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Olduvai
To Zeus the First Man was his father Cronus, whose Idi Amin-like appetite for children would have piped Zeus to the nearest septic tank had it not been for Mom Rhea. Mens rea got to her when Zeus was to be hubby’s next meal. She box-lunched a boulder instead. Cronus swallowed the deception whole. Zeus lived. To the best-selling author of Genesis the First Man was Adam, whose First Woman, befitting enough for a Neanderthal’s imagination, was a rib. But I insult Neanderthals, not to mention Adam’s Rib, the restaurant in Chicago. And to Camus the First Man was, existentially enough, himself. Aren’t we always, no matter what the cosmologists say? But those aren’t the intrigues. Humanity’s first men are. Not our homo sapiens selves 100,000 years removed but the humanoid sort that ambled about 2 million years ago in East Africa’s Olduvai Gorge, sans camcorder. The intrigue has nothing to do with Darwino-creationisms and other dullarduds of this age, but with archeology’s blind spot — the creatures' inner lives then and there, their individuality: What they thought about when they woke up, how they joked, what made them feel melancholy in their Serengeti, with what guttural tales their Herodotus regaled them through midsummer nights, whether they unionized. Hubble can see billions of years into space’s origins. We can’t glimpse one dim thought from our own ancestors. They weren’t the lonely ones for living in that desert of humanity. We are, for knowing our universal First Men none at all.

—L.D. Amabed Jr.

 

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