scientifically supported claims. Mine began in the 1970s with “night of the living dead.” As I share with our students and my children — it’s really clear with these annual stumpers; keep it simple and follow the money when it comes to declarations of doom. Also super popular over the last decade have been movies that focus on annihilation, mayhem and plague. Why? Follow the money.

Looking to the past, we can draw from insights and experience that pay huge dividends in our present and future. After 2001 and 2008 respectively, there was about a three-year recovery period. At that point, adjustments to life were complete and the population emerged from bunkers and nuclear fallout shelters to once again enjoy the free sunshine and wonder of life. In the midst of 2020, perhaps one of the greatest topics might be a new or renewed faith, simple life enjoyment, enhanced emotional/physical health, the non-violent settling of disputes and spiritual development.

For more than 500 years the Iroquois have believed that lacrosse accomplished all of these. First, it was given by the Creator for his enjoyment. An activity in nature that connected all people to each other and their surroundings in a deeply personal and communal way. At times, entire tribes would participate in the games — hundreds of players of all ages and genders, what a sight this must have been.

Can you imagine for a minute yelling, “Pass me the ball grandma, I’m open!” And then she freezes an opponent in his tracks, changes direction on a dime and hits you with a spot on no-look pass? My 98-year-old grandmother stopped playing golf a few years ago, but is still very active — I see her delivering me that very pass. Who convinced us aging meant becoming feeble, inactive and out of touch? Follow the money.

Second, to those original upstate New York residents, it was more than a game. They believed this outdoor exercise and strategic team activity actually promoted physical and emotional health and healing. What we do know from piles of research is that isolation and associated fear can have a very negative effect on our emotional health. The emerging statistics and heartfelt pleas form the medical community also echo the current health crisis we’re experiencing; with thousands of instances where isolation and fear are the only culprits.

How could the Iroquois have known that action, connection and interaction are pivotal to overall health? They didn’t have modern medical or psychology journals. It’s been said, “some claiming to be wise, have presented themselves as fools.” Thus, knowledge comes from study, but wisdom comes from experience, which is why a reverence for age and history is so important, not a retiring, removing or setting aside of such.

Third, lacrosse was an activity that helped tribes to settle disputes before things escalated to injury, bloodshed and loss of life. Think about that for a minute. A simple game, a time of intentional connection, exchange and purpose having the ability to help people avoid war and its collateral damage to everyone. I admit, it sounds absurd. I also realize at times, I’ve made offense complex, but at the core, resolving a dispute can be simpler than some have made it.

Finally, the Iroquois believed spiritual development was equally as important and included; respect for nature, those in nature and those to be the stewards of nature. Even the Bible shares, “mankind was placed in the garden of Eden; to garden, tend and care for the earth.” Well, we see how that’s gone.

While Zoom meetings are convenient, popular and pretty productive, we’ve discovered how crucial contact, interaction and collective activity are to our quality of life.

Tipping my head humbly to the wisdom of both Mincaye and the Iroquois, may I propose that we consider exiting the paved superhighway of life and follow the well-worn path of the aged?

Let the games resume! (In proper sizes of course.)

Nicholas Mihailoff is a columnist for The News Virginian who writes about lacrosse.

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