The Origin of Us: Campfires As The Bedrock of Human Civilization

campfires


If you want to understand who we are as human beings, a good question to ask yourself is “Where did we come from?”

And to begin to find an answer to this big and daunting question, it’s helpful to discover more about our history and past, especially the evolutionary origin of our species and civilization as a whole.

In The Social Conquest of Earth, legendary scientist Edward O. Wilson provides us an intriguing glimpse into the story of where we came from, what shaped us into who we are today, and what natural forces contributed to our advancements in society and civilization.

Like many familiar stories of our origin, it begins with our ability to create fire and control it.

The first use of fire was likely from lightning strikes, which were helpful to flush and trap prey who’d run away from ground fires. Many animals would become cooked by these fires which likely sparked our interest in cooking meats and vegetables. This was also an easy way to get bones that could later be fashioned into tools.

However, once we learned how to create fire and control it on our own, this led to the development of campfires and campsites, which – as I will try to explain – was likely the first step toward how our civilization evolved into what it is today.

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Body Language Is More Revealing Than Words: How to Read People More Clearly

body language


Our bodies can often be more honest than our words when it comes to communicating our thoughts, feelings, and intentions.

When we choose what to say, we’re often using the executive parts of our brains (the “neocortex”). This part of the brain is responsible for conscious attention, language, and thinking, all of which we have a degree of control over with some effort.

Because we have a choice in what we say, this makes it easier to conceal, deceive, and lie with our words.

However, we don’t usually choose our body language, which comes from the automatic parts of our brains (the “limbic system”). This part of the brain is responsible for our emotions, instincts, and gut reactions, all of which we don’t normally have control over.

According to What Every Body Is Saying: An Ex-FBI Agent’s Guide to Speed-Reading People, because our body language is more automatic than our speech, this makes it harder to conceal, deceive, and lie about our true thoughts and feelings through our bodies.

Therefore, if you want to learn how to better read people and understand what’s going on inside their minds, you need to listen more to what their bodies are communicating to you. Especially if it doesn’t match up with what they are saying.

Most of us know how to choose our words carefully. We are taught from an early age how to act polite and kind even when we don’t want to – or how to tell a harmless lie to protect someone’s feelings (“Thanks for the birthday gift! I always wanted socks!”)

However, we don’t often pay attention to what our body language is communicating. And because it happens automatically without us deliberately choosing, it’s harder to override how our body responds to a situation. Our bodies rarely lie.

In this article, I will share basic guidelines on what to look for in body language. This can also be a valuable resource in learning what your own body is communicating to others, perhaps without you even realizing it.

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Our World of Symbols and the Unconscious Power of Dreams, Art, and Mythology

symbols


We live in a world of symbols.

A symbol can be any word, image, object, animal, or person that represents an idea or connotation outside of its ordinary meaning. For example, a “snake” in mythology is a common symbol for treachery, sneakiness, and dishonesty. In the story of Adam and Eve, it’s a snake that convinces Eve to eat fruit from the forbidden tree.

Many people like to believe they’ve escaped from the world of symbols and mythology. Modern man prides himself in being an empirical, logical, and scientific thinker, who only pays attention to the world of senses and doesn’t concern himself with mysticism.

However, in the classic psychology book Man and His Symbols, Carl Jung illustrates that we are still embedded in a world of symbols and they are a natural part of man and how his mind works. There’s no escaping them.

Religion, politics, art, and business are all areas in life where symbols are everywhere, whether it’s a political flag that represents a social ideal, or a corporate logo that represents a product or service, or a spiritual symbol that embodies an important value in our lives.

These symbols aren’t just byproducts of our world, they influence our attitudes, behaviors, and choices in life – often without us even realizing it.

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How Culture Influences Our Minds in Profound Ways We Don’t Even Realize

culture


Culture plays a big role in how we see the world, how we think about it, and how we act in it. A person born into one culture can end up with a very different type of mindset than a person born into another culture.

In The Geography of Thought: How Asians and Westerners Think Differently and Why, social psychologist Richard Nisbett shares his extensive research into how “Western” and “Eastern” minds differ in many ways, from how they think and perceive the world to how they develop social norms and political institutions.

Most of the research in the book compares “Westerners” from the United States, Canada, and Great Britain to “Easterners” from China, Korea, and Japan. While of course there is a lot of variety within any single culture, in general Nisbett found some interesting psychological differences between the East and West that could explain why our cultures are so different.

One of the basic findings is that Westerners tend to be more focused on objects and analytical thinking, while Easterners are more focused on relationships and holistic thinking.

Westerners focus more on objects, identifying their properties, categorizing them, and discovering laws and principles that govern their behavior. They often break things down to understand them, thinking from a more reductionist or atomistic perspective.

This way of thinking is one reason Western culture has often led to major advancements in logic, science, and technology. Science in particular relies on isolating variables and testing them in a controlled environment where all other factors are held constant. “All things being equal…” is a very Western way of thinking.

Easterners focus more on relationships between things, identifying the interdependent nature of existence, and practicing a “middle way” perspective on truth – allowing more flexibility of what they consider true, depending on the context or situation.

This way of thinking is one reason Eastern culture is often more open to paradoxes and contradictions that don’t always present neat and specific rules for how the world works.

Of course, these ways of thinking aren’t exclusive to either culture, but they are patterns discovered in a wide range of studies and research. Psychologist Nisbett also stresses the fact that neither way of thinking is necessarily “right” or “wrong,” but each comes with its own advantages and disadvantages.

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What Stands in the Way Becomes the Way: A New Perspective for Overcoming Obstacles

the way

“What stands in the way becomes the way.”

Marcus Aurelius


Encountering new obstacles in life is inevitable. Whether it’s in our work, relationships, health, or personal goals, life is always changing – and with that brings new situations we too must change and adapt to.

The simple truth is you’ll never reach a point where life stops throwing you new obstacles. The best thing you can do is know how to better approach these obstacles in your life, and thereby transform them into opportunities for growth and self improvement.

This is a very old idea, but it never stops being true. In the great book The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph, Ryan Holiday turns toward the ancient philosophy of Stoicism to show us why these ideas still carry a lot of power today.

    “You will come across obstacles in life – fair and unfair. And you will discover, time and time again, that what matters most is not what these obstacles are but how we see them, how we react to them, and whether we keep our composure.”

The types of obstacles that stand in our way can be very different from person to person.

They greatly depend on our environment, our biology, and our ambitions. However, the right perspective to take when facing obstacles doesn’t change much. It is an immutable law of success and motivation. It is the way, no matter who you are.

There are many gems of wisdom in this book that I wish to share, but here are the most important ones to keep in mind whenever you encounter a new obstacle in your life.

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