canconcolumnists
home | about | archives | forum | submit

the state of the civilization

The State Of The Civilization #1

creative nonfiction by Kurt Halliday

my friend the philosopher’s hurried into the Home by family more than friends. It becomes obvious he hasn’t read at least 11,207 of 26,854 books in his house.

I fall on the 1965 Encyclopedia Britannica with a hunger for well-felt-out (as opposed to well-thought-out) detail.

There’s a thing in there about civilization.

It steps over “Society” and “Culture,” stopping short, perhaps, of “History” and “World”. It kinda shoulders its way past “Philosophy” but is firmly arm-crossed around such merely positive projects as “Psychology” or “Sociology”. Finally, there is an uneasy truce (of the cross-referencing kind) with “Anthropology”.

Civilization, it seems, is more than the flush toilet. It’s a sort of recording. It’s the intelligent, human or important stuff we did. And it’s how we put History and the World and some of those other wisely capitalized categories together.

And not very many people knew about it at the time.

Certainly, most were not part.

Almost everybody was in on Religion - as a social contract - as the running of the world. And the Nation-state after that. Then Society. Then Psychology. And the New Age, of course. And Postmodernism. And the Paradoxical Isolation of the Economic Individual.

But almost nobody - not even many of the people who ran the great institutions or invented new ones - the Napoleons and Noam Chomskys - took civilization for a relationship.

And.

It stayed back there, like a field few had walked the fertility of, or the inner arts at a time of war, and the game went on (loud, noisy, fun, simple) out front here.

After you read the gorgeous full English sentences, penned for Britannica in 1929 by [see if you can find out who], and you get onto the idea that humanity, through its recording - civilization - has been running the world (in a second-order but still real way), you wonder what was wrong with that version.

Why did psychological society and economic culture and functional philosophy and the other mechanical things just seem so right?


Kurt Halliday will be survived in Kingston, Ontario by two near-novels, eighteen sorta-stories, creative non-poetry, wife Janet Anderson, sons Ross and Geoff, three cats and five computers

home / about / archives / forum / submit