Monday, May 21, 2018

Fired up! The noun πυρ (pur) means fire

The noun πυρ (pur) means fire and both these words, as well as English' many "pyro-" words, stem from the widely attested Proto-Indo-European root paewr- meaning fire (and our word "pure" doesn't, in case you were wondering). Up to the age of electricity, all artificial light came from fire, and since light has since deep antiquity represented wisdom, fire represented a means to get it.

In early human cultures, fire sat literally at the center of the tribal community. It literally kept people together and at night guided wayward members back home. A tribe's central fire rendered light and warmth, but also kept wild animals at bay. People prepared their food on fire and burned their wastes in it. Later people even learned to disinfect non-combustible items (combustible and living items were disinfected with water and soap; Numbers 31:23), which aligned fire-purification with water-washing and explains the "baptism with fire" mentioned in Matthew 3:11. Later still, people learned how to extract metals from stone and how to build hotter fires to make ever stronger metals.

The hotter a people could make their fire, the stronger these people could make their tools and weapons. That correlated the quality of a people's wisdom (that is: their practical skills and understanding of science and technology) both with their chances with the forces of nature and their international clout (Daniel 3:19).

The hotness of a fire in turn correlates to energy density, that is: how much energy you can pack into a unit of space, and thus how much work you can generate. This in turn translates to a general principle that also explains human fervor, enthusiasm and powers of persuasion. In our modern age we don't build actual fires anymore, but the nation that can pack the most energy in one device (such as an A-bomb) is still king of the hill. Fortunately for all of us, the Internet has enveloped the world in a lattice of blazing fire and it's becoming increasingly difficult for evil men to vest large amounts of energy in evil things. Mankind's central fire has never been this big and this hot, and never has so much waste and accumulated garbage been so festively consumed.

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