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. 

Filipino (tagalog) word for Peace
For pronunciation, go to
Grateful thanks to Raili, who supplied today’s word.

©Jane Paterson Basil

45 thoughts on “Civilisation

  1. My wife, Ofelia, who is filipino from Ilocos norte. Is trying to help me to learn tagalog. I am a poor learner.For it bears little resemblance to our latin based European language.As much as she tries, it gives me a headache after 5 mins but I have not told her this.

    i just showed her this word kapayapaan to her and she told me that the root of this word is payapa and Ka with an, prefix and suffix makes the word payapa in to kapayapaan into one, that means one of peaceful ambience. … sigh! i find it all a challenge. Cheers Jamie

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in learning your wife’s language.
      As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms her native tongue.
      Speak your tagalog quietly and clearly; and listen to the correct pronunciation,
      even when you feel dull and ignorant; you too have some ability.

      I think I’ll offer a quick apology to Max Ehrmann, and quit while I’m ahead – or am I?

      Your wife has a lovely name.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. Maybe? It’s all karma, I suppose? I try not to think about that and just go with the flow, etc. Luck might be what you make it? If I helped make it? Jaisatchitanand. Grace. It’s all grace of God. Thanks Jane. Cheers Jamie.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Beautiful piece, Jane! It does not stray from the requirements, but exceeds it. The picture gradually built up, stroke by stroke, emphasizes the spirit of the question.

    Thanks for joining in this week, Stay with us!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve read lots of articles and stories, on this lazy Saturday afternoon, and the overall the imaginations of the writers has been exceptional, and your delightful story is both thought provoking, and wonderfully imaginative. Loved it Jane, well done. x

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, Ivor. I enjoyed the trip into a simple future where humankind lives in peace and harmony with whatever nature is left after the apocalypse.
      I may have told you that about three years ago, I lived for six months with my niece in a tent in the woods, while we ran a holiday campsite. We cooked over an open fire and laughed a lot. We didn’t have to cope with winter, but that life would be far better than what we have – except there’d be no WP 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Lovely Jane, though I wonder if a post-machine existence is only as happy in an environment of warmth and plenty such as a rainforest. In colder climes where resources are scarce I think mankind’s suffering would be greater.
    Beautiful picture of a happy culture and wonderfully written

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Lynn. I got a lot of pleasure from writing this piece. I often fantasise about being reborn in a post apocalyptic world. We’d get used to harsh weather conditions – other simple cultures have – but I’d make sure I was delivered onto a lush green, carpet of ferns beneath a canopy of beach, oak and elm.
      And we’d have a coffee plantation 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. You hit many a proverbial nail, on their proverbial heads’
    Yeah, I can remember civilisation, long lost the threads!

    Habitats mismanaged, o the willful distillation, the smoke
    Many many memories your writing did certainly evoke!

    Liked by 1 person

        1. Nope – I had driving lessons many years ago, but I made a choice not to take my test. I’ve seen far too many people driving when they would be far better walking, and I was afraid I might get tempted to join their camp if I gave myself the chance. I knew a woman who lived three minutes walk from school, but she drove them. From getting the car out of the garage to putting it back took about twelve to fifteen minutes, so she lost out on time, missed the opportunity for healthy exercise, and her carbon footprint was heavier than it should have been.

          Liked by 1 person

            1. It takes me five minutes to walk to Oxfam, and seven minutes to walk to the supermarket, and approximately 268 hours to stroll the length of Britain, from Lands End, at the bottom, to John o’ Groats, at the top. That’s 1,305 kilometers.
              Not that I’ve tried it 🙂

              Liked by 1 person

  6. 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.
    The last lines were so very apt and hit the nail in the head. Reading you is a pleasure, jane.

    Liked by 2 people

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