Humans are quite good at building things. During the last century or so, we’ve created numerous machines and devices that allow modern life to prosper—and even thrive. We’ve constructed massive skyscrapers, allowing people to live and work closer together than ever before. We’ve even created incredibly small devices that may, in the future, revolutionize how we take care of individuals who are sick. And yet, at the end of the day, we all want to go somewhere that has a roof to protect us from the elements, allows us to spend quality family time, and offers us security from intruders while we sleep.
In short, we want shelter. In the sixth episode of Origins (NatGeo, 9 PM/8PM CT), the discussion centers around this basic aspect of life many take for granted. You see, the spaces we exist in are reflections of who we are and windows into what our culture holds dear.
The early days of humanity were challenging to live in. Hunter-gatherers found caves or created their own spaces out of animal bones covered in furs to protect not only their close families, but other members of their community. It seems that once people are comfortable in their surroundings, they begin to develop a sense of identity—and the hearth was one place this occurred. Dwellings later allowed for individual privacy—something unheard of. Again, people didn’t have to merely attempt to survive hour by hour; they could explore other options for their lives. Glass windows allowed natural light to penetrate a house, eliminated the need for candles during the daytime, and helped to regulate temperature (thanks, Rome!). Faith communities saw the potential for larger buildings and natural light to help draw attention to themselves—a great example of this is the Durham Cathedral in England.
Advances continued to be made over the centuries, none bigger than the Otis safety elevator in the 19th century. Now buildings could be taller than ever while still offering safe spaces to live (and as a bonus, the most prized location in a building moved from the bottom floor to the top). In the outlying areas of New York, a pair of brothers in 1947 created plans for Levittown, the precursor to modern-day suburbia. The keys to these shelters were safety and community—something we will end up treasuring and coveting well into the future.
I personally found this episode of Origins to be intriguing, as I never considered the effect just having a consistent form of shelter could have on an individual. If you’re not having to worry about surviving, your pursuits of life can vary. Those pursuits can be beneficial not only to one family, but people around the world. Imagine how different life might be if Thomas Edison had to go from place to place attempting to kill animals for food or figure out how to get his clothes clean daily. Jesus told us not to worry about the intricacies of life, but seek the Kingdom of God first (see Matthew 6:33). To do that, however, one should be in a safe place where they can be silent and listen to God’s voice—consider the cave experience of Elijah as an example (see 1 Kings 19). It goes to show the importance of shelter. Protection and community allow us to become the people God wants us to be.