September 10, 2013

Earth Abides

Filed under: Bits of books — Jared @ 11:53 am

When once they stalked the deer, or crouched shivering in the mud for the flight of ducks to alight, or risked their lives on the crags after goats, or closed in with shouts upon a wild boar at bay –that was not work, though often the breath came hard, and the limbs were heavy. When the women bore and nursed children, or wandered in the woods for berries and mushrooms, or tended the fire at the entrance to the rock shelter – that was not work either. So also, when they sang and danced and made love, that was not play. By the singing and dancing the spirits of forest and water might be placated – a serious matter, though still one might enjoy the song and the dance. And as for the making of love, by that – and by the favour of the gods – the tribe was maintained.
So in the first years work and play mingled always, and there were not even the words for one against the other… But centuries flowed by and then more of them, and many things changed. Man invented civilization, and was inordinately proud of it. But in no way did civilization change life more than by sharpening the line between work and play, and at last that division came to be more important than the old one between sleeping and waking. Sleep came to be thought a kind of relaxation, and ‘sleeping on the job’ a heinous sin. The turning out of the light and the ringing of the alarm clock were not so much the symbols of man’s dual life as were the punching of the time clock and the blowing of the whistle. Men marched on picket lines and threw bricks and exploded dynamite to shift an hour from one classification to the other, and other men fought equally hard to prevent them. And always work became more laborious and odious, and play grew more artificial and febrile.

George R Stewart, Earth Abides

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