Friday, January 21, 2011

On the loss of Memory

Virtually everyone knows about the loss of short term memory. They heard about it when they started smoking weed and when they did other less civilized ways of dealing with short term sexual tension. But then there's Age and it brings with you short term memory loss and immediate memory loss and brief totally fictional memory, i.e.implanted memory... so many ways to lose your way. But, there is a way of memory that you might call the Way of Mid-Term memory loss.

We all know how the next breed of humans are not prime material to face a world of competition. But we don't breed humans for the most part, only for sport and never for politics. The thing is you can't judge a buck by his cover.

When a blacksmith has in their hand a piece of work so fine, so just no better, they, in the end, are holding iron, metal of some antiquity and a Master of working iron is standing on the shoulders of those who worked bronze. There are books with detailed instructions on the theory and execution of a carburetor producing a dose of gasoline fumes and oxygen in a compressed cylinder while being struck with a spark in the midst. This can move people to want more power over their lives. They may want to move without horses!

There was a time when men of some experience would hang out a shingle of wood with a sign showing what they thought they knew. For many real and political reasons the Blacksmith would be found at the edge of town, mostly near a bridge if they had one. A Smith would hang out a sign of an anvil and if another Smith should come around, the newcomer would no doubt have a reason to doubt the first Smith's territory and skill, so he would dispute the first and a competition would occur, a great occasion for  folks of all ages. The Smiths would go thru all the usual blacksmith accomplishments and move into the more esoteric, producing more and more complex pieces of work, lances that never dulled and puzzles for the little ones. People would bring in things to repair and sharpen and the meet would go on for hours, perhaps but at some point one Smith would concede defeat and the folk would go home and no doubt the Smiths would go sauna or drink and chat about what was going on here and around here, down that road from which had come the new Blacksmith. Perhaps here he planned to make a stand, to teach the skills of iron, bronze and copper. A Smith could locate ore, smelt and refine the ore using local clays, stone, wood and fire brought from the Smith in a little bowl.

Once smelted, the iron, bronze or copper could be shaped by Master Smiths into any shape you could imagine, and any device you could imagine they could build. There were lone Masters who lived apart and repaired odd things and made one-off devices or jewelry. They were harder to find and were almost always very old by the time you did in fact find them and present them with your great-grandfathers mantle clock which no longer chimes or runs. But they took great care handling the clock and looking inside like a sloth counting ants on a hive.

Boots were repaired by elves behind closed doors. Everyone knew that. I, myself, have had a pair of excellent leather boots repaired, re-soled by a tiny little man with a thousand nails in his mouth and he Knew what to do. A few days later, a new pair of wonderful, excellent-fitting boots would appear on his counter and you would leave a small offering of odd metal chips for the Master to take home. This was a time when the coins were worth their weight in whatever.

So that was the Smith. There was also the Rag Man. He usually had a wooden cart filled with things and a pile of this and that. He did also have a pile of rags which his wife might turn into quality quilts for sale later, or she might repair certain gowns. But things got repaired and delivered and sometimes message, too, if the wagon went a certain way. It was a kind of Facebook, an early Facebook. Now, all Farmers need Smiths sooner or later, just as Astarte needed Vulcan. The Smith and Farmer both needed big families to run the shops and barns and such. In some towns a certain Master might work in fine metals or in glass, and they might catch the attention of locals as having Special skills

Gardener was a Son of Farmer, and he worked very hard or sometimes She worked very hard at growing herbs and spices and oils, infusions, rubs, and decompression techniques for the overworked. She lived on the outskirts of Town, which is where two roads came to-gather. And roads were named from roods, or reeds, which is what the Sumerians used as a unit of measurement of distance, ala along a road.  Where is your Smith today?

Most of our society will argue away the Smiths and the tinsmith and the Herbalist or Hedge-witch or all those mid range Masters who would hang out a shingle so people knew who to go to if something needed help.

Now, hold onto this thought: You don't know any tailors, so you cannot clothe yourself. You do not know a Blacksmith, so you cannot have tools made to work your trade. You cannot heal when you need it, and when things go wrong, as they often do, you only "know" the Yellow Pages. As we got rid of all the Masters who were not familiar enough to ply their trades locally, we could do with some one with a big dog to watch over our sacks of wheat and rye and taters and onions etc what makes up a society. We have no muzzled or not monster to slow down the would-be sackers of humanity.

Mercury was a Messenger, trusty-worthy or not, He was it for getting the word out. There were people hanging out around banks and barbers to take the occasional message for the occasional chip of copper, a common metal. These might be Mercury!  But he got the job done and he did not form gangs with inappropriate tattoos on their necks and faces. They did not go cutting off peoples heads. Among themselves they told tall tales about their messages and their travels and they argued about which was the greatest, fastest, most cool messenger of all times. Now nobody needs someone to take a message without stopping, just get it to this person and there's a piece of silver for you if you get it there by the tenth bell. Without all these half-starved kids running all over town with notes they could not read we would not now have the hydrogen bomb!

Suppose every small hydro-dam generator looked like an ancient crumbled mill? would that satisfy the People? Think of it... you are riding down Main Street in a two pony cart and your driver gave the Boy to run ahead and tell Granny you were coming! O! What a lovely day- 2025 AD! If we wanted it to be...But we probably won't want all that humming so close to our bedrooms, so I guess not. Frankenstein did it, the Doctor, not the monster. But not new York City, for all it's watery options.

Who needs a tinker when all we have is un-repairable? Who needs a Rat-Boy or a Messenger, or a Flower-Girl, a basket-weaver, a Miller? When our Apple juice and Chicken jerky dog treats comes from China dare we ask where our eggs and flour have come from? Who maintains the quality? We have been told there isn't any money for all of that, just enough money to hire enough Thugs to collect the taxes. Not enough to heal the sick or educate the illiterate, just enough for Power to apply to the masses. and In the process the Smiths have vanished, the Barber is gone and there are no Potters or Bone-Setters either. We are on our own.

You can design a house in your head, or maybe a room, but you cannot think of what the house down the road has to do with the house you want to live in. But is it upstream or down, does it shade your land or not, and in a pinch does the person living there like you enough to give you shelter if you Needed it?

Do you know who in the neighborhood knows CPR, to put a modern spin on things? Do we even know the occupations of our neighbors' neighbor? Not much of a neighborhood, but a start. Who knows how to make bricks? who knows how to make glass? who knows how to grow food?, who knows how to drill wells? But we can go to the moon...or can we? The Saturn V booster is the greatest strongest machine we ever built and yet the last one is rotting on the ground because we don't do that any more. We don't build hydrogen blimps anymore either. We don't bend wood into a circle so we can roll our asses across the ground instead of walking!

The loss of a key element can set a society back generations. The less we know, the less we can go.

No comments: