Thursday, 8 May 2014

The Lost Stewards

Rictictik the teacher guided her charges into the temporary school arena. Although they were still very young, her students were old enough to know of the dangers that once resided here; but all seemed quiet, there was none of the sounds of industry that used to resound though the murk. Above them the sun shone bright; all around was warm and clear.

“Now, are we all here?” the teacher asked in her usually clicking and whistling manner. “Twillin! Whatever you are playing with; drop it now and concentrate.”

Twillin looked around sheepishly and let his toy drop to the floor, much to the amusement of his fellow students.

The teacher continued. “Now then class, I should warn you that the lesson today is very upsetting. It deals with how those who should have been our brothers were taken from us by a terrible madness that infected them. We tried to cure them, over the long centuries we showed by example that there was another way...” The teacher stopped her lesson as one of the students signalled that she wished to speak. “Yes, Sherniac?”

“I’m confused Miss,” Sherniac said in concern, “You called them brothers, but my father says they were an evil race, intent on destruction, poisoning the lands above and the waters around and below.”

The teacher smiled at Sherniac but her eyes were full of sadness. “Not all were evil, some knew the ways of stewardship but the madness was rife and dominated their world- view. It was primarily a mental disease that was self-perpetuating and ensured that it was the driving force in the development of their kind. It is easy for us to think of them as the embodiment of evil due to their atrocities against us and others; but our suffering was as nothing to what they inflicted upon each other.”

The teacher shook her head. “It all started so well. They were chosen to be stewards of the lands as they were children of the forest and must have shown promise, as we did, to the great navigator of destiny beyond the stars.  Like us they had self-awareness of their mortality and the altruistic qualities of love, mercy and pity. The trees in the forests were their nursery and it gave them everything, food and shelter, and later as they developed, tools, building materials and even fire for warmth. Yet somehow the infection got embedded, their spirituality and quest for knowledge changed from a love of the world into a lust for dominion; over each other and their surroundings. In their arrogance they made gods in their own image and in their madness fought and killed each other over such pointless trivialities. They left the forests behind, cutting them down and burning them to make other materials they deemed to be superior; breaking the rocks of the earth and extracting all they could from them. They lost their sense of the world, lost sight of the great magnetic channels by which the living planet talks to all. It couldn’t go on. We knew the danger, and implored our brothers to change. Many of our forebears would sacrifice themselves in a last ditch attempt to communicate but they were never understood; indeed some were butchered and eaten by them.”

The students shuddered and cried out, suddenly wary anew of their surroundings.

“Thinking they understood all, they endeavoured to challenge the knowledge of the great navigator herself. They played at being gods but proved all too mortal. Forgetting that they were part of nature, failing at stewardship of it, nature turned its back on them; their crops failed, starvation and disease followed, and the survivors fought each other for what they could. Now they are virtually extinct. Let us take a look at what is left of their world.”

The teacher turned and with a flick of her tail rocketed up to the surface. Her students did likewise and looked beyond the mother waters onto the land. They were in a wide basin surrounded by unnatural, crumbling cliffs with many openings. Already though trees were beginning to grow amid the ruins, turning green what once was grey.

“As you can see,” the teacher clicked, “The trees are claiming back the land now. The irony is that the lost stewards knew the truth in their hearts; they would nurse their young in cribs of wood and bury their dead in wooden boxes. Such a shame, it remains to be seen if any survivors learn from the disaster. Come on now children, let’s go and play in the waves on the way back to your families. Twillin, don’t forget your toy.”

The young dolphin dived down to the sandy bottom and retrieved its kelp play thing, hurrying to re-join the crèche as they left the crumbling harbour for the open ocean.