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Fire As Technology And Influence On Society

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Fire and Me: A Growing Experience

Throughout human history, people have made discoveries and innovations which made their lives easier and more efficient. Many of these creations have advanced our culture, while others have paved the way for future advancements and inspired new ways of thought. One example of this is the discovery of fire, which revolutionized the way humans act and think. Fire has a unique connection to humans, evolving alongside humanity, each growing in ways that wouldn't have been possible without the other.

We can only speculate as to how humans began to control fire, yet it can safely be assumed that humans are not the only species able to work with fire. Chimpanzees have been taught to light cigarettes, and orangutans have been observed maneuvering sticks, which they caught on fire, for a short time before the fire burned out (Goudsblom 25). The interesting thing; however, is that fire is universally used by humans (Goudsblom 20). Human cultures which have never had interactions with other human societies have developed control over fire. By control of fire, it is meant that a culture is able to consistently manipulate fire, keeping a fire burning for extended periods of time. This shows humans who have been isolated from all other cultures have learned to control fire themselves, rather than this control of fire being taught to them from an outside source, such as a separate culture which has already harnessed fire. This would imply a natural connection between humans and fire as all humans can control fire, and no other species other than humans have been successful in consistently using fire.

Why did primitive man harness fire? At first glance, fire appears to have few natural advantages, and yet has many potentially harmful effects. Fire is destructive, devastating anything which comes across its path. This devastation is irreversible as once something is burned it cannot be returned to its unburned state (Goudsblom Intro). These characteristics are far from attractive, and yet humans, rather than fearing fire, came to adopt it. The adoption of fire could be attributed to several factors which occur during a natural fire. First, game can easily be seen fleeing a fire since the underbrush has been burned away, and some animals can be found killed and cooked by the fire. After a fire has died, warmth can still be found in the embers of the blaze (Goudsblom 14). These rewards of fire could make hominids wish to harness the capabilities of fire so that they could receive these benefits whenever they so desired. Once fire has been domesticated, the hominid's life would receive advancements that they had never known before the discovery of fire. Fire allows its users to stay warm and cook their food, along with the ability to continue working further into the night (Goudsblom 37). The first two, warmth and cooking, are far different from using fire as light as they are more comfort oriented, which is one of the main themes of humanity.

Humans enjoy the unnecessary, and it could even be said that our love of the superfluous is a defining characteristic of humans (Bachelard 16). Another animal would say that fire is unnecessary, and therefore too much trouble to use; however, humans see the ways in which fire will make their lives more enjoyable (Bachelard 16). This not only sets humans apart from the rest of the animal kingdom, but also binds humans to fire, for they are the only species that is willing to put forth the necessary effort into learning to control fire. However, using fire as a source of light allowed for humans to grow mentally. The lighting capability of fire allowed for the exploration of the night, as well as the exploration of the mind, given that the day no longer ended with sunset (Goudsblom 38). Before humans began to control fire, they had to set their days according to the sun, as when it was up, they had light and could hunt and fish and work, and once it set, they could see poorly, and their activities were limited to what could be done without light (Goudsblom 39). However, once humans began to use fire they were no longer controlled by the sun, but instead were controlled by themselves and their own ability to create light. Man could now keep a fire burning, and when night came, could continue to do the things he could not finish during the day. With this additional time in which man was awake, humans no longer had to spend each waking moment working towards survival, and could now begin to develop a more socially complex society. This can be seen because in order to keep a fire burning, individuals must understand what they are doing, such as fetching sticks to go on the fire, and the foresight to know some one must watch the fire to keep it from dying (Goudsblom 18). This advancement in human culture might never have taken place had it not been required for tending fire.

The necessity of keeping a fire burning rather than allowing it to die would have continued for many years; however, at some time humans learned to create fire on their own. Gaston Bachelard, a Frenchman who studied the relationship between human thoughts and fire, feels the answer to how humans learned to create fire can be seen in one of humanities greatest locations of pleasure, sex (Bachelard 35). Many ancient cultures describe the origin of fire in a very sexual manner, and the cultures that do not describe fire in a sexual way still create fire in ways which appear sexual (Bachelard 38). This link between sexuality and fire can still be seen today when an attractive person is called "hot." Yet it is unimportant as to how hominids learned to create fire when compared with the benefits of the capability to recreate fire once it has burned out. When humans learned to create fire, fire changed as well, from something which was created by nature and kept alive by man into something which could be created by man and used to change nature.

As time progressed, fire continued to remain an intricate part of human life. Fire began to be used in more advanced ways, ranging from creating pottery, to forming metals, and onto using fire as a weapon. These new uses of fire allowed it to work its way so far into human culture and ways of thought that it even began to play an important role in our religion and philosophies. The Rig Veda of the Hindu religion is possibly the oldest religious script ever recorded (Robinson). In this document, fire is consistently used and referred to. Fire was crucial in Hindu ritual, in which fire allowed the animal of sacrifice to unite with the gods. Fire was made into a device which would connect man to the gods, and allow the gods to reach down to man through the priests. The connection is made through Agni, a god who manifests himself in the sacrificial fire, and proceeds to administer



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