Culture forgot

September 27, 2013

In a country now forgotten by time, in a small but large enough forest, many types of animals lived together in harmony. They spoke each other’s language, for they spoke only one. The fox and the hound, the lion and the bluejay, the elephant and the squirrel, all understood each other. So it was that they had no quarrels, and peace was prevalent.

One day, however, something new happened. The lion was walking under the trees, and heard the song of the bluejay. The bluejay sang a beautiful song, but the lion was angry. He did not understand it. He got a bit worried about that. He liked the bluejay. He knew his voice so well. Everybody knew the voice of the bluejay. Then how come that suddenly his words were so alien?

When asked, the bluejay responded simply, ‘I heard a new sound from across the river’. The news spread quickly. All animals wanted to hear the new sound, though unanimously they all disliked it. It was not a real sound. The bluejay was unperturbed. He liked learning a new song. It was his big love, naturally, to know and sing songs.

The elephant and the wolf and the raven were on the bank of the river. They could not hear a sound from across: the river was too loud, the water roaring through the rocks. The wolf, with his sharp eyes, tried to see across, but saw nothing. The elephant, with his massive body, tried to walk across, but the stream proved too deep even for him. The raven now tried to fly across, but he was afraid of what he would see. Above the beach on the opposite side, he flew low for a bit and then quickly flew back. He reported nothing new either.

So the animals learned nothing about the origin of the new sound.

The bluejay kept singing, and learned a great many new sounds. The birdsong of the bluejay became a beautifully complex tapestry of emotion and aesthetics, spoken in a dozen languages, the next more beautiful even than the other, and it became the talk of the forest. But the sounds were not their own. The forest turned in anger on the bluejay, for speaking with others’ sounds. The bluejay was killed, and the old songs never returned. Nobody got angry, but nothing was ever as beautiful again.