Archive for September, 2008

Fire-Man

I picked up a book of Loren Eiseley’s essays at the local library book sale.  It is a kind of “new and selected essays” titled The Star Thrower.  In one essay titled “Man the Firemaker,” he speak of man as being “a consuming fire”: “Man…is himself a flame.  He has burned through the animal world and appropriated its vast stores of protein for his own” (23).  His mastery of fire was a kind of management of existing energy sources (an “energonomics”), as Eiseley points out:

Fire shortens the digestive process.  It breaks down tough masses of flesh into food that the human stomach can easily assimilate. Fire made the difference that enabled man to expand his numbers rapidly and to press on from hunting to more advanced cultures. Yet we take fire so much for granted that this first great upswing in human numbers, this first real gain in the seizure of vast quantities of free energy, has to a remarkable degree eluded our attention. (22)

My Fireman poems play with this same metaphor.  They invoke not the modern-day fighter of house and building fires but “Man the Firemaker,” the fire-manager, beings of energy descended from and children of the sun itself.

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27 September 2008 at 3:59 am Leave a comment

The Brain is an energy hog

A U.S. News & World Report cover article titled “What Will Human Beings Become?” addresses how the evolution of the human species is becoming more rapid and talks at one point about the brain itself:

The human brain…is likely to change even more in the future. Our niche in nature, says Stephen Pinker, an experimental psychologist at Harvard University who studies the evolution of language and the mind, is the ‘cognitive niche.’ In research published last year, Wray [an evolutionary biologist at Duke University] identified genes that control glucose metabolism in the brain as among those most recently evolved.  Those changes may have been essential to fueling the human brain’s growth to a size twice that of our nearest cousin, the chimpanzee.  ‘If you make a big brain, it’s an energy hog,’ Wray says.  ‘It’s like putting a V-8 engine in a tiny little car.’

17 September 2008 at 9:49 pm Leave a comment


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