“Prometheus, teacher in every art, brought the fire that hath proved to mortals a means to mighty ends”
No one’s entirely sure when or where man first tamed the flame, but it changed everything. It changed the way we eat and made the appendix a vestigial organ. Fire helped to forge the human race and was the first evolutionary blending of man and technology. Furthermore, the means and ends are natural even if undesirable.
Fire lit the ancient nights and kept predators away. Cooked meals gave us more time to fill since we spent less time digesting food and fighting food born pathogens. This legendary gift filled our caves with warmth and safety during cold nights. We used it to forge everything from weapons and armor to jewelry and home wares. It has in its many forms given us the ability to destroy nations and propel us to the stars. The nuclear fires burning 90 million miles away are themselves the source of all life on the planet.
With all that we can do and have done with fire it would seem only natural for us to shape our environment which in turn shapes the future generations. And now we can engineer our biology directly and fuse our bodies, and our very minds, with technology thus greatly augmenting our potency as individuals. We have built cities of glass and steel. We are changing the climate. We are literally terraforming our planet, but apparently for an extraterrestrial species that likes more extreme weather with higher temperatures and sea levels. They also don’t give a shit about polar bears. Is it any wonder- with nuclear weapons, climate change, napalm, firearms, ballistic missiles, jet fighters- why the gods were afraid what we would do with fire?
What should we do with fire? How should it be used? As long as we’re fighting each other we’re using it perfectly like the guy who invented the flamethrower.
However, violence is becoming more and more obsolete- it just has less power to get things done than it used to- yet the craving for aggression hasn’t waned. Sports like football and the plethora of video games where you can murder hookers or conquer civilizations are aplenty. Instead of actually going around indulging in every ragetastic thought, we sublimate our aggression into more productive means (like competing in business or one’s field) or at least something more societally acceptable like “Assassins Creed”.
Business and competition built Rockefeller Center and the plaza with the quote from above carved in stone behind a gilded statue of Prometheus. The city is just a jungle of man made mountains and electrical vines. People fill every social hierarchal niche in the concrete jungle just as they would in a primitive wilderness. Instead of getting a prime spot on the best tree or dibs on the best cave, masters of men occupy floors next to heaven and above the realm of traffic, crowds, and chaos. Despite as much social injustice it may cause, it’s only natural- but that’s no reason to expect something to be good for you: hemlock and wasps are natural too.
If that’s the case, that a social order based on competing merits and various forms of might create inequality, it is also true that these pressures force us to be industrious and drive productivity. Until a day comes when everyone is fed; when not one person has an insecurity to overcome; when no two men desire the same woman; when no two people apply for the same job; when there are no longer competing ideologies or political parties; and when our society and culture has evolved to a point where emotions of fear, hatred, and aggression have been bred out of us we may finally be free of conflict. But until we eliminate our biological drives of hunger, thirst, and sex or can satiate everyone- competition and thus winners, losers, haves and have-nots will exist.
Just as ecosystems have many niches so does human society. Some creatures eat plants, some get eaten, some bite into the flesh of other living creatures, and others live on or in the bodies of other organisms. Nature needs all kinds: parasites, symbioses, predators, prey, creatures that disguise and others that ambush. We have the homeless, the thieves, the welfare moochers, the corporate welfare moochers, the producers, the middle class workers, pan handlers, scientists, bakers, astronauts, soldiers, coffee tasters, filmographers, strippers, etc.
Fire changed what we are biologically and its captivity has supplanted our original natural environment for the new jungle. It may literally have been the spark that pushed us further down the path of bipedal intelligence.
The gods feared a human race endowed with the power of the flame. We have used it “to mighty ends.” We may one day use our technological gifts to create a singularity: a world where we have all merged with our technology and with each other. If we all experienced the hunger, suffering and pain of the world, resources would doubtlessly get where they need to be. Violence and aggression would be as vestigial as the appendix. The human body would be obsolete when we can upload consciousness into alternative container. What then would we do if we no longer need food and we had no thirst or lust for sex? Would it be blissful, or boring?
We can’t answer those questions yet. But homo sapiens, like australopithecus, homo Habilis and Erectus, are most likely transitional species paving the road for the next twisted change in evolution. The new jungle we occupy has its own selection pressures (and sexual selection pressures) that the modern man must overcome. In the meantime let’s stop feeling guilty about climate change and smog. We will survive rising oceans and intense hurricanes- not all of us- but the human race will continue in some form. You and I were born into this world and can not be held responsible for what our progenitors did. We can only be held accountable for happens onward. Let us build a better and more realistic future. Conflict and competition will still be around as they always have. Instead of using fire and its powers to destroy we must compete in a mode of creation. Violence and aggression still have their appropriate places and are at times necessary. Both creation and destruction are human abilities and we must all use each one appropriately to occupy, secure, and advance in our particular sociological hierarchical niches.
~David T. Kukulkan