Exploring the Human Civilization Enigma - Episode 1

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They descended from the sky shrouded from everyone; without any noise, nobody could see them or feel their presence. They came to you and asked you to join them, to be their guide during their journey on our Earth.

They came from a very far place, farther than the Andromeda galaxy, two million light years from us. They were three; you have never seen any creature like them before. A mixture of smoke and jelly, they were green; one very short, the second very tall, and the third very fat.

They asked you about our planet although they know it; you tell them they are on Earth. You introduce them to your house, your bedroom, then you ask them “who are you?” No one answers; they only stare at each other, making signs only they understand. It seems they are trying to understand your language and translate what you are saying to their language.

You ask yourself “Am I sleeping? Are they ghosts?” You rub your eyes and look again; they are still there staring at you, then looking at each other, revolving around themselves, and staring at you again.

Finally, one of them spoke, the shortest; he asked you in clear Arabic “How do you live on Earth?” It is a vague question; what does that creature mean by this question? And why is he asking you specifically? Are you responsible for the shape and the style of life on Earth? How did they enter your room?

Then, you ask yourself again “If they are asking such a question, then they are not ghosts and it appears they have a certain idea about life on Earth. But they must have seen something opposite to what they had thought; otherwise they would not have asked such a question”.

When you did not answer their question, overwhelmed by the many thoughts inside your head, still dazed by the surprise of seeing such odd creatures in front of you suddenly, the tallest asks you yet another weird question “You have inhabited a paradise full of God’s wealth; who ruined it like that?”

The picture starts to clear up and you wonder if these creatures know how Earth was like and how it has become. You start a conversation with them although you are not fully awake yet; you ask your second question “Could you please elaborate?”

The shortest answers “We came here to learn how you reached that level of development and civilization. They told us your planet, Earth, has reached a high level of civilization; however, when we landed here, we found the opposite. We found very clean places and others extremely dirty; we found decent people and others very barbaric; we found beauty in places and ugliness in others; we found sophistication in places and backwardness in others. We just need to know how you live like this on Earth?”

He keeps repeating the same question: “You have inhabited a paradise full of God’s wealth; who ruined it like that?” So you ask them “What does civilization mean for your?”

The fattest answers for the first time in a manner that differs from that of his friends “civilization is a social system that helps humans improve their cultural production. It consists of four elements: economical resources, political systems, creational traditions, science and art. It begins when human anxiety ends because, once humans feel safe, their aspiration and the motivation to create and construct emerge. Natural stimulators do not stop pro… prov... provo... (the shortest helps him finish his speech) provoking (he continues talking in the same manner as if he is a robot reading from a book or from a voice file stored in his memory) Natural stimulators do not stop provoking them to continue their search to understand life and its prosperity and… and…

You burst with laughter at what he was saying and his way of talking; he stops talking and looks saddened by your sudden hysterical laughter. He looks at his colleagues who rotate around him twice while he stands still; you stop laughing and they stop rotating. The fattest continues talking about the human civilization with the same enthusiasm and the same manner: “Civilization depends on scientific research and art in the first place. The scientific part is represented in the technological innovations and sociology, while art is represented in architecture, sculpture, and some arts that contribute to development. Art and science are two complementary elements that drive any civilization.”

You signal to him to stop talking as you get interested in the topic; your fear and surprise gone, you start to catch up with him: “But I still do not understand the meaning of civilization?” The fattest stops talking and the tallest starts to speak: “Civilization in Arabic is derived from the verb civilize. It is known that civilization is constructing villages, rural areas, and houses; it is the opposite of nomadism.

The term civilization is used to describe the complicated society where most of its population live in cities and practice agriculture, unlike nomadic, or Bedouin, communities with their tribal nature, moving all the time, and living on means that do not connect them to a certain geographical spot, such as hunting. The modern industrial society is considered a form of civilization.”

You become interested, fascinated, and bewildered by what you are hearing, but you try not to show any emotion till you see where this adventure will take you. The tallest continues: “The word 'civilization' is a controversial term that is open for debate; when used it evokes values (negative or positive) such as success, humanity, grace. In fact, a lot of civilized people from different civilizations see themselves as…

He suddenly stops talking and they disappear; they have heard the room's door opening. It seems they do not want anyone to see or talk to them but you, and only you…To be continued.

Illustrations by Mohamed Khamis.

The episode was published in SCIplanet printed magazine, Winter 2014 issue.

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SCIplanet is a bilingual edutainment science magazine published by the Bibliotheca Alexandrina Planetarium Science Center and developed by the Cultural Outreach Publications Unit ...
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