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Adi & Praja 122

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Adi and Praja

Chapter 9

Issue 122: Reading

Shano in the mean time became an expert bow and arrow maker, and was much beloved because of his character. Wood was his hobby in all respects.


(reading and writing)

Shano himself was humble by nature, but his two brothers told around to everyone that Shano had learned to read. Nobody knew what was meant by ‘read’ and ‘script’ and ‘scripture,’ and the brothers tried to kind of explain it: it was looking at drawings on palm leaves which all had a name. It was very difficult, they said. They also had learned a few letters and words, but Shano knew everything. The people still didn’t really understand what ‘read’ meant, but it was obviously something very important – something only Shano could do. So the next day everybody was standing around Shano and wanted to see how he ‘read.’ Shano draw some examples in the sand, and told of one sign that it meant Shano. It meant the spirit of Shano, they reasoned, because Shano himself was just sitting in front of them. And immediately everyone wanted a script for his name. ‘Writing’ became very popular among young people, and within days everyone tried to outdo everyone else in making a drawing of his name. Then they went to Shano, and if he accepted the drawing they would carve it on a pole of there ‘house’ or a tree or on every other thing that was theirs. It was only a matter of time before a few bad boys discovered that you could carve your name on something that was not really yours, but from then on it was. So both ownership and theft had been invented in a short while. Other people, mostly kids, were a little more serious, and Shano would teach them. Some never made it further than one or two signs – they just didn’t have the intelligence or will power for it – but a small group continued, and this became Shano’s school. There were only five pupils, but it was a good beginning. They managed to learn the letters and how to combine them, and they even made their own compositions. Soon these five were able to communicate through ‘letters’ and convey messages, like ‘come here’ ‘Let’s go hunting’ ‘I love you.’ That made others see the use of writing, and many followed suit now. Some young guys became fanatic and almost got addicted to sending each other messages and trying to understand received messages. Of course you could even send a message to the next village through someone who happened to go there. And one girl wrote to a boy in the next village: “want you always with me” This led the first internet marriage in history.

After a year almost every child wanted to learn reading and writing, and even the boy who gave up after one sign, now managed. It became trendy to at least write ‘I love you’ and people’s names. Others wrote names for many animals, plants, vegetables and useful objects. Thus they could order something from other places without having to go there personally. People now started coming from other villages to Shano, and even by boat from other regions. To make a long story short: within one generation intelligent people from all sides who would meet at the ‘supermarket’ could communicate through script, even when they did not understand each others spoken languages. Everywhere teachers popped up.

Shano had his two books now. He could recognize all the letters, but not all the meanings. One book was about cooking, and was illustrated with drawings of vegetables and other edible things. So that was easy to learn. Moimoi brought some of the recipes in practice – and she invited people to ‘exotic’ meals. Regrettably this enlarged her self-esteem even more. But her meals were really great, because she made them with her heart for the guests. She also used imported items, ordered from the market by writing.

The second book was more difficult, but also more interesting. It was about medicine. Herbs were depicted as well as described, and Shano, being able to read the sign in the language of the two old men also, knew how to pronounce their names. Because there were drawings of leaves and flowers, and Shano and Moimoi already knew a lot of them, they learned about knew uses. Moimoi’s pharmacopeia was considerably extended, and she could heal some ailments other doctors couldn’t. They couldn’t wait till the two years were over, and they would learn more from the two bearded wise men at the market. And Shano asked himself: ‘Why wait two years? The market is there after one year also ! And with all his energy and enthusiasm he went after one year. The two men were there. But they hardly greeted him. They only said: “We told you to come next year.” That was a disappointment. They had another pupil now: a young men from the east, who was wearing cloths: a long white dress made of fine textile from his shoulders down to the ground. The boy was forbidden to communicate with Shano about the matters he had discussed with the men, and Shano was forbidden to ask questions. The two boys didn’t understand each others language anyway – but they could have communicated through writing. Still there was a bond of respect and friendship between the four – and they could do other things together, like using meals. Shano never knew who or what or where from the other boy was – but still they felt mutual sympathy as for a brother.

After four days Shano and his company decided to go home – without new knowledge and without new books. They still didn’t understand why. Obeying and keeping appointment were non-concepts in their culture – there was no need for it.

Life in the village went on as normal. Moimoi helped people and made baskets, Shano taught writing and made bows and arrows. Long evenings went by in silence, or in story telling. In Shano and Moimoi’s life considerable personal changes took place. They were now genuinely in love. They were no longer sister and brother – they had lost their innocence. But they kept it secret for the brothers and the parents. Moimoi could easily have been pregnant, were it not that Shano, with his upwards bent leg-stumps could impossibly reach her. It was a tragedy they had never thought of before. For the outer world nothing had changed, except that both were slowly developing more adult features.

So outwardly life went on as normal. Many stories were told about the secrets of the forest – especially the evasive secrets. The practical things about plants and animals were known by many. But it became more interesting when stories told about the things one could not see, but where nevertheless there – or probably there, or perhaps there. In fact the people of the forest had a complex religion. Every part of the forest had its own invisible presences, invisible spirits which some people could see or feel. There were people who where sure they had been in contact with the spirits of the forest. In fact there were a lot of different ones. They were divided in a tree pantheon, a water pantheon, an air pantheon and those always staying on the ground. There were also animal spirits and even plant spirits. Some had a higher position than others, and their was one top-spirit, who looked after and was more powerful than all others. She was called ‘the Mother of the Caiman.’ Not because she herself was a caiman, but because the story went that those who had seen her had seen her standing on the back of a caiman in the river. It was she who kept the forest in order – she was the mother of harmony. Disturbing harmony would mean disturbing her and then she might become angry, which could lead to all kinds of consequences: falling trees killing people, children being stolen by a jaguar, or bees stinging someone, etc. All other invisible creatures were automatically obeying her orders.

The religion of the people consisted in trying to understand the feelings of these beings and to make them happy – so that they would not turn against people. They were happy as long as the balance of life – the ecological balance we would say today – was not disturbed. They also were disturbed by people’s anger or hatred or other negative emotions. Then they would flee away as fast as they could, and the person who was the cause would have a feeling of loneliness, emptiness, for some time – as if the soul of the forest had gone while all trees were still the same. Temporarily such a person would be devoid of any refined feeling for nature. He was left alone with his mind and emotions. All such things belonged to the daily world of the people, and they could understand it. The stories about what would happen if one made them really angry were frightful and awe-inspiring – but it never happened on a large scale in these days. The earth would be shaking, or spit fire, and trees would die by thousands, followed by the animals and the people, and the rivers would be stinking and fruits poisonous. Until the people would listen to the spirits again.

There were also spirits of a different class. They could be naughty, even dangerous, but also helpful. One had to offer food items or drinks to them on a daily basis, just to keep them friendly. For the rest they were usually harmless. Some were expecting the ‘beer’ or meat or animal blood. Others were happy with a small piece of tuber bread. From the descriptions one can make out that they had been humans not long ago, while the others had never been humans. They had died not very long ago, and some of their attachments where still alive. They were hanging around the places where they had spent their lives, but slowly they decayed and ultimately disappeared. But there were black magicians in the forest who knew how to call them and make amok and create fear, especially in dark moonless nights. Some could produce sounds and haunt people roaming through the forest or over the savanna at night. Though harmless in themselves, people could get a heart attack when one suddenly doomed up from a hole in the ground or a dead tree. Thus the black magicians kept some of their human ‘enemies’ under control – just by fear.

The other thousands of different creature in and above the forest and the waters were determining the feelings of the forest. Thanks to them different locations had different moods, and different species of plants and animals would group together due to their presence, especially near the creeks. Such creatures had no mind, no evil, no bad emotions, but also no knowledge of good and evil or responsibility. Therefore they could be ‘teasing’ sometimes, by suddenly moving a leaf in the undergrowth or producing a sound. The forest was always full of sounds, and some were eerie – like a low pitched huuuuuh …. huuuuuuh, but most of these came from birds, others from amphibians and insects, sometimes mammals – the people knew these sounds. Sometimes one seemed to hear unknown sounds, low pitched sighing sounds, little squeaks, or rhythmic patterns, almost from another world it seemed – and these were, it was widely believed – due to forest spirits.

So their religion preserved the ecological balance as well as the morality of the people. It was only too bad that the black priests kept them continuously in a state of fear.

Shano was a thinker – he had time enough. He wondered where all these things came from. Had they always been there, or were they made by someone? But then, who on Earth could produce such wonderful things? He himself could make bows and arrows and wood carvings, but nothing that was alive. Did the forest spirits really exist, or were they only fantasies? He thought they did exist, but he could not grasp them – not with his hands nor with his mind. Then of what were they made? – because they were invisible, so they could not be made of wood or any other material. Had nature always been there? Would it still be there tomorrow, or could, just as an arrow, everything break to pieces and cease to exist? He could not answer such questions. What happened with wood when you burnt it? I was suddenly gone and never reappeared – except in the form of a new tree? Or were invisible beings made of burnt wood? And who was the fire? Was fire a living being or just a material like stone? It seemed to come from nowhere and to disappear into nothing after it had consumed its meal.

Fire was a mysterious thing, and there were stories about it. A long time ago people did not know how to make or call fire. Even today it was very difficult. That is why the people always kept fire awake, through all seasons, dry or wet, by feeding it continuously in special fire places. Everyone who needed fire to cook or for light came to that place with some dry branch or twig, and took some of the protected fire, which, miraculously, never diminished as long as you gave it food. They knew that water and fire were enemies, and bringing them together would lead to an instant fight between the water spirit and the fire spirit. In most cases one of the two would succumb. That is why they protected the fire carefully from the rain. In the remote past disasters had taken place when a roof gave way and rain poured down on fire. Because in those days people didn’t know how to make fire. It had been given by the spirits, a long time ago, and in a faraway country. People had taken it and walked with it to other places. They had been instructed to never let it extinguish, because it had been given only once, so they watched it carefully, day and night. In the beginning only a few individuals had fire, and they hid it zealously. Later it was used by villagers. Then it was carried to other villages – and then it was found that people could destroy each other’s houses and villages with fire. From then on fire was not spread to other people anymore, and whole countries remained deprived of fire. So people of the deprived places went out to steal fire. And this led to wars in which everything on both sides was destroyed. For centuries and centuries people lived in the cold and ate raw plants and meat only while others were warming themselves (the fire was, paradoxically, said to have originated from cold places).

The village of our story was a real hi-tech village. They had everything one could wish in the modern world: shelters, hammocks, axes, other stone and wooden tools, even tables, and mats to sit on, baskets, and also rasps and presses to handle the tubers, and they had fire, clay pots to cook and store, and bows and arrows, and nowadays even cloth and script and other imported items and instruments. Shano invented a few things also. In the first place a much more efficient press for the poisonous tuber pulp, which was a kind of braided shaft that could be narrowed by pulling it, so that the fluid could be separated without spoiling any valuable flour. One of his pleasant discoveries was that if you held a stick above your head when you were in boat on the river, biting flies would sit on the top of the stick and not on your nose. And other useful things. The people were also changing. Dressing oneself became more and in vogue among women, and in this way one could show one’s wealth – and thus social distinctions, jealousy and haughtiness became a part of the society. What had been normal suddenly became shameful, and secrecy was also invented. No spirit of the forest could stop that – but some wise people realized that one had, with the textiles and ornaments, imported some evil spirits from other countries – spirits which not naturally belonged here. Some tried to ban cloths and adornments, but it was already too late. Women above about forty would have nothing to do with such modernities. They looked upon the youth as decadent and they found it an insult to the traditional values. Moreover they could not understand why you should cover your free breathing skin – a wonder of nature – and exclude its natural feelings of warmth and moistness and nature’s care. They found that cloths were stinking.

Moreover Shano’s intellectual influence had given rise to an entirely New Age it seemed, and as we’ll see this New Age got a big impulse after Shano’s next visit to the supermarket. Things have to go as they go. The modern age had irreversibly made its start – both for better and for worse.


As I told you in the beginning of this story, everyone was happy when Moimoi was born – but there was one exception.

D a i l y T h e o s o p h y ©

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