James JosephWriting can be difficult and it can be fun. Here, I can write about anything that comes to mind, modern or ancient. I hope you'll join in with your comments.

May 22, 2009

Addicted to Fire

It’s often said that the difference between humans and all other creatures on earth is the ability to reason. But there’s another unique trait of human beings that’s common to no other creature. Humans are constantly burning something.

It’s not new. This has been going on for hundreds of thousands of years. Even our distant cousins, the Neanderthals, constantly kept the homefires burning. We use it to cook, because raw meat and stored food can make us very ill, or even become poisonous. We use it for heat because we don’t have enough hair to protect ourselves from extreme temperature changes. Later, we used fire for hardening wooden spearpoints, funerals, punishment, pottery, metallurgy, warfare, agriculture, and an endless stream of useful or defensive/offensive purposes. We’ve been using fire for so long, that we can no longer live without it, or some end result of burning.

You may or may not have read the introduction to Shadow of the Serpent. The main idea is that while progress can strengthen the whole, it also weakens the individual. There is no way back to our natural roots to which humans would willfully submit. The only thing that would turn humans back to living naturally would be a catastrophic global event. But that would most likely exterminate the human race. So, there really is no going back. We can no longer survive without the progressive evolution of our technology.

To make it clear, we would not survive without any tools, clothing, fire or energy sources and medicines. But let’s just focus on the need to burn. Could we even imagine another species constantly burning both organic and inorganic materials? And could we imagine another species that’s so dependent upon burning that they’d disappear if they stopped? I think it would be pretty scary to have another species on this planet that burns and transforms vast areas on both land and sea, puts itself above every other life form, and irradicates competitors without question. Of course, we do have competing subspecies (cultures) that accomplish a similar effect. 

But, we are changing. We’re now looking at new ways to create energy and replace the need for burning with alternatives. Is this a natural evolution? Taken from that perspective, humans are really quite odd compared to the rest of the creatures on our planet. We are an extreme on the planet called Earth. But, no matter how you look at it, we are in fact completely natural. We evolved through many different landscapes, and even waterscapes. There is nothing we use, invent or consume that does not originate or has not been derived from our natural environment. Humans are a very unique example of diversity within the natural realm.


2 Comments

  1. Are human beings pyrophytic?

    Comment by Gary — June 22, 2009 @ 9:13 pm

  2. LOL! Good one. For some plant species like the Sequoia, fire not only releases the seeds, but it clears the underbrush, curbing competitive plants.

    I think with humans it most likely started as a means to survive in environments beyond our natural capacity. From there, it evolved into an almost necessary part of survival in everyday life. I say “almost” because I think some humans would survive without fire or any artificial source of energy. Maybe not.

    As far as being pyrophytic, that may technically apply exclusively to plantlife. Although, there have been many times I’ve sat around the campfire, staring into the flames in a vegetative state.

    Comment by Jim — June 23, 2009 @ 10:09 am

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