STONE AGE CONFIDENTIAL: TO F.I.R.E. OR NOT TO F.I.R.E.
Two ancient clay tablets were recently found deep within a cave in Anatolia. One tablet has been carbon dated to approximately 50,000 years old. Its writing pre-dates all previously known languages. However, accompanying this tablet was another clay tablet, one that contains writing in a primitive Sumerian cuneiform, and appears to translate the first one.
MEMO: from Og to elders
SUBJECT: Should the experimental discovery called "fire" be continued?
DATE: 50,000 B.C.E., Monday.
F.I.R.E. is an acronym I invented for Fuel Ignited to Radiate Energy. This substance has been known to occur in nature, apparently the product of lightning strikes in forests. It has caused untold devastation to the ecosystem as well as documented harm to human and animal populations. As harmful as this substance has been, it has been argued by many that it would be worthwhile to control “fire.”
Recently breakthroughs in science have led to the ability to create fires and to control them. Proponents have claimed beneficial uses of this discovery. Its properties: vast quantities of heat and light — are keys to the benefits as well as risks.
Heat means protection from the perpetually icy climate we are currently experiencing. Putting meat into the flames seems to help some digest their food, especially those with poor teeth, such as our elderly population — i.e., those who have lived past thirty years.
Predatory animals seem to avoid fires, especially at night when they might be tempted to prowl near our caves. The light from the fires also extends the time of day into night and enhances the storytelling that gatherings near community and family fires seem to encourage.
Some have experimented with fire with mixed results. One recent report claimed that a stone that was inserted into a fire began to melt. When the fire cooled, a substance that was harder than the stone appeared.
A young man struck this material with a stone. “Points of hot lights” emanated from it that caused another fire to begin.
A girl claimed that she pounded this material with a stone and sharpened its edge to a point that was stronger than a stone or bone spear point.
However, the dangers of fire have become apparent and alarming. The substance produces a by-product that has come to be called “smoke.” Inside the cave, it causes burning of the eyes, choking, deposits on the cave ceilings of a black coloration and distasteful smell.
Injuries from mismanagement of fires have been frequent, ranging from blistered fingers to singed hairs and fur pelts to deaths from the mere presence of the fire, when it seems that it eats all the breathable air and caves are left with just deadly smoke.
Proponents of this invention argue that progress demands acceptance of new discoveries. Survival of our species depends on it, especially in these hard times. They argue that we must learn to control nature, to conquer it.
This raises a basic philosophical debate.
Should we try to control nature or learn to adapt to it?
On one side are our traditional storytellers, who believe in and fear the spirits who created everything and provide order.
On the other side are those who insist that curiosity must be encouraged, and that progress and our very survival depends on it.
This subject needs further study. The council of elders should assign the problem to a committee to set a policy.
The committee should answer the following questions:
1. Should further experiments into the usages of fire be banned, controlled, or permitted to proceed without regulation?
2. Should shamans be allowed to begin using the fire in religious rituals, such as sacrifices that some have claimed will appease the glacier entity?
3. Should these decisions be made by the council of elders, or should it be put to a vote of the whole community?
Inscribed on tablet by Meg.