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Neanderthals, Barbarians, and Addicts

“I would love to know who tried it first,” writes Lee Child about opium. “I would love to know who tried anything first. Who first dug up a strange root or random tuber and thought, hey, you know what—maybe I should cook this and eat it? In particular, I would love to know how many died trying.”

Reminds me of that Calvin and Hobbes strip where Calvin wonders why we drink cow’s milk. “Who was the guy,” he asks Hobbes as he moves his fists up and down in a milking gesture, “who first looked at a cow and said, ‘I think I’ll drink whatever comes out of these things when I squeeze ’em!’?”

Sure, it’s funny—I laughed out loud when I first read it—but it’s also kind of sobering when you realize that much of what we know today is the result of millennia of trial and error. “Our species,” continues Child, “seems to be restless and curious to a degree that seems almost unhinged.”

Read the rest of Child’s article—which is really about etymology—over at The Times Literary Supplement.



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