Coneheads (Part 1 of 2)

From the textbooks: two points suggest a line; three establish a plane.

The triangle, elegant and easy, is the most stable, supportive form. The first shape. The image of a person, upright. A natural mountain. Tepee.

Two is productive but flimsy. On/off. Black/white. True/false. Binary numbers, electricity, all those computers. Lacking perspective.

From the lessons: Semites and Sumerians are not alike. They have different understandings of space and time. They have different home planets. They can’t produce offspring. Dogs and Semites share 90% of their DNA. Sumerians and Semites have less than 84% of their genetic material in common.

But the two peoples look alike. They’ve lived and worked side by side now for five thousand years. The visitors, far less plentiful but much longer-lived, aware of the situation and careful like vampires to guard their real identities, and the indigenous opportunistic fecund folk, fruitful and foolish.

It’s time the story was told. I know I’m risking resentment by some and scorn by many, but I’ve had a long life and a full career and, anyway, continuing this way has become intolerable to me. I must speak:

About three thousand years before the beginning of the Common Era, this planet was seeded by Sumerian scouts. Only a few places in Asia, the Middle East and Africa were actually populated then, and the property between the two rivers had oft-flooding waterways and a little agriculture, so the Sumerians inserted themselves into the Tigris/Euphrates region.

The indigenous Semites were making some progress toward civilization there. Swamps had been drained; canals had been built and were maintained. People were beginning to cluster together in bigger groups, with consequent politics. The Sumerians were able to slip a few of themselves into those proto-cities, and to introduce constructs that helped them become city-states.

Sumerians have trinary attitudes. They think in terms of on/off/other, where other goes in the direction which is perpendicular to the on/off axis, the line which takes the issue into three dimensions. Their intergalactic travel is based on a type of teleportation that rides that “other” line. Their best reproductions involve three parents. The epic hero Gilgamesh, for example, was a true Sumerian, and a hint of that sneaks out in the poetry, which describes him as two parts god and one part man.

On close examination, a Sumerian skull is a little pointed on top. The fontanelle closes differently than on Semites. It wasn’t accidental that Sumerian brains invented writing based on the wedge shape, or came up with ziggurats for shrines. They also brought the wheel, which was of course not triangular in shape, but they were forced to adopt that because it was so much better than a sledge at transporting goods. Sumerians introduced arithmetic to keep track of trade, and contrary to popular thought, base ten was used not because it happened to be the number of a person’s digits. It was simply the best pyramid number – one, three and six were too small, and fifteen was too big.

Sumerian “civilization” didn’t last that long; a thousand years is a Sumerian life span, and that’s about the extent of their rule. But their developments were adopted by the succeeding dynasties of Semites. Written language continued, the wheel was refined, arithmetic was advanced. Their pantheon became the basis for all the region’s religions; their law, with its attention to contracts and revenge, became the foundation for western civilization.

Some Semites got the message better than others. The Hebrews had an apparently innate affinity for trade; they were such commercial “naturals” that the Sumerians more or less chose them as spiritual successors, and the Hebrews (coincidentally?) chose the intersection of two equilateral triangles as the symbol of their culture. Other sects had less mercantile attitudes (and symbols made of straight lines or, romantically, curves!), but everyone caught on to the benefits of organized manufacture and distribution.

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