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  • Windows and the cavemen

    Posted on December 30th, 2010 Sheila Yair 2 comments

    leaf I was kayaking down Conesus Lake in upstate New York. Every now and then I managed to get my eyes off the tantalizing water and its intricate reflection of the sky, clouds and colors of the evening sunset broken in silky patterns of the lightest waves. As I looked up, I saw many houses with huge windows. At first it didn’t make sense. Why have big windows? They are hard to insulate. You can’t hang pictures on them. They compromise the privacy of your home and are not as strong as walls.

    But on second glance I saw a longing in each of these huge windows. A necessity.
    This necessity to feel outside while indoors threw me back many years to some ancient memories. Not my own memories but those of mankind. Memories from when the Homo sapiens just started building the human house.

    When our first ancestors climbed off the trees, they encountered the first element of the human house, the floor. It was an amazing perspective, here is this great surface lying beneath you, pushing you just as hard as you push it, creating a supportive surface, producing a vast land of opportunities (the original one). The ultimate infrastructure beneath your every step, beneath your every aspiration. As many new technologies, it was offered for free as a beta version for whoever was willing to test it out. And test it out they did. Climbing off the trees, with their first steps, they were about to form a new species forever tied with this new concept. It was a perfect time to proclaim one small step for man; one giant leap for mankind, but both man and mankind were just forming, and the terms were still a ways a way from being coined, so it was saved for a great conquest of a different floor. This floor, albeit being comfortable for those first humans, was much more than just a sole of a shoe supporting their first steps, it was fertile with life and plants, it climbed high with the mountains, dove deep with the valleys, channeled the wind, absorbed rain and reflected the sky. Those first men found the ground solid and knew they encountered, pardon the pun, solid ground for their development. And off to develop they did. The floor was the first step but being the hungry-for-change species that they were they started looking for more. The second step was the wall, the forest, the hills, the cliffs all provided some protection from the elements and allowed this newly forming species to rest a bit and contemplate their progress.

    Then one day, low and behold, opportunity comes knocking on human development (it would have knocked on the door but doors were not invented yet). Like every great discovery, man stumbled on this one. It is truly a beautiful occurrence when technology is built on technology, like a brick on a brick until there is a wall. One man discovers steam, another one invents the steam engine. One man invents a computer another invents a monitor and mouse and yet another invents some useful software. That is what happened that day that opportunity was looking for a human door to knock on. That day man has stumbled upon a cave. Now the floor technology was going very well, if the first version had man sheepishly and hesitantly walking, the newer versions have him running, dancing and hunting. But here man has stumbled upon something that will take this floor concept a giant leap, leaps and bounds one might say. To the floor was added a few walls and to that the new revolutionary element in the human house, the ceiling. Now we were talking about all three dimensions, we are talking about a bundle of different elements working together. Man saw the cave and thought, man cave, cave man, and he liked the way it sounded. Today very few of us would move in to a house before it is finished. We would not think of starting to move our furniture while the contractor and builders are still putting up the walls. But for humanity this was all new and exciting and they saw no logic in waiting. So in humanity went. No more rainy days, no more cold or heat. Man has found his home. And so the earth lay peaceful for a while, and man was content.

    Another interesting thing to see is how a certain technology is invented for something but then evolves and is used for something totally different. When man first saw the cave he thought of protection but as he moved in he started feeling his first notions of possession. And man enjoyed that feeling greatly. The land was much too vast to own anything in it. That was back in those days, it has shrunk and lost that trait ever since. A hill, a river or a tree were much to wild to posses, but a cave could be all yours. The cave also enabled man to start taking more charge of his own life. He could now store food and water, he could bare the harsher elements. Humankind was not a baby anymore, it was rapidly entering its childhood. Man liked this feeling of ownership and with the cave came more possibilities of possession. You could have ‘things’ now and store and collect them. Your food, your hunting spears, your leopard and zebra skin outfits. The word ‘mine’ has found man and man embraced it with great gusto. So now there was a need, for the first time, to protect what was his. So man went ahead and built that last wall sealing him from the world. The animals could not help but wonder where this strange creature who throws spears at us was. You see that last wall was built with not much foresight. Man has trapped himself in his beloved cave with his new belongings. Neanderthals have developed alongside Homo sapiens this whole time, making the same advancements and steps. But here was the splitting point. The humans managed to quickly invent the door and save their race from one of its closest calls. Neanderthals did not come up with a solution to their entrapment and vanished off the face of the earth. With time man learned to build his caves detached of the mountains. He would build them anywhere and from a vast array of materials. But the basics where always kept, the floor, the ceiling and the walls with a door. The doors were very small at first allowing only the desired people in or out but with time they grew bigger and bulkier with locks and chains and wooden beams. The more time advanced the more the door had to protect behind it. It held its ever important purpose of separating the inside from the outside, separating what’s mine and what is not, the individual from society. Windows were also added at some point. They where big enough to allow you to shoot arrows or collect intelligence, but were always limited so as to not break the solitude and protection of the human house. Things ran their course for a while but man was missing his cave in the pre-wall era. He was missing watching nature, seeing the sky and the seasons. But by now man has developed a distinct taste and many of the items in his cave are very sensitive and delicate and don’t mix well with the elements. He needed a partial porter, a barrier that would block the outside but not its vista. Man was in his young adulthood and his command of materials was impressive. Glass was recruited for the task and eventually the windows got bigger and bigger.

    I will admit, myself, there are times when a closed house, fully protected from the elements, is convenient. Over this summer we were living in a rural up-state area without a car. We were 3 miles from the nearest town, 6 miles from the nearest supermarket and 30 miles from the nearest city. Without any public transportation we reverted to walking and riding our bikes to conduct our business. Cars make our world small and it was nice to be in a big world for a while. It was partly because the lake is so beautiful and is hard to leave, so why have a car, partly because I can just hear my mom being very proud, and of course partly because it is always nice to save a buck or two while minimizing your carbon footprint. One of these days I was riding from Rochester to Geneseo, a good 30 mile ride. It started pouring on me from the first mile and didn’t rest for a single inch of the ride. By the time I got to Geneseo, I was wetter than the lake itself. Thousands of rain drops have found their way to me and settled on my cloth, bike and skin making us all one big canteen. It was very nice to slip into something dry as I had a hot soup and warm toast. I could watch the rain and hear it but I was out of its range. I was inside but still immersed in the outside. I was in my cave but longingly watching nature out the window.

    For as much as we have developed. With all our advancements and inventions, we still miss the time we were walking our first steps connected to our mom, mother earth. We still yearn for the era where we have not yet invented worries, careers, time and trouble. We were as free and as curious as little children. We have worked hard to disconnect ourselves from nature to build our own world with our own things and our own identity, to distance ourselves from our mother. But one can never fully detach himself from his parents. And so we try to connect again every time we look through one of our big windows, subconsciously we remember the time of our first cave, longing for the lost innocence of paradise, for the warm embrace of nature.