“In my regard energy is the first and only virtue of man.”
– Wilhelm von Humboldt
Our relationship with energy began with fire. In the mythology of the Wurundjeri people, the Crow stole the secret of fire from the Karatgurk women. The Vainakh people gave the credit to the hero Pkharmat, while in Ojibwa myth, the hare stole fire and gave it to humans.
In Greek mythology, it was Prometheus who embodied both the creation of humanity (from clay) and the arrival of fire. This was just the beginning for this God of Fire. The infamous larcenist went on to represent so much more: human striving, the quest for knowledge, and the risk of overextension. Following the publication of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein – which had the subtitle “The Modern Prometheus” – creation, change, and progress came with a warning label: remember Prometheus.
Prometheus undoubtedly had ‘forethought’ – the meaning of his name – when he stole fire from the Gods and bestowed it on humans. But his foresight extended only as far as the prize; he thought little of the consequences of his actions. If we are to use modern ‘fire’ to our advantage, we must surpass Prometheus and consider not only what can be gained, but what might be lost.