years ago, I was reading a book by James Burke, and he was describing
what it takes for a group to be classified as a civilization.
Over the years, I’ve given a lot of thought to the concept, and
probably have managed to twist it on occasion beyond what you
would find historians and other credible sources offering as a
definition or explanation of the idea.
I think Burke would be ok for me, at this time, to pass it along
to you like this: Civilization status is achieved when a group
reaches a point where it no longer takes the complete and undivided
efforts of every member in the group to provide the essentials
of survival for the group.
as I recall, focused on food. And that makes sense. Farming. Livestock.
me… today at least… I’m willing to expand into all of the areas
of our survival. Food. Water. Shelter. More. Living.
it is here where we will make a slight turn, adjust our path,
and head into the essay.
you may live, it likely is in some way a community. Big city community.
Small town community. Neighborhood in a town next to a city community.
trick is, not everyone in a community is working on providing
food, making clothing or repairing houses. A community is a unique
blend of people, sharing some specialized local offerings, with
a familiarity found in relationships and purpose.
I’ve been wondering about is how civilization… or, more in line
with my tangents and thoughts… how communities have been changing.
By the moving of time. By the needs of where we live. By tradition.
And so on.
often stunned by the lack of bakeries near my house. And that’s
been true of the past several places I’ve lived. When I was younger,
I knew where the bakeries were. And not just the bakeries, but
the different types of bakeries. (These were where to go for the
true pizza strips… for the freshest and most delicious cookies
and brownies… for special occasion cakes… and so on.) Times have
changed. Now the local mega-mart offers most of these and more.
you live in Buffalo, New York, chances are very good that you
have a local government that budgets more for snow removal than
those of you that live in Islamorada, Florida, budget for addressing
snow removal. It’s where you live.
Slater Park in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, right now is far from
the Slater Park of my youth. (Despite the carousel and places
for picnics.) Needs change, generations change, traditions change.
past few days, I’ve been running errands and considering all sorts
of aspects about my neighborhood. I’ve been trying some different
roads. I’ve been mixing up my stops at grocery stores to check
out items since the ones nearby all carry different brands. I’ve
been wondering about trying some new restaurants and looking around
for signs and doorways to places as of yet never visited. And…
still haven’t found a bakery.
and I stopped into a local coffee shop we had never been to previously
the other day. We weren’t that impressed. Not likely to go back.
that deserves and explanation. So, story time. We stopped in partly
because one of our friends heard we had some errands to run, Terry
mentioned that we never know where to get a breakfast sandwich
for the road, and the friend asked if we had ever been to this
place. We hadn’t. Terry was told the coffee was good, and that
they had some quick sandwiches. When we arrived, we were picking
out bagels and got to talking with girl at the counter about the
limited supply available. She told us the bagels come in about
once a week and were due in later that day. So… our plastic-wrapped
bagels were the remainder of what had likely been sitting there
for about a week. Not exactly made-fresh-daily quality. Tasted
every bit as if they had been there for three weeks (and not going
to change any time soon). Anyway…)
Terry works with gave her a travel cup from that coffee shop.
And… because, of course… Terry used it to bring some hot cocoa
to work and it kept her drink hot (not warm, it kept it HOT)
for a couple of hours. Tremendously good.
likely to go back to this neighborhood coffee shop. Quite likely
to have a reminder around for years.
cocoa for the road. Still no bakery.)
more than a bakery though. I recall when in the city where I grew
up, a store offered the services of a cobbler. (The idea that
your first reaction possibly involved apples or peaches, and not
shoes, could explain why this story plays out the way it does.)
I knew the place existed, but never paid much attention to it
until I found out the owner was the father of someone in my school.
And I remember the day years after that discovery that I drove
down the road to see the shop was no longer there… I asked my
parents and they told me they had heard it went out of business
your house there are likely to be plenty of the usual businesses.
A place for pizza. A place for gas. A place selling snow shovels
in Buffalo. A place selling diving masks and snorkels in Islamorada.
But the unusual businesses are closing their doors. And you can
more than see it… you can feel it.
It’s when you reach beyond food. Beyond food and water and shelter.
Perhaps I can’t explain it in a way that James Burke and historians
worldwide will accept, with the technical terminology and accuracy
the field requests. Community though… it’s more than civilization.