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
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