Think for a moment about the Agricultural Revolution from the viewpoint of wheat. Ten thousand years ago wheat was just a wild grass, one of many, confined to a small range in the Middle East. Suddenly, within just a few short millennia, it was growing all over the world. According to the basic evolutionary criteria of survival and reproduction, wheat has become one of the most successful plants in the history of the earth. In areas such as the Great Plains of North America, where not a single wheat stalk grew 10,000 years ago, you can today walk for hundreds upon hundreds of kilometres without encountering any other plant. Worldwide, wheat covers about 2.25 million square kilometres of the globes surface, almost ten times the size of Britain. How did this grass turn from insignificant to ubiquitous?
Wheat did it by manipulating Homo sapiens to its advantage. This ape had been living a fairly comfortable life hunting and gathering until about 10,000 years ago, but then began to invest more and more effort in cultivating wheat. Within a couple of millennia, humans in many parts of the world were doing little from dawn to dusk other than taking care of wheat plants. It wasn’t easy. Wheat demanded a lot of them. Wheat didn’t like rocks and pebbles, so Sapiens broke their backs clearing fields. Wheat didn’t like sharing its space, water and nutrients with other plants, so men and women laboured long days weeding under the scorching sun. Wheat got sick, so Sapiens had to keep a watch out for worms and blight. Wheat was defenceless against other organisms that liked to eat it, from rabbits to locust swarms, so the farmers had to guard and protect it. Wheat was thirsty, so humans lugged water from springs and streams to water it. Its hunger even impelled Sapiens to collect animal faeces to nourish the ground in which wheat grew.
The body of Homo sapiens had not evolved for such tasks. It was adapted to climbing apple trees and running after gazelles, not to clearing rocks and carrying water buckets. Human spines, knees, necks and arches paid the price. Studies of ancient skeletons indicate that the transition to agriculture brought about a plethora of ailments, such as slipped discs, arthritis and hernias. Moreover, the new agricultural tasks demanded so much time that people were forced to settle permanently next to their wheat fields. This completely changed their way of life.
We did not domesticate wheat. It domesticated us. The word ‘domesticate’ comes from the Latin domus, which means ‘house’. Who’s the one living in a house?
(FROM ANIMALS INTO GODS: A Brief History of Humankind, Yuval Noah Harari, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform)
that’s right. who is living in the house? i don’t know about you. but when i’ve read this passage, i’ve suddenly pictured the wheat. the spikes. all those tiny little heads perched on one single stalk. quivering, talking to the wind. and then i knew. i knew why we constantly eat bread. pizza. pasta. how deeply it infiltrated our lives so that we cannot eat anything else. have you tried to live without bread? pastry? biscuits? pizzetta? gnocchino? focaccia? lasagna? the flour is everywhere. and don’t tell me that there are other kinds of flour because they don’t taste as delicious. collective drug. lucky you if you have developed some sort of intolerance. and unconsciously got free! i know. my words sound delirious. but how does this fit in with VISITORS?
i’ve always believed in the existence of aliens. superior creatures. highly evolved. perfect and magnificent. The presence of a divine entity was explained only through them. they were GOD to me. when i was little i heard the grown-ups talk and discuss about their numerous faiths. especially communism and socialism. catholicism at school. and then other ones that popped in and out different conversations. i believed that something was out there. it had always been there. it was the only explanation to some strange events that occurred in my life. in our lives. but the existence of evil was beyond my comprehension. then i heard about the reptilians. evil aliens. and i believed in their existence right away. VISITORS came to my mind. the series that in the eighties reigned over the minds and conversations of all my schoolmates. but not over mine. i don’t remember why i didn’t watch it. it wasn’t uncommon of me to avoid what was popular among others. probably because my mother preferred other programmes. but i know its plot and twists because it was the only topic of conversation in class. then i made the connection between the reptilians and what is happening today around me. around all of us. how we are unaware slaves. we are so arrogant and stupid. thinking we are the superior species in control of our existence. we are nothing but stupid puppets instead. but who is our master?
you might believe the answer is: THE WHEAT and this idea makes me laugh. here are again those tiny ovate heads with antennas swaying in the wind. quivering. in a thundering silence. they are aliens. VISITORS. they tempted our taste buds and enslaved us. they invaded and colonised us. subjugated us. we sheepishly gave up our freedom. the diversity. the peaceful and carefree wild life. with no laws, except for the law of the jungle. no restrictions. no bullshit about the sense of duty and our jobs. in order to worship a YELLOW spiky alien. who shouts commands from our stomach. more. more. more. while we become poor. fat. stupid. because we all know that a balanced diet makes us cleverer. more. more. more. we shout. and we are too intent looking at our mobile screens. but this is another story… so my appeal to you is to stop eating wheat. i know. it’s not easy. everyday i swear i will not lose my ground. and i inevitably surrender. but i least i know. of course the wheat is only one of the possible aliens i’ve invited you to describe.
is there life beyond the planet Earth? as days go by i realize that there is such an abundance of life that we need to re-establish the values of human dimensions and not only in relation to the outer world. but also on the planet. if there actually is a planet which is not just a rock. when i was younger my father told me that Socrates. the great Socrates affirmed: sólo sé que nada sé. (i know that i know nothing). i’m writing it in spanish because it’s more melodious. while the italian translation: io so di non sapere is not. but the meaning doesn’t change. i know nothing. the thousand ideas and stories that i hear show me how limited our knowledge is and how vast the possibilities are. the problem is that we are too small. to see. our eyes aren’t big enough to welcome all. our skills are raw. our brains aren’t smart enough. and our spirits. sadly. are too arid.
this is an invitation to try looking. seeing. reading. or even just imagining. things from another point of view. for fun. or not.
Our father, who is in heaven,
holy is your name;
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our sins,
as we forgive those who sin against us;
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.