Monthly Program: How We Domesticated Fire, and Fire Domesticated Us
Sunday, September 17, 2023, Monthly Program via Zoom.
“How We Domesticated Fire, and Fire Domesticated Us“
A Presentation by Jim Gasperini
Jim is nearing completion of his cultural history of fire, Fire in the Mind: From the Burning Bush to Burning Man, How We Imagine Fire.
He based his presentation on a chapter of the book.
How did we, alone among the animals, come to control fire? Every human culture has at least one story explaining how this happened, ranging from simple accidents to fantastic stories of trips on gossamer balloons to steal fire from the Moon People. Analysis of these stories brings up such questions as: why do so many, such as the Greek myth of Prometheus, require that fire be stolen? Why do so many involve explicit sexual symbolism? Even Sigmund Freud created a myth about control of fire, with comically bizarre sexual symbolism.
Jim also explained current scientific thinking about our early encounters with fire, drawing on a wide range of scientific disciplines, including a study of the genetics of human lice. In the process of domesticating fire, fire domesticated us: to keep the fire going we needed to learn to cooperate, and invented fire-preserving rituals. Our partnership with fire drastically changed our bodies and our brains. That we have imaginations at all we owe in part to our relationship with fire.
is the Institute’s webmaster and a member of its Board.
A Williams College graduate, he designed and wrote initial titles for the Time Machine
series of interactive history books for young adults (Bantam); wrote Hidden Agenda
, an educational game about Central American politics (Scholastic); and designed the third version of the city-planning simulation Sim City
. Through his 3D photography company Cockeyed Creations he researched and published sets of stereograph reproductions for the White House Historical Association, Gettysburg and Antietam national military parks, and many museums, zoos, and national parks. A draft of Fire in the Mind
won Grand Prize in the 2022 Writing Contest at the San Francisco Writers Conference. See more about the book and his background at jimgasperini.com.