January 17, 2010

WTF (What the Fire!?)

I highly doubt Prometheus was an enabler. Running down Mt. Olympus like a cross country banshee, determined, dodging lightning bolts from Zeus (who for some reason was upset that Prometheus stole it in the first place...more on him later). After stopping at some nearby villagers, he likely wanted to just go:

"Here, don't burn yourself."

Of course, had the fire went out, big problem. So I'm sure he sat down and talked about the many ways fired could be made. After confusing them with terms like "cigarette lighter", "blow torch", and "portable electronic bonfire" (he was a futurist after all), he showed them how to start one with flint and steel, and/or rubbing two sticks together.

Imagine the stress this kid was under. After running from gods and goddesses who could turn your insides into painful, chemical substances, he had to take whatever daylight he had left to teach a group of people (all with different learning styles) how to make fire. He had to gather the materials, plan a lesson (in his mind, for certain), answer questions, provide practice, give feedback, and repeat, until they (or he) was confident that they knew how to do it...or before he got arrested, chained to a mountain, and enjoyed having his insides eaten by vultures.

Who says teaching isn't rewarding?

At one point fire was a tool. It cooked things, lit things, scared things, warmed things, defend things, attacked things, and cleaned things (to some degree...cauterizing wounds come to mind...later sterilizing other tools...). These days, what do we use fire for? Think about that for a second while I talk about Zeus.

What was his beef? Why was fire so sacred to him and his fellow godlike folks that he gave Prometheus the ultimate punishment? Why didn't he want to share this extraordinarily useful tool?

I doubt it was a concern for safety, although we often hear that as a reason for things not taught or shared to the masses. It'll hurt someone. It'll cause more harm than good. While I'm all for not teaching a three year old fire, or what fire can do, I'm sure it's helpful for anyone to understand the power of fire later on their life (and indeed as my friend Seth would say...learning how to start a fire is one of the three things we need for the 2012 apocolypse...along with making a bow and arrow, and riding a horse).

Fire couldn't hurt the gods/goddesses. I mean, they're pretty powerful (case in point, ability to chain someone to a mountain and have vultures show up every day to eat his organs like a date at the Golden Corral). It couldn't make them weaker. Maybe there was a fear of humans being less dependant on the gods/goddesses for services (although, it seems to me that people still made offerings to them for things like farming, commerce, weather, art, and reproduction...is it possible to be that selfish that you don't want anyone to have cooked lamb or a warm cup o joe?).

And really, if you think about it, fire was something that was accessible for humans to make...they just needed to know how to make it. This means that Zeus didn't want people to be educated. I mean, once they had something to let them see at night, and cook out diseases from meat, and fend off from the occasional cyclops that wanted to destroy their house, humans seem to have gotten pretty creative on their own. So much in fact, that we only use fire, in its purest form, for two things these days:

Pleasure & Destruction.

Now back to my man on the mountain. As a teacher, do you think he's upset and disappointed to see people grilling out on Labor Day? I hope not. I hope he's like, "well that was my original intent, when it was harder to hunt down hamburgers and brats, but it's all good now."

Of course, what about when he sees flamethrowers used in combat? Does he shed a tear? Again, I'm sure he hoped that humans could see it could be used for defense; attacking...well, I think that's a topic for another day.

In the end, like all teachers, Prometheus saw knowledge as a possibility, for great success and great failure. As students of life, I think we need to strive for success, and be humbled by failure. I think we need to be proud of learning something new and putting it toward good use, something which can be shared, make life better. At the same time, we need to be cognizant that anything which can make life better, can also have potential for a negative consequence (destruction, laziness, harm to others).

We can all be burned by fire; but we can choose not to burn others with it. And hope that others, when we teach them and show them the gifts they have inside, will do the same.