|Table of Contents for Caveman Chemistry: 28 Projects, from the Creation of Fire to the Production of Plastics|
|<<< Previous||Next >>>|
There were once upon a time two young men who were very great friends, and were constantly together. One was a very thoughtful young man, the other very impulsive, who never stopped to think before he committed an act.
One day these two friends were walking along, telling each other of their experiences in love making. They ascended a high hill, and on reaching the top, heard a ticking noise as if small stones or pebbles were being struck together.
Looking around they discovered a large spider sitting in the midst of a great many flint arrowheads. The spider was busily engaged making the flint rocks into arrow heads. They looked at the spider, but he never moved, but continued hammering away on a piece of flint which he had nearly completed into another arrowhead.
"Let's hit him," said the thoughtless one. "No," said the other, "he is not harming any one; in fact, he is doing a great good, as he is making the flint arrowheads which we use to point our arrows."
"Oh, you are afraid," said the first young man. "He can't harm you. Just watch me hit him." So saying, he picked up an arrowhead and throwing it at "Unktomi," hit him on the side. As Unktomi rolled over on his side, got up and stood looking at them, the young man laughed and said: "Well, let us be going, as your grandfather, 'Unktomi,' doesn't seem to like our company." They started down the hill, when suddenly the one who had hit Unktomi took a severe fit of coughing. He coughed and coughed, and finally small particles of blood came from his mouth. The blood kept coming thicker and in great gushes. Finally it came so thick and fast that the man could not get his breath and fell upon the ground dead.
The thoughtful young man, seeing that his friend was no more, hurried to the village and reported what had happened. The relatives and friends hurried to the hill, and sure enough, there lay the thoughtless young man still and cold in death. They held a council and sent for the chief of the Unktomi tribe. When he heard what had happened, he told the council that he could do nothing to his Unktomi, as it had only defended itself.
Said he: "My friends, seeing that your tribe was running short of arrowheads, I set a great many of my tribe to work making flint arrowheads for you. When my men are thus engaged they do not wish to be disturbed, and your young man not only disturbed my man, but grossly insulted him by striking him with one of the arrowheads which he had worked so hard to make. My man could not sit and take this insult, so as the young man walked away the Unktomi shot him with a very tiny arrowhead. This produced a hemorrhage, which caused his death. So now, my friends, if you will fill and pass the peace pipe, we will part good friends and my tribe shall always furnish you with plenty of flint arrowheads." So saying, Unktomi Tanka finished his peace smoke and returned to his tribe.
Ever after that, when the Indians heard a ticking in the grass, they would go out of their way to get around the sound, saying, Unktomi is making arrowheads; we must not disturb him.
Thus it was that Unktomi Tanka (Big Spider) had the respect of this tribe, and was never after disturbed in his work of making arrowheads.
You ever seen a spider go from one tree to another? Maybe you think she squirts her silk out her back end and shoots herself across like a kind of rocket or something, but if that's what you're thinking, you're wrong. No, she hooks a piece of silk to whatever tree she happens to be on and then lets herself out real gentle on that piece of silk. And the wind blows that spider away from the tree and she lets out a little more silk and pretty soon she's like a tiny little kite on the end of a string. And eventually that string is long enough that it lands on another tree, and she hooks her end of the string to the second tree. Now, she didn't plan to go to that exact same tree, she just kept letting out silk and landed wherever the wind happened to take her. Once she's in her new home she looks around at what's already there and starts webifying the place. And that's how it is with spiders.
You know Indians never made wheels? They knew about circles, on account of a tepee leaves a circle on the ground. And they had circles in rock art and sand painting and weaving and all. And they had sleds for hauling stuff around, but they never connected the ideas "circle" and "haul." Now maybe you think they were too dumb to use wheels but they were smart enough to weave cloth and plant corn and fire pottery and all. And some of them were smart enough to build cities and pyramids. And Indians today are even smart enough to be doctors and lawyers, so it seems to me that they were smart enough all along, so don't you go bad-mouthing Indians. No, they just hadn't had time to make the connection between circles and hauling before white folks showed up and wheelified the place. And that's how it was with Indians.
Now, way before anybody had travois and sleds, not to mention wheels, like maybe two million years ago or something, there was a kind of critter who you wouldn't exactly call an animal, but you wouldn't exactly call him a man either. And one day he was out wandering around looking for food, on account of that was pretty much all there was to do in those days. And he was walking along, not paying attention to where he was going when he stubbed his toe smack into a rock, and it made him so mad, what with the pain and all, that he picked up that rock and threw it on the ground and it cracked open. And then he kicked that rock and it cut his toe, which was already sore, and that made him even madder and he just went whacko on that rock until it was all busted into pieces. And that's how it was for that critter for a long time.
Then one day he found a wildebeest that the hyenas had killed and they had pretty much stripped it down to the bone. And it made him mad that the hyenas hadn't left him nothing, on account of he was real hungry and all. That's when something in his mind connectified the busted rocks with those bones and he just went whacko on them until they were all busted into pieces. And you know, there was meat inside! Now you might call it an accident, or you might call it a coincidence, but I would call it a moment of inspiration. From then on, whenever he saw something new, something in his mind would whisper, "Let's go whacko on it and see what happens." That was the inspiration talking. Whenever something good came of it, that inspiration connectified it with a little piece of thread and pretty soon his head started to fill up with all kinds of connections that hadn't been there before that itsy-bitsy inspiration came along.
Years later this same guy was out gathering food with his buddy, and they came across another pile of bones and the first guy went whacko on it, as usual, and they got some meat out of those bones. And his buddy saw that and from then on, he started going whacko on stuff himself to see what would come of it. And it was almost as if something had passed from the first guy to the second, something that took on a life of its own. You might say the second guy copied the first guy, or you might say that he just learned something, but if you ask me that original inspiration went from the first guy to the second, just like a spider going from one tree to another.
When the inspiration got into the second guy, it started connectifying the place all over again and pretty soon the second guy's head was full of silk, too. Of course, the connections were different, on account of the second guy's life experiences were different, but the two connection-webs turned out similar since they were built by the same kind of inspiration. You might think there was only one inspiration, but since it now lived in two different heads, I think it would be better to think there were two slightly different inspirations, one descended from the other. And so it went, with inspirations connectifying wherever they happened to be and then, from time to time, jumping off to new critters until pretty near every critter that could have an inspiration did have one, or maybe even two or three.
If you think about it, it's almost like there's this whole other level of life going on inside of biological critters—a happy, arachnophilic life filled with inspirations climbing up endless metaphorical trees and water spouts. Down comes the rain to wash any wimpy, panty-waist inspirations out. Out comes the Sun to dry up all the rain and the surviving inspirations go about their connectifying business again. Just like spiders, when you think about it.
Now I wouldn't blame you if were thinking "What the heck kind of chemistry book is this, anyway?" what with Lucifer going on about the immortal fire and spiders making arrowheads and all. But this book is all about connectifying stuff up and that's what inspirations do. I've been connectifying earth to stuff for a long time, flying wherever the wind blew me until I happened to land in the head of the Professor. Whenever I speak my paragraphs will start out with the alchemical symbol for earth, an upside down triangle with a bar through it which, if you look at it just right, kinda sorta looks like a funky "E." My name is Unktomi and now that I've blown your way, maybe I can the place for you.