On Fire’s Downsides, NYT Has Nothing On Prometheus
August 10, 2016 4 Comments
It strikes me that I was perhaps a bit unfair to the New York Times yesterday. Yes, it was a stupid article, but it wasn’t quite as bad as the Tweet that got attached to it. But David Marcus, over at The Federalist, had some thoughts as well.
Fire Means Power and Lost Innocence
The downside of discovering fire was described by the Greek poet Hesiod in the eighth century BC, in the Prometheus myth. It is similar to the downside of Eve eating the apple. Zeus would have provided everything for humanity, but after Prometheus stole fire mankind became responsible for itself. Consciousness and civilization are the downsides of discovering fire. It is meaningless to describe smoking and the creation of the patriarchy as downsides of fire because fire is a prerequisite for the concept of a downside, or consequence.
Hesiod writes: “Son of Iapetus (Prometheus), surpassing all in cunning, you are glad that you have outwitted me and stolen fire — a great plague to you yourself and to men that shall be. But I will give men as the price for fire an evil thing in which they may all be glad of heart while they embrace their own destruction.”
That evil thing was Pandora, the first woman. Just as Eve led Adam away from the peace and ease of Eden to a world of hardship and responsibility, so too did Pandora lead the men of Greece to eternal struggle. Women catch a hard time in ancient texts, but Hesiod is doing more than being misogynistic here. He understood that fire fundamentally transformed humanity. It gave us an almost magical way of controlling our environment and each other, one that birthed the power of human civilization but also stole our essential innocence.
Progressive New York Times writers would naturally miss this because religious or foundational stories hold little weight for them. Everything is measured in small doses of science. In the hands of the progressive religion of science, the philosophical implications of human civilization are boiled down to observable phenomena that depict but do not describe the true nature of existence.
The Question of Liberty Versus Determinism
The Times piece is steeped in determinism. One doesn’t choose to smoke; one smokes because human beings discovered how to control fire. Women don’t choose to stay home with the kids and cook; they do so because the use of fire demands it. This is distinctly at odds with the ancient story of fire. In the ancient version, fire imposed choice; it did not dictate our evolutionary outcomes as demographics on a social scientist’s spreadsheet. Fire was, rather, an angry invitation from the gods to fend for ourselves and see how we like it.
This matter of choice versus predetermination is central to the progressive worldview. On every issue including sexual orientation, transsexuality, even drug and alcohol abuse, the virtue or fault is never in us or our choices. While the conservative or religious person sees free will with all of its challenges and tests, the progressive or atheist sees inescapable tendencies born of ancient ancestors rubbing sticks together.
via On Fire’s Downsides, NYT Has Nothing On Prometheus, Read the whole thing™.
I think he’s about right here. Fire is one of those discoveries that give us power over our lives but also have dangers for us. I think Pandora is an appropriate gift also, we all remember all the troubles she brought us in that box of hers, but we also often forget that one gift remains in her box for us, even after all the troubles. That gift is HOPE. The hope that we can make all things better, if we choose to do so.
Rather like fire after all. It can destroy us, but it can also keep us warm, and cook our food, making us far healthier. It’s all in how we choose to use the gift. And that is the part that The New York Times just can’t get their head around. Our future is not determined by the forces of history, it is shaped by what we do, and how we do it, and even by why we choose to do what we do (or leave undone).
Mr. Marcus reminds us that G.K. Chesterton wrote that:
Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about.
The glory, and the tragedy, of fire, is that its power is ours now, to use as we choose. Choose wisely.