It is said that Anaximander, the legendary pre-Socratic thinker from Miletus in Ionia, student of Thales, and teacher of Pythagoras, was on the toilet dropping a deuce when he decided that traditional Greek mythology and the pantheon of Greek Gods was nothing more than an anthropomorphic projection of our own fears and insecurities, and therefore completely invalid and false.
It seems that technology has replaced religion today as the go to solution for all of our problems. We’ll figure out how to stop global warming, and how to convert salt water into fresh, and how to provide food for the trillion people soon to populate the earth, through technology. Or maybe we already have, and aren’t yet listening. It seems our species is just as good at losing information as we are at collecting it.
Only a few fragments of Anaximander remain. One of them appears to be a list of some kind: “2 wine skins, ½ a watermelon, olive oil, cayan pepper, sugar cane, toilet paper…” Taken together, the items on this list would make for a sure fire natural laxative. That the list ends with toilet paper reveals a more important clue: that the great thinker’s cosmology most likely found its origin in a bowel movement. Or several.
Not only did Anaximander’s mapping of the solar system in 607 BC de-mystify the celestial processes, but it is further rumored in Hesiod, that it was while peeing in the snow (it snowed in Ionia back then) that Anaximander was struck with another thought never before considered by a Greek Philosopher, and it was the utterly revolutionary idea to start actually writing things down on paper, or papyrus, as it were.
Until this point in the history of thinking, no one had ever thought to do so. Thoughts were so fascinating to their thinkers, and those capable of understanding them, that it just never crossed anyone’s mind to scratch them down for later. Unfortunately, it would take millennia for the back-up hard drive to be invented, and this is why only fragments of Anaximander remain.
Socrates made the same error centuries later, in fact. A rare but fatal flaw in his system. It was only when the young upstart Plato came along that anyone started taking notes. And much of his writing occurred long after his master’s death.
The great fire at the library in Alexandria wiped out the largest collection of wisdom the world had known. It is believed that wisdom lost on that day, thousands of years ago, has never been regained. Like how to communicate from the afterlife, and the best way to flip an omelet without the use of a non-stick pan.
It’s also believed that the fire was an inside job. Religion was beginning to cast its spell and more than anything else, knowledge was its enemy. It had to be contained. If the masses didn’t fear the all powerful gods, one for every possible insecurity, they would be impossible to control.
One thing was indubitable, a body politic made up of Anaximander’s, or degrees of intelligence therein, would ruin any chance of an oligarchy’s domination. So, like the short-sighted politicians of all epochs and countries, the wisdom of a centuries old library was torched to the ground for the short term power of the few.
The same evil instinct exists in the power hungry today. Books were burned in Nazi Germany, and dare it be mentioned in the same sentence, Tea Party rallies! But since the onslaught of the internet, it’s far more difficult to destroy wisdom. Instead, the technique of the power structure has become to “cloud” and confuse it. Spreading disinformation is a near impossible crime to convict. Certainly more elusive than catching an arsonist.
Kind of makes you nostalgic for the days of physical knowledge. The time when you could find the answer in a book, instead of some shapeless information nebula that your dead laptop can no longer access.