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Sunday, September 13, 2009

How Things Have Changed

Raef ....................................Elder priestess of the tribe
Nam ....................................The tribe’s chieftain
Oge .....................................The tribe’s top hunter, advisor to Nam

The Time: 1,001,494 BCE
The Place: 50 kilometers northwest of modern Johannesburg, South Africa

(RAEF runs up to NAM and OGE, who are both leaning against the entrance to a limestone cave)

RAEF: (out of breath from a long sprint) Nam, I demand that we stop using fire immediately.

NAM: (sigh) What is it now?

RAEF: Another hut burned to the ground today. That’s seven this season. Four people have died.

OGE: Did any die this time?

RAEF: No, but three are homeless!

NAM: I’ll consider your proposal, Raef.

RAEF: You don’t have time; the Gods are punishing us already.

OGE: There are no Gods.

RAEF: (gasp)

NAM: (to OGE) Please, let me handle this.

RAEF: Blasphemy! Throw him into the river!

NAM: No one’s being thrown in the river.

RAEF: Look, fire is unnatural. It spits in the eye of the Sun God.

OGE: And yet the sun still rises.

RAEF: (annoyed) It is the responsibility of the Sun to provide light and warmth. Fire is beyond the control of man. Look at all the trouble it brings.

NAM: I’m aware there are dangers. I trust the tribe to practice responsible use.

RAEF: The tribe is too stupid! They can’t be trusted with anything! Even the eldest cooks in the tribe still burn themselves occasionally. And need I mention what might happen if we start a fire so big it burns the entire world?

NAM: I am concerned, I assure you. I want the best for the tribe.

RAEF: The Gods command it, Nam. It’s not what I want. You know I enjoy my meat cooked, but the Gods are very clear. The weather has been worsening and –

OGE: Of course it’s worsening, winter is almost here.

RAEF: This has been a particularly harsh fall, even you know that.

OGE: The leaves changed and the birds flew off. It seems like a perfectly normal autumn to me.

RAEF: Nam, surely you won’t sit idly by as the tribe descends from the grace of the Gods?

NAM: What if fire is a gift from the Gods?

RAEF: Outrageous! The Gods don’t need help from lowly humans.

OGE: They just need our offerings in front of the prayer cave?

RAEF: Those are sacrifices to honor Gods. They are a sign of respect, something you wouldn’t know anything about.

OGE: How do the Gods enjoy our choicest meats, grains, berries and nuts?

NAM: Enough. We will continue to use fire.

RAEF: You have placed a death sentence on the tribe!

NAM: Maybe, but I believe the Gods gave us the ability to make fire.

RAEF: And what would you say to countless hundreds who will be injured by fire?

OGE: Be more careful.

RAEF: But we can’t expect the tribe to be responsible; we should at least restrict the use of fire.

NAM: I’ll think about it.

RAEF: (walks away) What next? The wheel?

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