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Sunday, October 16, 2011

Lost Civilizations

[Norma photo]

I figure if an essay goes three or four years without comment it is history, which as we all know, repeats itself. Today, Norma took her shovel to some artifacts of nanocivilization left in the eaves of our house by summer wasps. I will add the picture she took. I will also add a picture of Arizona, where the Clovis People were. It is a useful picture that came with this computer and I get a lot of use out of it. Sometimes it is Hamlet's castle. Sometimes it is sideways. This time it gets to be what it really is, Arizona.

Archaeologists from Oregon are examining tiny diamond fragments in Arizona and forwarding an hypothesis that these "nanodiamonds" are coincidental with the disappearance of the Clovis People 13000 years ago. They think the nanodiamonds were formed under heat and pressure of a falling asteroid. This calamity transformed the landscape, the flora, fauna and Clovis People into what scientists call smithereens.

What an enigma! Nasa scientists raise the obvious question: where is the impact crater? Until it is found, and the process fully explained, I will hold to my own theory that these tiny diamonds were brought from elsewhere --most probably mined by nanoAfricans, imported by nanotycoons, sold in microscopic jewelry shops and discarded as humans got taller. Research into lost peoples sometimes follows signs left by lost economic systems. It would be prudent, given the current financial climate, to pursue this approach.

The most popular theory of where the Clovises went has to do with the overpopulation of their territory by nanosociety, which wintered upon them and itched terribly. This drove them not only back into the sea but caused them to evolve into invisibility. They were not, however, the only invisible culture.

The Goths were, despite being uncouth and disorganized barbarians, able to invade highly civilized and well-defended Rome in the 3rd, 4th AND 5th centuries. This routine was compromised however when invading forces were drafted from the west. These were Visigoths, who were just like Goths except you could see them. They were less than triumphant and replaced by eastern or Ostrogoths, who only thought they were invisible but were really just sticking their heads in sand and were easily overcome by the Roman tactic, funestus cuneus, or "deadly wedgie".

Clearly such anomalies may be approached scientifically with some success. Invisibility is hinted at in disciplines other than archaeology and economics. Psychology admits to the Fregoli Delusion. Sufferers believe everybody is really the same person in various disguises. In its chronic stage, this is known as religion. L'esprit de L'escalier, or "stairway wit", causes one to think of a snappy comeback to a remark only when it's too late --indisputably a form of invisibility. Prosopagnosia renders one unable to recognize the faces of others. All these maladies could account for mass disappearances. But are the objects of such disorders truly vanished?

I think we must return to the economic approach, the only one that penetrates the mystery to any useful depth. If we follow the trail of devalued coinage, carbonized remnants of paper currency, IOUs chiseled in stone, we learn visibility decreases in proportion to solvency. Throughout the ages, in matters of visibility, personal and national, you get what you pay for.


  1. This--and other trainrides I've taken with you--reminded me today, after hearing a review of the book below (courtesy of NPR) and one of its main concepts:
    Hamlet’s Blackberry

    October 14, 2010
    I just finished reading Hamlet’s Blackberry : a practical philosophy for building a good life in the digital age by William Powers and I loved this book! Powers takes a look back in time to see just how similar our current connectedness is to those of the past. Using the likes of Plato, Gutenberg, Hamlet and others you will learn that while the technologies change, our need for escape from them is just as necessary as ever.

    I was especially fascinated by Hamlet’s use of a tool where ideas may be written down and erased later. So I did some searching and found this image from the Folger Shakespeare Library. (Writing Tablet from the late 17th century. Digital Image Number 262022)

    If you are feeling overwhelmed by too much information overload, read this book to realize that although things may change, they really stay the same. And, yes, everyone needs to disconnect at times…so when you finish reading this, turn off your screen and talk face-to-face with someone, read a book, talk a walk, stare out the window….disconnect for a little while and feel the weight of information overload start to lighten. — Jill

  2. Thank you, Will. As I recall, Hamlet also had mixed feelings about a recording device that might "melt, thaw and resolve itself into a dew." Devices don't get more erasable than that, but happily, most stick with them.

  3. Well this explains a lot. Thank you.

  4. I read somewhere that all misshapen creatures render themselves invisible. It's a form of subsentuate smithereens. But they still exist and walk among us. If you happen to meet one he will say "Pity me not."

  5. Austan and DB., I know you both feel strongly about the 99% of U.S. workers who got hoodwinked into declining solvency, found themselves invisible, now Occupy Wall St. because they resent it and need to be seen again. I too must concern myself outside what Daughter calls my "retirement cocoon", because future generations must be seen to be hired and humanely employed. For that reason I retrieved the essay --all but the 1st paragraph, which is new-- from its temporal cocoon, 2009, the year I retired after doing nothing particularly right for 40 years. I want that for my descendants.


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