It would be hard to get excited about the pile of rocks near Salisbury, UK if I hadn’t encountered so much hype about them ahead of time. Not to say that I regret going to Stonehenge. That’s not it. But rather just that it surprises me that people take the rock circle as seriously as they do when it’s a proven fact that no one really knows why they’re there. The vote is still out on the real reason why the rocks were arranged as they have been in the English countryside and I would venture that almost everyone standing with us on the paved walkways leading up to the viewing spot (near, not inside the rock circle) in the middle of November 2014 had a different reason for believing that Stonehenge was a worthwhile destination.
I’ve watched my fair share of documentaries about Stonehenge and there are certain theories that appeal to my tastes particularly. I especially like the idea of ley lines and geographical locations such a Stonehenge that are naturally imbibed with a lot of spiritual power. And I like the idea that the stones served some spiritual/magical purpose for the people who arranged them. But liking these ideas and believing in them without question are two different things. I pride myself on realizing the absurdity of some of the things I like to believe.
Standing in the big crowds about 30 meters from all the action (the rocks) made me reminisce about
the experience of having general admission tickets to an alternative rock concert in the 90’s. People stood together, shoulder-to-shoulder in a roped-off area shoving past each other to get nearer to the action (not unlike a mosh-pit really). Only there was no action. And no stage. Just rocks. And since I’m not an archeologist, but rather just a regular citizen who watches a lot of documentaries on Netflix and Hulu, I could see for myself that the only thing that was obvious about the rocks was that the grass surrounding them was very green and the sky very rainy.
As I stood on the pavement, 30 yards from the rocks, people bumping into me and sliding past me in the rain, I regretted watching all those documentaries because as a result of having heard all the speculation by “experts” on Stonehenge, I didn’t get to imagine the possibilities of the rocks for myself. The allure of Stonehenge comes from its mystery; the fact that no one really knows why its there. Once the mystery is solved definitively (if that ever happens) even the experts won’t be interested anymore.
I have a lot of respect for my own silly and absurd beliefs. I protect them carefully because I know that if people knew about them, they’d try to destroy them. But the silly and absurd things that I believe are my own personal windows into the mystery of the world. They’re my looking glass into the Great Unknown where no one and everyone has all the answers.
Stonehenge is a place for people to project beliefs and play with them. It’s a place to wonder with an open-mind.
For tourists who expect for Stonehenge to be a life-changing “spiritual” experience, I would say that the overall effect of standing 30 yards away from some big rocks in a field could be summed up in one word…Underwhelming. The experience wasn’t exactly boring, but just surprisingly inert. Completely bereft of emotional content except that I couldn’t help but think that the kids on the field trips were cute.
But I’m still glad I went because I learned some things about myself in doing so. I discovered that just about any kid in the world is more interesting to me than a circle of rocks in a field. I realized that I expected to feel something profound or experience something profound in a place that’s probably only truly exciting to archeologists (most of them wouldn’t get excited about the psychological artifacts that I collect either). And I realized that I miss our cats at home.
So I still got something out of the experience of going to Stonehenge even though it wasn’t the experience that had been suggested in all those documentaries I’d watched on Netflix.
And we bought a really cool postcard at the Stonehenge gift shop to send to the kids at school back home in Nebraska.