The History of Time
Thousands of years ago, in a land far away, a cave-woman–lets call her Aariakhondlezaruthan Cherudenth–made a series of monumental discoveries whose combined results yielded something fantastic and unexpected.
- Fish poop taste bad.
- Leaf plant taste good.
- Fish poop grow leaf plant.
For thousands of years afterward, in a number of places around the world, humans used this amazing discovery–fish poop grow leaf plant— to build some of the most ecologically advanced civilizations ever known on Earth, and left the places that they lived better than they found them.
Over the eons, wars and disease ravaged the world and much that should have been remembered… was lost.
Much later, in another place entirely, an Icelandic Viking (coincidentally) named Leif Erikson sailed the wild western seas. With his motley crew, he explored much of the undiscovered world and settled in Vinland, or what we now call Newfoundland. Tired of arctic char and conversations about how one “can’t get there from here” (Newfie joke), the Vikings eventually returned home to record their annals in verse.
Over the centuries, this information sank deep into the sands of time due to the limited reach of Icelandic poetry.
A (Not) Better Way
Much later, in a still more different place (our place), scientists, philosophers, and inventors with names like Darwin, Freud, and Ford ushered in an era called “modernism” in which people came to believe that we would one day reason and invent our way to utopia.
Not exactly a new idea (the Bible tells just such a story in Genesis 11), it was new to us and we reveled in it… for a time. While much of the world left it behind years ago, some folks such as Kurzwell and the singularity crowd still subscribe to this foolishness.
The truth of the matter is that, while we do discover new and fascinating things every day, in most years (it seems to me) we forget more of the truly useful stuff than we discover.
You hear the litanies all the time, so I won’t go into detail about how our additions to fossil fuels, unhealthy food, economic growth, competition, and instant gratification are making our lives less happy, less meaningful, and–in most ways that actually count–less advanced than (some) societies thousands of years old.
We should learn from those who came before.
Some scientists are beginning to explore this with non-human creatures, through research into bio-mimicry, or attempting to understand and adapt our creative processes to the natural processes that create astounding technological achievements such as eggshells, spider webs, and the mushroom internet.
This research ought to expand.
But it’s about time that we also start looking to the achievements, discoveries, and lifestyles of our forebears to see what they might have right that we now have wrong. It’s time for some historical humility.
Our future will be a low-energy one, either because we choose now to begin creating a healthier, safer, more well-adjusted future… or because we turn our planet into an oven and broil ourselves.
It’s about time we started adapting, not by looking forwards–but by looking backwards.
Nothing New Under the Sun
In 1492, Christopher Columbus discovered America. However, as it turns out, not only had people already lived here for millenia, but other Europeans arrived here hundreds of years before.
In the 1960s, the New Alchemists, Mark McMurtry, and others discovered aquaponics. While they do deserve real credit for this, humility and honesty require us to acknowledge fact that it had sustained entire civilizations in an ecologically superior manner for a hundred generations before us.
In most things that truly matter, westerners are late to the game (or perhaps playing the wrong game). All of this leads me to a certain inevitable conclusion. I’ll bet you can guess what it is…
One day (if we survive that long) we may explore the far reaches of space and happen upon other habitable planets in solar systems and galaxies far beyond the reaches of our current imaginations.
When we do, we will not be the first.
Vikings will be there. Growing food. Using aquaponics.
BTW, Space Vikings is a real movie. Find a trailer here.