I couldn't remember where I heard it, but be it a podcast, a blog, a documentary or the radio, a man was speculating why it took so long to build the chimney. The Romans had the earliest success with "chimney technology," installing flues in bakeries that would channel smoke outside. This technological advancement was lost with the collapse of the Roman empire and would not return until 1200AD in England. But whether it was 1200 England or 100BC Rome, humans had already been living in much more northern, and therefore colder, climes millennia before these inventions.
So how'd they keep warm?
Simple. They'd just have a fire on the dirt floor in the middle of their house with a hole (or holes) poked in the ceiling of the roof to aerate out the smoke. Of course, only a fraction of the smoke would aerate, leaving a barely breathable room to live and sleep in. And of course, heat would also escape making winter particularly cold for Vikings and others who lived in northern climes. And of course, this would make life miserable for anybody living in winter. But that is what humans endured for tens of thousands of years until the Brits developed the "advanced" technology of putting a pipe over flame in 1200AD.
Surprisingly, chimney technology would not advance seriously for another 500 years until various 18th century philosophers, scientists, and tinkerers (Benjamin Franklin prominently among them) would finally hunker down, put pen to paper, and start to experiment with various forms of heating, ventilation, and flame ultimately resulting in the two modern forms of chimneys we have today - the brick chimney and the wood burning stove. So it wasn't until a short 200 years ago (out of the 2 MILLION years of human existence) did we have effective and efficient chimneys.
My question was, "Why the hell did it take so damn long for humans to develop this basic and NECESSARY thing?"
Not that this wasn't an impressive accomplishment. If you research it, successfully heating a home with fire AND successfully ventilating the smoke out of a structure is more complicated than you think. There's heat convection, understanding (or in the olden days, misunderstanding) how fire burns, being able to adjust air/fuel, as well and the creation of a flue. But even this level of complexity it not that complex, and with heat being a vital necessity for human survival, one would think the chimney would have been developed long ago, along side the creation of inflammable ceramics and/or pottery.
But the historian I was listening to had a theory as to why this was. And it was so obvious even I had had the same epiphany earlier, but from a different angle:
Humans were too busy staying alive to take the time to sit down, think about it, experiment with it, and develop the chimney.
Between staving off rival tribes, growing food for winter, preparing for winter, cutting and hauling wood, maybe tending to livestock, and all the other demands of pre-historic/ancient life, humans simply did not have the spare time to pursue the luxury of thinking about how to heat a home more efficiently.
We may look at our prehistoric and ancient ancestors with a bit of derision and shame. How dumb did they all have to be that thousands of years, tens of thousands of years, perhaps even 100,000 years passed by and nobody thought to build a receptacle to hold a fire in and add a pipe outside to it? Certainly, SOMEBODY out of the past 50 billion humans that existed must have had SOME free time to create the chimney? Why The Original American Playboy, Benjamin Franklin, so late in the 1790's? But before we get too condescending realize nearly all of us are guilty of the exact same thing today.
It's just instead of
fighting off raiding tribes,
culling our weak, and
hunkering down in winter
go to school,
go to college,
suffer a commute,
work mind-destroying jobs,
play video games,
and if we're lucky,
wifey lets us go to Vegas for a weekend.
In short, humanity, regardless of the era, and regardless of the technology, has always focused at the tasks at hand and never taken the time to stop what they're doing, step back, look at what they're doing, ask themselves if there's an easier way to do things, and then spend the time actually developing those easier ways.
I came to this realization as I slowly, and accidentally, slipped into the vagabond "author, blogger, professional asshole, Cappy Appleseed" lifestyle I have today. Between roadtripping across the country, merely only to hike many parks, trails, and mountains by myself, you're forced to be alone with your thoughts for thousands of hours. Couple this with podcasting technology that gives your brain food for thought, it creates the perfect environment where you're (practically) FORCED to sit down and think about life and how to do things easier. This has resulted in not only a handful of clever, but profitable businesses I run today, but a surplus of business ideas that I have on my "idea pad" back at home that I can resort to should my current slew of businesses turn unprofitable. But my portfolio of business ideas set aside, the lesson learned is an important one that cannot be emphasized enough for fellow aspiring minimalists, philosophers, freedom-lovers, and entrepreneurs:
Sitting down and taking the time to think things through is a mandatory ingredient to successful entrepreneurship.
I am completely convinced that unplugging from The Matrix, quitting the Rat Race, and pulling your nose up from the grind is absolutely necessary to give you the time to survey the world around you, understand the context by which society, the economy, and businesses interact with one another, and therefore give your brain the time to identify ways to capitalize on this environment. Furthermore, if you are consciously "on the hunt" for entrepreneurial ideas, you will train your brain to recognize these opportunities more frequently, resulting in a "business idea list" like mine that is (in all honesty) a better guarantee of a financial future than social security.
I know "not everybody can be, nor wants to be, an entrepreneur." But I do know the majority of my readership are freedom-loving, envelop pushing, authority-hating individuals who would be happiest working for themselves (and subsequently telling their former bosses to shove it). Because of this I cannot emphasize enough you learn a lesson from the inexcusably-long development of chimneys. Take the time to unplug and think about things in society long and hard. Combine that with an "on the hunt" mentality for any entrepreneurial opportunity that exists. This won't guarantee you'll come up with a successful business idea, but it will guarantee you'll stand a better shot than the average wage slave commuting 2 hours to work, whose mind is rotting away in a cube, while being further medicated/impaired with mindless television and Oprah-level societal distractions.