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Saturday, May 28, 2011

from the vault: "civilization"

So here we are. 
Here’s a little tale that I wrote a few years ago, long before the threat of the Rapture that didn’t happen. Enjoy.
The civilization was crumbling. Riots and burning and statues toppling. It was of great concern to the Ruler. He sent out a dictum to his subordinates to quickly compile a recorded history of the civilization so that it would not be lost to the ages.
It was not a simple as the Ruler would have it be. “Sir,” said the subordinate, “there are some problems with the compilation.”
“How can that be? We have the entire history on the mainframes. Just create files and export them to the appropriate format.”
“Yes, but do you want it on Mac or PC? There’s no way to know which one will survive future events.”
“Doesn’t a PDF work in both formats?”
“Yes, sir. There’s another problem, though. We don’t know how long the magnetic particles on the discs will last... it’s likely that they will disintegrate in fewer than one hundred years.”
“Hmmm... that is a quandry. And flash drives?”
“You want to trust your entire civilization’s history to the whims of a hard drive? Of any kind?”
“Point well taken. I suppose the cloud--”
“--already hacked, sir.”
The Ruler sighed. “Perhaps we should go lower tech.”
“Paper. Fire up the laser printer.” The Ruler was very satisfied with himself. It did not take away his worry about the crumbling civilization, which seemed to be growing more chaotic by the minute.
Another subordinate piped up. “Sir?”
“We don’t have any acid-free paper. Plus there’s all the burning.”
The first subordinate chimed in. “Not to mention the flooding. And I’m not sure if the laser ink will fade over time.”
This was a source of great contention between the subordinates, and several more subordinates came into the fray with varying opinions about pairing inks and papers. Cardstock was briefly mentioned and abandoned. There was a suggestion of pounding out animal hides to avoid the disintegration of wood-based pulp paper, but it was soon determined that this would no doubt jam the printers. (This was also the case with cardstock.)
Finally, the Ruler could take no more. “Okay, okay. Here’s what we’re going to do. It’s going to be labor-intensive, but I’m sure that we can round up more subordinates, as well as plenty of citizens who are weary of rioting. We’re just going to chisel our history onto stone tablets. They can’t be hacked or erased, and they will certainly stand the test of time for hundreds, perhaps thousands of years, so our civilization will not be forgotten.”

“It is done, sir.” And off the subordinates went.
But of course, things are never so simple, and it was not long before another subordinate entered the Ruler’s chamber. “Sir?”
“What now? WHAT NOW?”
“Well, sir, there’s an issue with the language. How can we be certain that our language will survive any of this? I’d suggest making several copies in a variety of the classic ancient languages, but, well, it’s going to take long enough to chisel our history in one language, and then there’s the translation time...”

The Ruler knew that the firestorm was fierce outside his walls, and that total collapse was imminent. It pained him to know that concessions would have to be made, but he was determined to preserve his once-great civilization. And this is what he said:

“You will go to the tablets and you will record our history, not in words or letters or characters but rather in pictures and tableaus so simply depicted that no one in any future time will have any problem deciphering its meaning. Don’t take a lot of time trying to get the faces right - just make basic figures, and use clothing or headdress for identification. In fact, just put everyone in profile. It’s easier to draw. If we run out of tablets, carve into caves, or pottery, or anything like that. And since I know that carving takes a lot of time, well, just get some damned artists in here and have them paint some pots. The paint won’t fade too much if we stash the pots in dark places or bury them, or maybe we’ll get lucky and get consumed by lava. I know that chipping is a factor, but we don’t have any more time to debate this, people. Go. And try not to draw any copyrighted characters in provocative positions. Let’s go out with some class, shall we?”
And so they carved and painted and scrawled and scratched deep into the night. They were crude renderings to be sure; but then, the subordinates never took an art class, so all things considered, it wasn’t bad. And thanks to the Ruler’s wisdom, the history of the great lost civilization survived. Oh sure, it would have been better in prose, and the tale of the creation of the very first muffin was completely left out, but the artifacts live on. 
And the lesson we learn from this is that life is incredibly temporary, so start learning to carve now, because your tweets will only last so long.
Yes indeed. Welcome to me.

1 comment:

  1. Someone sent me a tweet last week to say "congratulations" because Lady Gaga follows me on Twitter. I didn't really know how to reply to that, but it got me thinking, what if I took it off-line and picked up the phone to call him to say, "Hey, I just got your tweet, and I thought I'd give you a call to talk about Lady Gaga and Twitter...just that Tweets are so impersonal, but you seemed to think it was important enough to engage me in a conversation, so I was just...blah, blah, blah.

    Was it Sartre who said "Hell is other people" ? I think he got it partially right. Hell is other people on Twitter.