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IT’S THE year 7859 and archeologists have unearthed a civilization lost for more than 5000 years. Who are these “Weans” from the Great West Continent? Researchers at Kenya’s Ruwenzori University have published their findings in what has been called, “the big archeological book of the century.” The century, of course, being the 79th.
Before immersing ourselves in this delightful time-warp, here’s background on its author: I first learned of Robert Nathan because of the 1948 film The Bishop’s Wife, based on Nathan’s 1928 novel. Angel Cary Grant enters the life of Anglican Bishop David Niven, helps him build a new cathedral, and repair a fractured marriage with his wife Loretta Young. A charming film that has held up very well over the years.
One of these other works is his radio rendition of Report on the Weans, performed by the CBS Radio Workshop. A Pride of Carrots (Venus Well Served) is another Nathan/CBS Radio Workshop delight available at the same source.
But back… er, forward to the year 7859 and archeology of a newly discovered 5000-year-old culture described in Nathan’s 1960 satire. Here are some highlights.
Weans. The book notes that researchers call these people “Weans” because… they called their land the WE, or the US; actually, in the southern part of the continent, the word ‘Weuns’ (or ‘Weans’) does appear, as well as the glyph for Wealls, and the word ‘Theyuns.’ ”
A goddess named Libby? “The Weans were probably not at all a friendly or hospitable people… There was excavated from the earth of a small island in the ocean just beyond the terminal land-mass at n.Yok, a hollow figure—or at least part of one—of what appears to be a giantess, or possibly a goddess, with one arm upraised in a threatening attitude. Within what is left of her shell, heavily encrusted with bird-droppings and worm-mold, our diggers uncovered a fragment of script, in blocked letters or signs, translated ‘Keep off the …’ ”
Other cities. Diggings across the continent included those in Oleens (source of “a slender horn-like object”), M’lwawki (where a puzzling note stated, “I did not grow my wheat, [I did] receive seventy-five thousand…”), and, the richest of the diggings, Pound-Laundry (which “may have even been the capital of We itself”).
The etymology of Pound-Laundry, archeologists note, is intriguing: They translate “the first word of the name as ‘washing’; the second is obviously the sign for ‘weight.’ It is not known what—if anything—was washed there.”
A cultural declaration. “In honor of one such ‘declaration’ a yearly celebration was held during which bombs were exploded [footnote: ‘bombs bursting in air…’] and vast quantities of dogs were roasted and consumed (‘with horseradish or mustard…’).
The Valley of the Sun. “In the Valley of the Sun we often find the sexual partner referred to as ‘a friend.’ This is not true in other communities; in Pound-Laundry in particular, the term ‘friend’ is unknown.”
Religiosity. “The remains of temples of considerable size … at both Pound-Laundry and n.Yok give proof, if that were needed, that the Weans were essentially a religious people. However, it is now believed … that each city-state worshipped a different Divinity…. In the Valley of the Sun we have uncovered evidence that the inhabitants worshipped a powerful Divinity named Hedda, or Lolly (the sign is obscure)….”
“Nonetheless, the Wean Divinity, in whatever form, remained a Wean, and spoke the Wean language. Surrounded by infinite space, by endless galaxies, by stars and planets without number, these proud, simple-minded, and obstinate people continued to believe themselves the center of the universe and the particular concern of the Almighty.” ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2017