Last night at work I watched Ole Miss defeat Alabama. Actually, I watched my patrons watching Bama’s defeat whilst crying tears into domestic beer bottles whose necks were close to being snapped the way ‘Mama wrung them chickens every Sunday’ (The trick they tell me is to throw the energetically deceased Sunday dinner into a washtub to avoid watching the after-wringing poultry Paso Doble).
But this post is not about how putting supper on the table during The Depression was more organic than Whole Foods. No, this post concerns watching TV, campfires, and alternative uses for mittens. But let me start from the beginning…
First there was fire.
But first thing before previous first thing:
Man make fire. This distinguish man from beasts what gets cooked on fire.
Of all the primates only we of the Homo genus use campfires, and that’s what makes us awesome and not living in dirt and mud crap holes with popsicle stick support beams (oops, that hit too close to home and almost blew my crap hole down). So we can thank campfires for a lot: heat, pest control, food safety, something to stare at besides screen savers of flying toasters and floating bubbles…
E.O. Wilson (2012) even attributes the evolution of human sociability to campfires.
There is an a priori reason for believing campsites were the crucial adaptation on the path to eusociality: campsites are in essence nests made by human beings. All animal species that have achieved eusociality, without exception, at first build nests that they defended from enemies. They, as did their known antecedents, raised young in the nest, foraged away from it for food, and brought the bounty back to share with others.
So what? Eusociality* can occur around nests whether they’re made of sticks or sticks set on fire.
*Wilson’s definition of Eusociality involves: Reproductive division of labor, overlapping generations, and the cooperative care of young (Usually used in reference to insects—Mr. Wilson is the Don of everything creepy and crawly).
Well, not exactly… in the insect world of highly developed chemical communicative abilities eusociality is purely a biophysical phenomenon. Our closest relatives, even the ones that you don’t friend on Facebook but still expect birthday checks from each year lack eusociality. Chimpanzees and bonobos occupy and defend territories, but roam through them while searching for food, often breaking into subgroups then re-aggregating. They advertise the discovery of food by signalling back and forth but do not share what they pick. Occasionally they hunt in small packs. Successful members of the pack may share their meat with fellow hunters, but charity mostly comes to an end there. So bugs secrete pheromones and men build fires. Bugs share abandoned, partially melted Popsicles with each other. Campers share supplies of hot dogs, marshmallows, and moonshine with each other.
McClenon claims the campfire is where hominids developed their relaxation skills. This isn’t hard to swallow. If you’ve ever gone camping around a fire you know about ghost stories, passing the booze, and staring into the fire like it was the sun and you were a kid missing some key chromosomes.
I love camping and I love nature’s television. But many prefer to watch television’s television.
But calling a campfire nature’s television is an insult to campfires. When was the last time you spent the night out in the cold, freezing but for the warmth of the fire, passing around the cognac you’d shoved into a mitten along with an activated Hot-Hands packet?
That’s right warm cognac in the middle of the woods– I doubt the Kardashians could keep up with my classy camping… Sorry… I don’t keep up with the kardashians and lack a suitable parallel– are they supposed to be classy?
Instead of telling ghost stories, people Tevo crackpots donning goofy head lamps armed with knockoff ghost busters sneaking around old buildings listening for farts. But as much as I hate those shows the TV can act as a modern day campfire. Groups gather to watch sporting events, cheer, jeer, and share chicken wings and beer. But I noticed yesterday during Bama’s defeat the complete lack of social interaction between my customers beyond synchronized sighs of frustration and “gah-no-run-the-ball-dammnit”s.
More and more I see people watching smart phones and stupid tablets. Even if some type of text-based communication happens it feels like social networking has replaced that face-to-face “nest” that made our species social in the first place. And yes, I get that we’ve evolved from campfire to cable to SIM card…sometimes when I look down at my cheap prepaid not-so-smart phone that doesn’t connect to the internet or let me slingshot birds at pigs it feels like the camp fire has been disassembled and carried somewhere else. When I try to call it back it’s too busy trying to win cheap gas logs on eBay.