A Fun and Fascinating Tour of Our Kind and Our Planet
By: J. Marlando
We are a fascinating species in spite of our consistent inconsistencies our hyper hypocrisies; our pompous prejudices and our idiosyncrasies. For example, there have been thousands of UFO sightings but the majority of people doubt that there are actually UFOs while no one has ever seen an angel (that we know of) but just about everyone believes in them. And speaking of religion—the Big-3—Judaism, Christianity and Islam—all trace their histories back to the same source, Abraham, but have been (dangerously) opposed to one another throughout history. How weird is that?
Speaking of religions, in Christianity alone there are at least 33,000 denominations with Catholicism, Lutheran, Baptist, Mormon and Jehovah Witness being the most well-known. Well, as someone once said, holy smoke!
And speaking of moralists, in 1920 America went legally dry. That is the country outlawed liquor. Indeed, by the 16th of that year all saloons, bars and liquor stores closed. The lawmakers and teetotalers celebrated the sudden victory over vice. However, on the following day—on the 17th of January—bootlegging began and speakeasies began opening their doors. In fact, before Prohibition there were 15,000 bars in New York City. After Prohibition 32,000 speakeasies were doing business day and night. Al Capone, Chicago’s most infamous crime boss, pulled in $60 million a year thanks to the lawmakers creating a nation of lawbreakers. Makes you think, doesn’t it…hmmm, well it should!
When we think about our humanism and Darwin’s theory of evolution, which remains theory by the way, we are amazed at the progress we have made since leaving our “ape-ness.” Remember this fellow might well have been your cousin in ancient times:
In any case, we are awed by the invention of the wheel which no doubt came from our kind’s the earliest concept of the rolling stones--nothing to do with Mick-Jaggerism of course: But the point is that our inventiveness goes back over 2,500,000 years ago. That’s right, back in 1969 hand tools dating back that long ago were found in Kenya. But before we feel too uppity about that, gorillas in the wild will even use walking sticks as canes when needed. Is that tool-ism or what?
I frankly doubt Darwinism because Chimps, who we are nearly the same as genetically, at the DNA level (we share 98% of the same genes), have never produced a rock star or politician.
My question is, does the fossil record really support Darwin’s theory but then again, what do I know?
Speaking of monkeys, people and tools, it is well known the chimps are honey eaters just like most of we humans are. What is interesting is that a chimp from one “culture” of chimps will collect honey quite differently than a chimp born and raised in another culture of chimps... That is, chimps from different parts of Africa have their own particular style of tool technology. And so, when it comes to honey, chimps from one society will collect honey using sticks while chips from another society will use leaf tools. The implications of this are staggering as it implies a cultural differences in the animal world just as we people have cultural differences.
In terms of different cultures on our planet it is well known that bands of chimpanzees will attack and kill individuals from neighboring groups in order to expand their territory. Now is this human or what?
Nearly all the wars in our human history, from the advent of so-called civilization, has been in the cause of expansionism—not ideology, not philosophy or not even because of religious differences but instead human beings have been murdering and torturing other human beings for nothing other than expanding territories just like the chimps are known to do! The difference is that we humans have almost always done this in the guises of ideology, philosophy and/or religion. Hmmm, as I think about it, maybe old Darwin was right after all? In any case, I doubt if chimp leaders justify their greed as our demagogues do but since we don’t speak chimp we cannot know this for certain.
Anyway, honey is certainly a food stuff that has belonged high on the menu for thousands of years. Here’s a rock painting showing a beehive being robbed around 7,000 years ago:
Yes, before farming arrived in ancient Europe. And we know that actual beekeeping began in Egypt at least 2,500 years ago. Indeed, the Egyptians thought honey was so good that they offered massive amounts of it to their gods.
Later, when the Roman Empire was expanding into a world power, one of its common toasts and well wishes was to say, “May honey drip on you.”
Speaking of ancient Romans, by around 95 B.C., they began building fish farms for themselves, probably learning how from the Egyptians. One wealthy man, Licinius Murena, known as the actual inventor or innovator of the fish farm had a channel built from the ocean that slaves actually had to cut through a mountain so the sea would pour into his pond. Later, Romans who had land near the sea could easily build channels to fill their own ponds and, as was said, fish from the comforts of their own couches even when the most vicious storms at sea were occurring.
Mark Anthony’s daughter and mother of the emperor Claudius (41-54 A.D.) kept a favorite lamprey (a kind fish-like eel) in her pond who she adorned with golden earrings. It is said that many Romans refused to eat their own fish as they loved them as pets and would instead buy their fish in markets. Back then the poor would whisper that the wealthy treated their fish better than there slaves. And, in many instances, that was true.
As far as we know, there are only two species on the planet that actually enslave their own kind and force them into labor. That would be us…and ants:
In any case, returning to the topic of advancing tools while we do not know exactly when our kind began using fire we do know that “we” were using fire to make tools some 50,000 years ago. That’s pretty impressive since someone had to discover a way of hitting flint stones together or rubbing sticks to start a blaze where they wanted it. After all, the biggest challenges of using fire for heating or some other purpose had always been how to light it. And so lighting a fire was the real challenge. Well, in Europe around 1500 or so B.C. some entrepreneur created a fire-lighting-kit. Are we people inventive or are we people inventive…we people are inventive! Anyway, the kit was made up of a “strike-a-light” flint tool, some pyrites for striking and dry moss to catch fire. The Chinese figured it all around 500 A.D. and called “a light bringing slave” but, soon enough, when it began to be sold commercially the name was changed to “fire-inch stick.” When the term “match” came about we cannot know for sure but the word “match” is derived from Old French “meche” which referred to the wick of a candle. However, it wasn’t until “friction matches” (as we use today) came along that the stick or stiff cardboard shafted match was called a match.
Speaking of getting fired up, one of the great challenges to human genius was toilet hygiene. For one thing in Rome’s public lavatories, a small sponge on the end of a stick was used for “cleaning” after going to the bathroom. After the stick was rinsed in water and left—no pun intended—behind…for the next person to use. Also for a great many centuries moss and hay was used. But then—leave it to the Chinese—toilet paper was invented. This was around 590 A.D. and five years later, the bureau of Imperial Supplies was turning out over 700,000 sheets a year—at the time the sheets measured around 2’ X 2’ but those were for the imperial court. They also made an additional 15,000 sheets which were only 3” X 3” (around the size of toilet paper sheets today) and perfumed mind you for the imperial family only.
Both public and private (sit down toilets) were in use for thousands of years before the Chinese got on a roll with paper. It is thought that stone toilets were built at least around 2500 B.C. And a thousand years later, however, some of the most hygienic toilets were built by the Minoan civilization of Crete. An archaeologist found a toilet, connected to a drain that led to the main sewer which flowed beneath the palace.
A public toilet in ancient Rome.
Can you imagine how cold that seat would be in the winter time?
As the reader can see the road has been extremely long in developing so-called civilization and just how innovative we’ve been all along our way. And so, skipping a couple of thousand years and while it would take volumes of books to cover all our innovations and advancements, I will mention a few that I’m especially impressed by like, well, miniskirts for example or, how about chocolate? Who discovered the cacao plant edible in the first place? Well, the moneys beat us to it (one more time) as they were first to discover the taste of chocolate.
No one knows when our ancient South American relatives figured out how to use the cacao bean but finally the natives created a mixture called, “Cacao chica” which evidentially became quite popular. Then in around 1200 B.C. an ancient tribe from the tropics of South Central Mexico actually began to domesticate the plant but the first (real) lovers of chocolate were the Mayans/ Starting in about 900 A.D. cacao was used in Mayan ceremonies and even given as gifts. In fact, they even buried some of the dead with little bowls of cacao.
Finally when the Aztecs came around, chocolate was reserved for the rich only and by the 16th century, they were even using chocolate as a form of currency.
Today, we gobble it up as if money grows on trees—well, it did for Aztecs didn’t it?
Another great idea that was passed down to us from ancient times is football. Most historians agree that modern football began with an ancient Greek game called, “harpaston.” Points were gained when players crossed a goal line by kicking the ball, running with it across the goal or throwing it to another player already across the goal line. Sound familiar?
As most ancient Greek sports, the game was probably played naked by the participating men but in this case, harpaston was such a rough and tumble sport the, most basically, the rule was that there were no rules.
It is said that modern football actually began in England but became so popular that the king made it against the law because it was taking away the people’s interest from fencing and archery.
Perhaps that’s why it has done so well in America—we never had a king, wanted a king or would have put up with a king. As it is, we, the people, can barely stand the politicos that we have in any case.
And speaking of America, these days we are pretty outraged at the high cost of gasoline we’re paying with the awareness that it ain’t gonna get no better. And so, as the car companies keep manufacturing gas and oil dependent automobiles and trucks they keep telling us that they are working diligently to find some alternative fuel.
I don’t know about you, dear reader, but it seems to me that a people that can land rockets on the moon, create artificial intelligence and Viagra could figure a way to fuel an automobile without using primitive oil products. Well, the truth of course is that there is a way—as some are claiming,, any car that has a piston engine can run on air. The Japanese have already built such an engine and, as I am told, so have some other people using their technology. Air is cleaner, no exhaust fumes and…cheeeeeeaper. A lot cheaper!
But whoa…do you think for one moment that the big boys making millions and billions in gasoline and oil are going to stand by and permit a new, fresh industry take away their market—not on your life and you can bet if someone tries government will find a convenient reason to outlaw it—and this reminds me of the possibilities of building great electric cars. It strikes me as strange that this “new: idea for energizing vehicles is just never quite enough to actually popularize a transition from gas and oil to electricity. It isn’t like we never had electric cars before—in the earlier years of the last century there were a number of electric cars on the roads.
In fact, one of the best selling cars back then was the Columbus runabout. Which reminds me—prior to Henry Ford creating his assembly line which basically closed down the electric car business, his wife drove a Detroit Electric which could go 80 miles WITHOUT a charge. I capitalize “WITHOUT” because nearly a hundred years later, our master minds of the car industry CLAIM they cannot get an electric car to run more than 100 miles, if that, without a recharge. Does anyone smell a politicalized juggling act here or is it just me? Can you actually imagine the oil company’s response if, say, someone said, okay here’s a car battery that’ll take a charge that will last 500 miles and a quick recharging packet? Hmmm, yes, as I rethink it, Darwin was right in at least many ways. Think about it!
And speaking of “thinking about it,” I like thinking about the ladies,” When nylon was first used, it was used for fishing line, and surgical sutures and made by DuPont who said, the material was “strong as steel and fine as a spiders web.”
In 1939, they began making nylon stockings for ladies. Incidentally, the history of silk stocking actually goes back to the 16th century and was the major reason important raw silk was so popular in jolly, old England. Women believed that silk stocking added a luxury to their middle-class-ness and this belief continued into the 20th century. Marylyn Monroe’s silk stockings are preserved even to this day and are of extreme value.
Silky stocking were out, however, during the war years because nylon was used to make parachutes and tents. Nylon is still popular to this day! But then, in 1959, pantyhose was introduced into the market—an invention by Allen Gant, that combined underpants with stocking. This invention became the vital link to my favorite invention and that would be, as said before…the mini skirt!
The miniskirt was extremely popular in the mid-1960s into the 70s and is still popular with me as we enter further into the second decade of the 21st century. In fact, I call the mini skirt the major innovation of the 20th century and, as far as I am concerned it absolutely is far more impressive than the popup beer can or the moon landing. And, so, I will always be grateful to pantyhose for making it all possible.
You know when we stop to think about it, we’ve come a long way in only a couple of hundred thousand years—I mean we’ve gone from the prehistoric mini brain, so to speak, to the mini skirt and that’s progress! And speaking of progress are you aware that our kind was doing brain surgery at least four thousand or so years ago.
Yes, that’s right, even today’s egocentric scientists are forced to admit by the evidence that our kind were performing brain surgeries going back into prehistoric times. This is true from many parts of the world too as trepanned skulls have been found in the graves of all major civilizations. Only Egypt is excluded because it was against their religion to “tamper” with the human body as long as it was alive.
In any case, removing a part of the skull and going into the brain was common in prehistoric times to remove parasites, cure chronic headaches and no one is sure about what else. But, after the advent of so-called civilization a surgical kit for brain surgery (trepanning) was found made of bronze. In China’s history trepanning is known to be used to remove worms from the brain and even to cure some blindness. During the Middle Age Catholic monks used the techniques to cure serious skull fractures and other battle wounds to the head. Incidentally, even modern day trepanning (which is extremely rare in our times) is still done without an anesthetic.
When we think back throughout our incredible prehistory and recorded history the old saying that tells us that “there is nothing new under the sun” forever rings true. Indeed, in the port of Ostia in ancient Rome there was what amounted to a “fast food” place on the ground floor of a large apartment complex. Was the phenomenon of McDonald’s splashing about the human unconscious some 2000 years ago?
Refrigeration, by the way, began with folks shoving whatever they wanted to keep cold into streams or snow banks. Then, with the innovation of the icebox, ice harvesting began. Indeed, the Chinese were creating blocks of ice by 1,000 B.C. but cutting big blocks of ice from frozen lakes occurred in America as well.
Those blocks were wagoned to an icehouse to be sold. Icemen, that is ice delivery to homes, did not end until the very early 1950s as poor people still used iceboxes long after the invention of the refrigerator. Long term food preservation, however, most commonly involved salting, smoking or sun drying. Today, we have preservatives that “they” stick into our food. Indeed, according to some reports the American public is made subject to at least 3,000 food additives many that are known to cause cancer, gall bladder problems and other ailments. Now that’s something to think about, eh?
Well, enough thinking about human genius, hopefully I made my point which had something to do with Darwinism. It’ll come to me in a moment! In the meantime, what about our very unique planet? In earlier civilization it was thought by the church and therefore our kind that the earth was the center of the universe and therefore the center of God’s divine plan. Then in 1543 Copernicus awakened from the historic stupor and suggested that the earth circled around the sun which mean…whoops, we were not the center of God’s divine work. 90years later Galileo was arrested for teaching the Copernican system. Nevertheless, in 1687 a fellow by the name of Isaac Newton established a new mechanical view of the universe. That is to say the idea that stuff like gravitation and momentum worked naturally and so automatically to keep the world turning. Then in 1859, Charles Darwin gave us “The Origin of Species” which was never really about the origin of any living organism but, with the aside, he told us that species evolve and that change is driven by variation in offspring in a constant battle for survival. Then, in 1871 Darwin published, “The Descent of Man” in which he undermined the Biblical doctrine that we humans are divine creatures and told us that we evolved from apes. Well, we have to give him credit. That was still a dangerous time to suggest such a thing but, let’s face, Darwin did not monkey around.
Anyway, staying with our trek through our kind’s mental history, in 1948, a fellow by the name of George Gamow coined the term “big bang” proceeded to tell us that the universe began in a primeval explosion which, theoretically pushed God even further out of the creation business. However, on the other hand, there is still the question of who stuck in the fuse and ignited it to cause the explosion that was destined to support billions of galaxies, Victoria’s Secret and Disneyland. These days science is basically divided between those who are reductionists and barely believe in their own existence and those whom conclude that behind our universe is mind and purpose. (I like that view and agree with it!)
Anyway, our tiny speck in the universe is 92,955,900 miles from the sun and it is now known it takes us a year to circle it. And that reminds me, you might find it interesting to know that around 280 million years ago a year was 390 days long. Yes, that’s right the rotation speed of the earth varies. In fact, since around 1900, the Earth’s rotation has been slowing down at about 1.7 seconds per year.
And this reminds me—speaking of our incredible human history, do you know who made the longest golf shot ever? It was made by Alan Shepard Jr., the commander of Apollo 11. He took a six iron and sent a golf ball flying for miles. Well, yes, he was on the moon at the time but it was still a heck of a shot!
Living on earth is of course not all fun and games though. Today we have a number of concerns when it comes to our place in the sun. The last time ice was measured on Antarctica the thickest layer was 15,700 feet in depth—that’s taller than one of the tallest buildings on Earth. The average thickness though is a mere 7,100 feet deep. Nevertheless, lots of folks these days are concerned about global warming. After all, if all the ice melted, the oceans would raise around 180 feet and that would cancel most of our plans for the day. Oh yes, if you are curious about 10% of our planet land is glaciated or, in other words, covered with ice. And of course you will know that there was that unimaginable Ice Age that began some 2 million years ago and lasted until 11,000 years ago. During that time all of Canada was in ice and most of the United States was too. That included much of our Middle West. In fact, the rich and wonderful soil of our Middle West is of glacial origin.
When we stop and think about it, we are a pretty amazing people on a darned amazing planet in a totally amazing galaxy in an extraordinary amazing universe…now how amazing is that?
What isn’t so amazing is that our kind can be extremely selfish and cruel. For example, by the year 1989 ivory poachers murdered off one half (½) of Africa’s elephants. Today the rhino is becoming victim of the same greed. In 2010 at least 300 rhinoceroses and more than this in 2011 were murdered for their horns. But also, other slaughters of animals, birds and other living things are occurring worldwide by less obvious killing tactics. For example the Great Bear Rainforest where some trees are 500 to 1000 years old are being destroyed by large, commercial logging companies endangering many species of wildlife including the mighty Grizzly and, for that matter, the forest itself for profit.
Here are a few faces to ponder today:
The history of our own American bison (buffalo) tells the story of man’s heartless and self-centered ways.
Will the Rhino be next?
And, here’s a list of some of the world’s most spectacular forests that have already lost 90% of their original habitat and so, their wildlife.
Indo-Burma (Southern Asia)
Mountains of Southwest China
California Floristic Province (U.S. and Mexico)
Costal Forest of Eastern Africa
Madagascar & Indian Ocean Islands
Eastern Afromontane (Africa)
When I think about all this devastation and human callousness, I finally recall the point I was out to make in this article. It is an observation made by Mencken who said, “It is even harder for the average ape to believe that he has descended from man.”