Civilization, God, and Stuff

On the night stand by my head a bible rests, open and cradling the TV remote. It occurred to me that the specific page the bible was open to was likely not an accident. It was a message from the very friendly proprietor of Thunderbird Motel, words he thought might most help a wandering soul passing through. The bible was open to 2nd Chronicles chapter 6. It’s a fairly literary chapter, opening with King Solomon giving a sort of State of the Union address as he dedicates their new temple, the very first one Israel has ever built. The short version of that speech could be, “now we are civilized.” From wanderers with no strong central authority they had turned into city-dwellers, answering to a king.

The message then seems a good one for someone passing through a hotel room. Accept the Lord and have a place where you belong. Give up your directionless life. Become civilized. While I declined the offer, it was nice of the hotel people to remind that it was on the table.

My definition of civilization is, “the set of rules and behaviors that allows lots of people to live in the same place.” This differs somewhat from the dictionary definition, but I think my definition is more useful, since it deals with both the origins and consequences of civilization. When we are around others, we must be civil. For the past few days I’ve been wondering what comes after civilization. What happens when the benefits of a civil culture — security, getting big projects done, and so forth — are no longer needed? When I put it that way, it doesn’t seem likely to be a question we need to answer any time soon, but that hasn’t stopped me from contemplating it. I can imagine ways technology could replace any benefit of a civil culture. I’m working on a story in a place like that. Not Utopia so much, that just seems like civil culture taken to its greatest extreme. Something else. I’ll figure it out.

6 thoughts on “Civilization, God, and Stuff

  1. Currently reading Joe Haldeman’s Forever Free, which is apparently the final volume of a trilogy that started with The Forever War, which I have vague memories of reading sometime in the distant past (like, 25 years ago), and continued with Forever Peace, which I am pretty sure I have not read, nor even heard of.

    The political situation is totally different, but there’s an underlying fabric that’s a lot like the Tincaniverse.

  2. And see I tend to find the bibles open to Revelations when I hit a hotel. Hmmm…any wonder I write how I do?

  3. Forever War first appeared in Analog a billion years ago. The novel, when it came out, may have been a longer version. I’ve only read the Analog one. As I recall, there was some sort of wormhole/space jumping thing going on, but time dilation was still a factor; the main character barely recognizes his home planet each time he returns. Faster-than-Light travel is not also time travel, however, so, yeah, as in the Tincaniverse and a host of other FTL stories, there is an absolute clock in the Universe. Sometimes science can be awfully inconvenient for Science Fiction writers.

    Pollitically, Forever War is Vietnam in space, while Tin Can and that bunch are more like pioneer stories, without the Indians (yet).

  4. Forever War turned on snafus and lack of understanding of the enemy; Peace/Free seemed more about figuring our identity as humans. How do our boundaries — whether chosen or otherwise imposed — define us?

  5. I’ve never found an open Bible in a motel room. I did find one in Indianapolis that had profanities written in it with a fat black marker. I took it to the front desk. The clerk took one glance at it, and dropped it in the trash, which seemed vaguely wrong, and yet absolutely right.

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