Amidst the towering rocks and speckled sand, far beyond our village, scattered, dust-clothed debris hunkers, the meaning of each piece a mystery to be puzzled over.
The old ones tell tales that have been passed down through generations. No doubt, with each telling, some details have shrunk, while others have swelled.
They speak of a long-lost existence called civilisation; a way of being that was better than this. They say there are clues in the artefacts that rust and decay in the sun and rain. They say these are scraps of something called machine, which made life easy, and that something called electron made it fun. Furthermore, humankind once had the voices of giants, which could be heard from the place where the sun rises all the way to where it sets. They had wings to fly high up in the sky, even to the stars.
They claim that those who went before could swim for weeks beneath the sea inside a waterproof hut, constructed from the twisted lumps of stuff that sinks into the wasteland where children are discouraged from playing; the stuff as hard and dead as stone that never shrinks or grows, but only feeds the weeds that dig their roots around their seams. The stuff that they made machine from.
Safely stored deep in dry caves are thousands of oblong blocks of a flimsy material called paper, and each piece is spread with intricate marks called writing. There are pictures too. The old ones think that some of them are pictures of machine and electron, but no one knows which ones they could be; the world must have been very different then – even some of the drawings of flowers and trees are unfamiliar.
It is said that these oblongs are our heritage. The old ones, and some of the young, try to make sense of them, since some say that they are messages from the Gods; instructions on how to build the world the way it was before.
They say this would be a good thing, but I’m not sure.
I think about machine and electron, about the loud talking and the flying and the swimming beneath the sea.
I wonder what happened to the civilisation race. Where did they go, and why did they leave just a few behind? Did they die, as some say, or did they go to live on the blind side of the moon, as others believe?
It is evening. Children dance and play in the dusk, lovers lean toward each other. The old ones smile contentedly and share our traditional jokes, which make us all laugh, while the rest of us absorb the peace as each of us carries out a given task.
At this time of day, everybody is contented. It is too dark to see the writing and the pictures, so nobody speaks of civilisation. That is breakfast-time talk.
Surrounded by my people, I crouch over the pile of wood in the centre of our village, rubbing two sticks together. As the fire builds, you lift the big pot onto it. Bending down, you place your hand on my swelling belly. As I look into your eyes, I see a bright reflection of flame, and it brings a revelation;
Civilisation is a word for people living a civilised life, being civil. Civilisation must surely mean peace, and we have it right here. We don’t need machine.
Although my story strays a little way from the requirements, this was written for Reena’s Exploration Challenge Week 5 Maybe you would like to join in with this thought-provoking challenge.
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.Words for Peace #3
Today’s word for peace comes from the Philippines. It is in Filipino (tagalog). Tagalog is the first language of 28 million people in a country that has 185 languages.
©Jane Paterson Basil