fire as community

Of Prometheus, COVID, and hugging people

It is safe to assume that the current situation is going to go back to normal. Eventually.

I mean, someone’s going to come up with a vaccine sooner or later. By the way, I am so looking forward to see who will use that to grab some cash. Cause doubt it not, they will: I can already think of a name or two.


Are we going to go back, too?

How will we behave then? Will it be ever possible, for the single individual, to just go back to hugging and kissing people (you know, Italians 🙄). What will it look like, the next time I meet my mum and dad? That’ll sure be weird.

I reckon I am slowly disconnecting myself from all social habits. I am not going out at all, not even when I’d be allowed to. Here in the UK it’s always been possible to go out once a day for sport activity. With HIIT I am quite good at coming up with a new workout every day, without leaving my flat. I am managing to get my groceries delivered (except having to go at Morrison’s a couple of times, a traumatising experience). I love to spend my time reading, and at the computer, and I also got some boardgames delivered.

So all in all, I’m not leaving the house at all. Now the question is: when we’ll finally be tagged out, will I want to go?

After all, I did not like you people even before! 😜

Humans as gods

Let me tell you a story. In the Greek mythology, before rulers, artists, warriors, and philosophers, humans lived at the mercy of the other animals. No claws, no sharp fangs, they were ridiculously weak. They dwelled in caves, ate roots, and feared everything. They died like flies.

Enter Prometheus. My man goes up to the gods themselves, and steals from them what they hold dearest, that one thing that makes them superior. Good ol’ Zeus is not enthusiastic about it and punishes Promy for eternity, but that’s a whole other story*. Humans become gods on earth, and civilisation is born.

The one thing that Prometheus stole from the gods was fire.

This is highly symbolic: don’t only think of fire as a means to hurt the hunter, or kill the hunted. Indeed it does those things, and protects from darkness, and warms our cave.

But there’s another layer. Fire means community. Gathering. Hearth. Talking to each other. Storing information. Humans achieved a god-like status, thanks to community.

Living without fire?

Is our society so well connected nowadays, that we can overcome our natural inclination towards the group? To put it better, are ‘videocalls’, fire?

I reckon most people will think ‘no way, we need human connection’. This is a misinterpretation of the question. Of course we do need human connection, it’s part of our nature: but can the means be different? If you think about it, they already are. In the last century, a speck of dust when compared to the whole history of humankind, our lives changed immensely. Speaking languages is no longer a sign of the devil. We move away from our community in directions and dimensions that our parents, let alone our grandparents, never would. Four generations ago, an islander such as myself would find it adventurous to travel 100 kilometres inside Sardinia to go sell goat cheese at the market. Now I can live across two seas, in the UK, and still know what goes on with my parents every day.

Indeed our concept of society is already changing. As for many other things (hopefully our care for environment, for one) this pandemic might be an accelerator. Another example is working from home. We know it was coming, it was bound to: it just came faster.

I think of the film Wall-e, where humanity has it so easy that they are effectively letting go of any endeavours to preserve their physical bodies. Or the Martians of The War of the Worlds book, all brains and frail bodies. That’s what will happen, sooner or later. It’s already happening, as manual labour is exponentially decreasing everywhere. We are becoming more and more information, and less and less body.

*Zeus has Prometheus chained to a rock on the tallest mountain. He is never allowed to die, thus ending his punishment. Every day, an eagle arrives and devours his liver. At night, his bowels miraculously grow back to normal, for the eagle to torment him again in the morning. Zeus was a fun guy.

Apparently, another guy who was not on great terms with big daddy Zeus, Hercules, was the one who, finally, set Prometheus free of his pain.