As the millennia passed, and language evolved, we have forgotten those fireside stories. We have forgotten the relationships between words. Hence, we have also forgotten the nuances and the depth of meaning of many words.
In that forgetting, and loss, we may have also lost our relationship to the earth, to nature, and to one another.
Yet, the shadows of those relationships still exist in our (English) language. If we trace back the derivation of words, we can find those early connections and relationships.
When we find those relationships, we can superficially say to ourselves: “oh, that’s interesting.” Or, we could be drawn into a deeper understanding of our human relationship with the earth. An understanding that our ancestors had.
One of those significant Proto-Indo-European (PIE) words is dhghem. It means earth.
From this root word we get our modern human, as well as words such as humus, humble, humility, and humane.
Around that ancient fireside I can imagine people constructing language and, almost absently, linking the words (and concepts) of human and humus. When they did so, I imagine there was little, if any dispute. In fact, I imagine, those listening would have thought: yes of course, we (humans) are of the humus (earth.)
Following on, I imagine, there may have been further dialogue in which the connections between humans and the earth were broadened and expanded. Someone around that fireside may have conjured up an entire story based on how the first human was created from the earth. Others may have added embellishments or even other words. Perhaps someone suggested the word humble to describe how humans were grateful for their home in the earth.
Indeed, the Hebrews did just that. The first human, within the Hebrew tradition, was called Adam, deriving from the Hebrew word for ground – adamah.
Later on, many many firesides later, the Swede, Carl Linnaeus, coined the binomial term homo sapiens to describe our species. Linnaeus retained the connection to the earth through the term homo which has connections with the word homunculus, or little person, often one who lived in the ground – an earthling.
If we were to sit around a fireside today, and if we were to bring our attention to what it means to be human, and if we were open to listening to the connections that our ancestors made, then we might find we gain a completely new awareness of our home. We might then begin to tell a different story of what it means to live in this home.
We are, quite literally, people of the earth. We are all earthlings.