I finally got around to seeing the movie last night. Very fun; I liked how one of the spandrels of being able to make your own fire (as opposed to hunting for it) was laughter. What I’d really like to know, however, is how did the actors prepare for all the barefootery? Not a single shoe in the whole flick, and they were running around over stuff that would make me grab my vffs. I imagine there were injuries, but if not, wow.
The movie got me thinking about the Man = Distance Running Animal theory. There’s a lot of talk about persistence hunting when we try to understand the relationship we have with running, but I wonder if that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Could running have been the catalyst for the Great Leap Forward? New technologies, new social structures, new ideas, new memes, all start spreading like wildfire. Are we supposed to believe that Extra Terrestrials flipped a switch in our collective brains, or is it more likely the ability to share information QUICKLY with our neighbors resulted in a rapid increase of progress?
In Quest for Fire the protagonists are running around looking for fire to take back home. They chance upon another group that has learned to make their own fire (the aforementioned laughers). Minds blown, they return home with the ability to dramatically improve their quality of life. The movie essentially ends there, but of course life does not. That group will now have the means to come up with other ideas, which will spread to anyone within running distance. The societies with the best runners will have a tremendous information-gathering advantage. Knowing isn’t half the battle. It is the battle. Sorry, G.I. Joe.
Here’s my hypothesis, which if I were all smart I’d, like, study and write about and deliver in speeches to other smart people and stuff: running was the vehicle for the early exchange of technology and ideas that ultimately made our brains bigger. It may have started with persistence hunting, but maybe it happened at the same time. That would make running very, very important to our early survival and our historic identity. Running is an expression of our interconnectedness with other people, both for good and bad purposes. Maybe we wouldn’t even be able to tell the difference between “good” and “bad” if it weren’t for running.
It would be really interesting to find out if the Neanderthal were runners. They had bigger brains than us, were physically more powerful than us, but they lived in small groups with little interaction with other groups (I think; what do you think I am, a Neanderthalogist?). Did the lack of interaction stunt their language? Their trade? The exchange of ideas? Maybe “stunt” is an unfair word. Maybe running gave homo-sapiens an advantage far and above anything any other life form had.
Well, germs etc still have us beat, but you get my point.
Anyway, these are the things I think about when watching movies. Tomorrow, I’ll pontificate on the early warfare themes in Xanadu and how the plot mirrors the rise of Nazism and apartheid, with the rollerskate as the symbol for the destruction of mankind.