Origami and the Shaping of World Events
An alternative look at history through the eyes of an origamist
You know, when you get that nagging feeling that something isn't quite right. You dwell on it. You think about it. You ponder it's implications. The feeling starts to eat into you until it persists at your very core. You wish this feeling would go away and you know the only way that that's going to happen is, if you act upon it.
I had that feeling about world history and what had shaped the very foundations of the society we live in. Somehow, I just didn't think that what I had been taught in school was correct. We'd been lied to, I thought The facts weren't correct, I pondered. And so my very own conspiracy theory was born. Origami, I conjectured had played a major part in some of the major historical events and we hadn't been taught about it in our history lessons. A spine chilling shudder went right through me. It drained all of my energy and the only thought I could muster was, 'Blimey!' So I went on a quest - a quest to discover the reality behind the 'truth'.
The fruits of my extensive research are laid out before you below. They're presented in little factoid paragraphs – nothing too weighty, nothing too skimpy. I'll leave you to make up your own mind as to how much a part, origami featured in world events – certainly my minds are made up! However, no historical researcher worth his salt can present you the facts, without including this caveat - 'any factual inaccuracies contained therin are entirely of my own making!'
And now for your enlightment, the facts and nothing but .....
1. THE DISCOVERY OF Dr LIVINGSTONE
It is well known that Henry Morton Stanley mounted an expedition to locate the missing missionary, Dr Livingstone. What I have discovered is that he decided to seek advice from one of his friends as to what strategy he should adopt to find him. His friend, a passionate origamist, suggested that the best time to travel would be during the African National Origami Month. Henry Morton Stanley thought this to be a rather unusual strategy and asked his friend to explain himself. ''The logic is quite simple”, his friend stated. “When you stumble across a village and you find there is an absence of antelopes within their origami display, it means that you are within 100 miles of Dr Livingstone. Likewise, a village whose origami display contains no elephants means that your group is within 20 miles of him, but a village whose display is completely bereft of gnus means that you have located the village where Dr Livingstone can be found”. “Preposterous”, bellowed Stanley. “Explain yourself, man”. 'Well, no gnus is good gnus”, his friend continued, “....and the good news will be the location of Dr Livingstone, I presume”. “Well, I can't fault your logic”, replied Stanley and so it was, that this origami based strategy was adopted and Dr Livingstone was indeed found in the deepest darkest depths of Africa in 1871.
2. THE BEGINNINGS OF MODERN AVIATION
At the beginning of the last Millennium, Orville Wright was grappling with the complexities of aerodynamics design. During a particularly intense period of design, he had had to answer a call of nature and whilst minding his own business, a paper plane flew in through the open bathroom window, having been chucked in by some kids playing in the streets outside his house. Inspired by this flying vision, an ‘eureka’ moment ensued and grabbing the only thing he could find, he feverishly began to use his origami skills to fold the available toilet paper into roughly the shape of the plane that had sprung into his mind. This paper model was then used as the springboard to build the first prototype of what became the first motor powered heaver-than-air flying machine first flown at Kitty Hawk, USA in 1904. It is my understanding that the original paper model made out of toilet paper is still kept in a vault that belongs to one of Orville's descendants, the location of which I have been asked not to reveal.
3. EINSTEIN’S THEORY OF RELATIVITY
In a moment of nostalgic whim, Einstein decided to pop in and see how one of his former favourite junior schoolteachers was fairing these days. The schoolteacher in question, at the time was teaching his class of children how to crumple different sizes of paper into origami boulders. When Einstein popped into the classroom, the surprise of an unexpected visitor to the class made the kids so excitable that they started chucking the origami boulders at one another in a mock battle. At this point, Einstein in his mind’s eye began to see how an equation he was working on at the time could be solved. He postulated that the Energy (E) that the kids were chucking the origami boulders with, was equal to the sum of the Mass (M) of these boulders multiplied by the square of the speed (C) at which they were being chucked at. Sometime later and back in his laboratory he combined all of these different properties of the origami boulders together and came up with his now famous equation E = MC2 that is now taught to school children around the world as part of their educational curriculum.
4. THE DISCOVERY OF TUTANKHAMUN
One of the best little known facts about the famous Egyptologist Howard Carter, was that he was into origami and curiously enough it was this particular hobby of his that enabled him to eventually discover the Tomb of Tutankhamun. Whilst travelling in Egypt on one of his archaeological expeditions, he came across some local herdsmen, who upon hearing of the purpose of his visit and of his interest in origami gave him an unsolved riddle to ponder in the hopes that his knowledge of origami would eventually lead to the riddle being solved. The riddle went thus, “Surrounded by ‘folds’ of mountains, Within a great ‘valley line’, ‘Sink’ your shaft into the sand and, ‘Crease’ with excitement as the treasure ‘unfolds’ before thine”. With his extensive knowledge of origami, he was able to solve this tantalising riddle and using the clues that lay within, he was able to eventually discover the Tomb of Tutankhamun in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings in 1922.
5. THE NAMING OF PENICILLIN
In 1928 an origami art exhibition was being held in London on the opposite side of the road to the lab where Alexander Fleming was working on his search for anti-bacterial agents. However, this was no ordinary origami art exhibition as each exhibit was made out of mouldy bread. It was put on by an angry young artist who wanted to cut a scathing attack on the ‘rot’ of ideas that he perceived other artists had been producing at that time. He represented this rot by ‘wet folding’ mouldy pieces of bread into female figures, all of whom he named Penny Chilling. The name was no spur of the moment job as it was designed as a combined attack towards the art world and a certain ex-girlfriend in his personal life. The christian name Penny, was derived from a recent broken relationship with a girlfriend called Penny, the surname Chilling was used to represent the chilling message he wished to send to the rest of the art world, whilst the mouldy bread was used to represent the rot that had set into the art world. On the day that Fleming discovered mould growing in one of his Petri dishes, he also decided to visit the aforementioned origami mouldy bread art exhibition. Seeing the synchronistic coincidence of visiting an art exhibition about mouldy art and his discovery of a special mould in his petri dishes that day, Fleming decided to name his discovery Penicillin after the actual origami art exhibition called Penny Chilling.
6. THE MAKING OF AL CAPONE
Whilst in school Al Capone joined the school Origami Club. His interest in the subject waxed and waned until he was introduced into the world of dollar bill folding. From that moment on he became a dollar bill fold fanatic, folding anything and everything from whatever paper money he could lay his hands on. Unfortunately his passion dwindled his supply of dollar bills rather rapidly to such an extent that he finally resorted to stealing the money to fuel the origami fire within him. This thus became the start of Al Capone’s new direction in life and sadly it is a little known fact that origami was responsible for the making of the notorious criminal legend that Al Capone eventually became.
7. THE FIRST SUB 4 MINUTE MILE
Roger Bannister had a dream to be the first person to run a sub 4 minute mile. To do this he needed a coach, whose style was different to everybody else’s and the one he ended up with certainly had an unorthodox style. Initially, Roger’s coach bet him that if he ran a mile in less time than it took him to fold four origami flapping birds he would buy him a slap up meal every day for a week. The coach took almost precisely one minute to make a flapping bird and each training week that went by Roger Bannister would finish at a progressively further stage on the coach’s fifth flapping bird. However, the coach saw that the incentive of winning one meal for a week wasn’t enough, so to get Roger to break the four minute barrier he upped the stakes and increased his bet to one slap up meal every day for a month. This was the incentive Roger needed and on 17th May 1954 Roger finally crossed the finishing line before the coach had completed his fourth flapping bird in a time of 3:59:58 seconds. To this day it is still not widely known that origami had a helping hand in Roger Bannister’s sub four minute mile run.
8. THE BEGINNINGS OF THE MODERN COMPUTER ERA
Von Newman, the person who eventually became recognized for formulating the method and reasoning behind the components of the modern day computer, used to work in an office where his fellow colleagues would make paper airplanes and assorted origami models out of the waste paper left behind after a hard day’s work. This infuriated Von Newman, who liked a tidy, scrupulously clean office to work in and certainly not one cluttered with origami models. He vowed to be rid of such a nuisance by attempting to create the paperless office through the invention of the computer and during the 1950s, he set himself a goal to make this vision a reality. Fortunately for office bound origamists such a myth is still a long way off, but they can be thankful that origami kick started off the whole era of modern computers as we know it by pushing Von Newman into mapping out the groundwork for the modern day computer.
9. THE SPACE RACE
In the 1950’s the American government obtained photos of a Russian Officers' desk littered with blueprints of a space rocket that the Russian Space Agency was working on at that time. These photos made the Americans realise that they were lagging far behind the Russians in their quest to explore space. Armed with this knowledge, they formed NASA and thus began what became known as the ‘Space Race’. However, history has now revealed that the photos that started the Race off in the first place were not actually blueprints of a real space rocket but diagrams of an origami space rocket that the aforementioned Russian Officer was in the middle of diagramming up. If it wasn't for origami and that Russian officer’s passion for it, the Space Race might never have happened!
10. THE BREAK UP OF THE BEATLES
One of the reasons stated for the acrimonious break up of the Fab Four was given as artistic reasons which a former Beatle’s roadie has now revealed in more detail as being of origami artistic reasons. Two of the Fab Four he claimed, were secret origamists, a fact known only to a select few roadies and close friends. The reasons stated for the split by these two origamists, both alluded to their love of the ancient art. John Lennon left because he wanted “Peace, Man” which the roadie claimed was a reference to him constantly asking for a ‘piece’ of paper from Paul McCartney, who refused to give him his share of the available stock of origami paper. Paul McCartney on the other hand, stated that everyone in the group was arguing and getting into a ”right flap” which the roadie claimed was a reference to the dischord between John and Paul over which flaps were supposed to be folded on which models. In the end, origami was cited as the main reason behind the groups split up, a fact known only to a few select people – until now of course!
11. GREASE, THE FILM
It is a little known fact that an obscure scriptwriter wrote the original script for the blockbuster film Grease based on a love affair that she had had with a fellow enthusiast at her local origami club. Unfortunately, the production company responsible for the film stole her script, reworked it and the rest, as they say is history. Sadly the scriptwriter has never been given her due credit for spawning this worldwide phenomenon and today she still remains an obscure scriptwriter and origamist. To put the record straight and with the scriptwriter's permission, I describe below her original script. I leave it up to you, the reader, as to whether she should have been given her due credit for the film.
Her script, entitled ‘Crease’ was about origami folders Sandy ‘Squash Fold’ and Danny ‘Diamond Base’ who meet up on a beach and fall in love. When Summer ends, Sandy is heart broken after she learns that she has to return home to Australia with her parents. But fate lends a hand and her parents decide to stay in America. Sandy and Danny meet up again, but this time at an origami group they are both attending, but Danny at the origami group is different to the Danny she met on the beach. He is a leader of a notorious gang of origami folders called T’Bird Bases and he has a reputation to keep up. Sandy hangs out with the Pink Folders, a group of girls that like using pink paper for origami models. Does she attempt to get her man by changing him or must she get rid of her prim and proper Sandra ‘Squash Fold’ image? Notable songs in her script included ‘Creased Lightning’, and ‘You’re the One that I Want (to fold with)!
And there you have it ladies and gentlemen - what you'd always suspected but dared not believe was true. Yes, origami is THE shaker and maker of world history as we know it today. And so, after such an exhaustive investigation, all that is left for me to say is, keep on folding – it might be your model next that shapes the world we live in!!!