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  • Writer's pictureRuth Ashbee


The Au people are a civilisation in another world. If you visit them, they will show you their gold.

Long ago, the Au began working gold into objects of beauty. Every time they asked a question about their world and found an answer, they shaped gold into exquisite relief, engraving, and filigree to record their endeavour.

Over time, tribes evolved. Each tribe asked a different type of question, about a different aspect of the world. They developed their own codes and rules for agreeing if an answer was worthy of shaping gold. In the beginning there were tiny gold sculptures, as the questions began to be asked. When new questions were asked and answered, more gold was wrought, and added to the pieces from before. The pieces grew and grew and they are still growing today.

The people who shape the gold are called the goldsmiths. They work in the workshops. They bring the pieces to the central sculpture and add them. In this way the structures grow. The gold structures are called spheras.

Through the work of the goldsmiths, the Au people rejoice in their world.

The spheras are the most beautiful things. You could look at them for years on end and you would not have seen one hundredth of their beauty. People devote their lives to looking at them, and others devote theirs to producing just one piece of wrought gold to add. If you visited the Au, you would see these spheras and you would weep, even if you didn’t understand their significance, because you would understand that they were significant nonetheless. A civilisation that cares so much about something over so many generations is one that speaks to our own, though we share no language.

We have, of course, our own quests. We ask questions about the world, and we make our answers, and we build and treasure our knowledge over generations. If another civilisation visited us and saw our disciplines, the structures we have built over generations, and through which we touch the universe, they would weep too.

Babies are born. Children grow. Some of them will grow to be goldsmiths. Some of them will be farmers, builders, miners. All of these jobs are noble and vital. Farmers, builders and miners all visit the spheras and marvel at their beauty and the truths they tell.

Some of the Au look after the spheras. They keep them safe and they teach the Au children about them.

In the spheras are many useful truths. In the schools, students learn things about the world that have been recorded in the spheras. These things will help them later in their study of farming, building and mining, if that is the path they choose.

They learn things that will help them go on to ask more questions, find more answers, and make their own shimmering pieces in the workshops, if that is the path they choose.

They learn to look at the spheras, to see and understand the world in a way that takes them far, far beyond their own experience. They see the work of hundreds, in some cases thousands of years of thought. They reach out into time and space through people working together across the planet and the generations.

The people who look after the spheras and teach the children about them are the teachers.

We have, of course, our own teachers. The knowledge in our disciplines has been wrought over the generations, and will continue, we hope, long after we are gone. This knowledge is part of what it means to be human, it is our inheritance and our legacy and we must treasure it and our ways of producing it. Teachers show students the wonders of this knowledge, we show them how to use it, and we prepare the future makers of new knowledge. It is teachers who complete the chain, and this is our duty, our honour and our joy.

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