Color Me Calm

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Photo by pedrojperez.

The early twenty-first century included some of the most turbulent decades of Earth’s history. Terrorist plots and atrocities raised anxiety levels to an all-time high. Confusion reigned in the 2016 electoral face for the US Presidency as Republican candidate Donald Trump’s popularity soared. Immense global issues, such as global warming, fracking, and impending superbug epidemics, were deprived government funding for scientific investigation and neatly swept under the rug. If ever the nations of Earth needed strong leaders, it was then. No one, however, was emotionally prepared to deal with these crises.

Still, there is evidence that the early decades of the twenty-first century was a time when humans began to take a strong interest in controlling their emotions. Enrollment in yoga classes and religious retreats increased, but one particular movement took the world by storm. In 2015, Amazon.com reported that for the first time in the company’s history, a coloring book made the best-seller list. Everywhere adults picked up colored pencils and gel markers to return to an activity they once enjoyed in the care-free days of childhood. Humans discovered, as Vulcans did during the violent times when Surak lived, that creating art – even, and perhaps especially, at an elementary level – offered a release of tension and a way to spend time in mindful contemplation; a way to focus on the here and now away from the violence and despair. Earth’s coloring trend also provided a social outlet, bridging generation gaps and enticing youngsters away from electronic media and games to enjoy meaningful social contact with their cohorts and elders.

The situation on Vulcan was no different in Surak’s time. Despite the violence, the elemental arts, such as pottery, drawing, and calligraphy flourished. As on Earth, coloring books or tablets were created to help children unwind and learn basic concepts, such as the alphabet, as a precursor to reading.

Recently there has been a gathering interest in this particular Vulcan art form. Over the next two years, the College of Historical Studies at the Vulcan Science Academy’s Shi’Kahr campus will have the coloring tablet Kur’voh ish-veh hayalik (Color Me Calm) on display. The work was created by artist S’harien and was designed to teach Vulcan children the glyphs of the Seleyan script, in the manner of “A is for apple,” “B is for ball,” etc. The drawings feature highly stylized images of common but important objects – most from the natural world – from Vulcan life. The exhibition will also be available for viewing here and will feature a new page each month. The pages have been arranged in a pattern that will be familiar to speakers of Federation Standard English, with the alphabet starting with the glyph corresponding to A and ending with Z, instead of the traditional Vulcan sequence. Viewers will note that there is no glyph for J, Q, and X.

Visitors are welcome to download and print the pages for personal enjoyment, but the pages may not be reproduced in whole or in part without the written permission of the copyright holder. Click on the links to the PDFs below.

Viewers should also note that the Seleyan script was only one of many popular Vulcan writing systems. It was one of a few that was adapted for computer use and can be downloaded here: http://www.dafont.com/vulcan-script.font. Another important script in Vulcan’s history was the Dzhaleyl script: https://kirshara.wordpress.com/2012/02/15/the-dzhaleyl-script/  To learn about Vulcan calligraphy, visit http://korsaya.org/vulcan-calligraphy.

Along with the fine arts, music also flourished in Surak’s time. To learn about the Vulcan musical tradition, please visit https://www.facebook.com/pages/Ralash-tanaf-VuhlkansuVulcan-Music/399311346930693. Many of Surak’s teachings have been set to music by T’Prion and are available through my YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC8kuP8GHIoLXI1RzhSn6lWA

Kur’voh ish-veh hayalik (Color Me Calm)

A is for arev (desert wind)

B is for bah-ker (garden)

C is for cir-cen (cactus)

D is for dunap (book)

E is for el’ru (hand)

F is for fau-yut (road)

G is for gad (day)

H is for heya (mountain)

I is for igen (sky)

K is for kahr (city)

L is for lap (tree)

M is for masu (water)

N is for nei (seed)

O is for oluhk (snake)

P is for pilash (river)

R is for ravot (insect)

S is for svep (door)

 

Archaeological Find Linked to Surak

The Vulcan Science Academy has gained access to a section of tunnel deep beneath the city of Surak's Mug 1Shi’Kahr during an excavation sponsored by the T’Planna-Hath Historical Society. When the Society announced that it expected to link the tunnel to Surak, the excavation was funded in part by House Sekir, the dynastic family to which Surak belonged. While it has long been thought that the 2,567.83 kilometers of tunnels beneath Shi’al’s capital city had all been mapped, a previously unknown section, 15.91 km in length, was revealed to structural engineers after the T’keKhuti Quake. For millennia, the tunnels served as drainage conduits in rare but devastating floods, as well as escape routs and sally ports in times of war. They were places of refuge for the homeless, petty thieves, and smugglers. During Surak’s time, the tunnels had a dark and lawless life of their own. The Shi’Kahran government was too preoccupied with repelling the Sudocian invasion to patrol the seedy underground. In fact, officials had a mutual understanding with the gangs that prowled the tunnels, who efficiently defended these networks of caverns against foreign commando strikes and infiltration.

Although Surak never wrote about his experience in the tunnels, a few who encountered him there did. On more than one occasion, he used the tunnels to escape angry mobs in the city streets when impromptu gatherings and lectures drew violent opposition. As his popularity grew, civilian authorities considered his public teachings such a nuisance that they sought to arrest him for inciting riots, but they always lost his trail in the sprawling labyrinth of tunnels. There Surak and his followers found an enclave of supporters who could quickly smuggle them to a safe haven and cover their tracks.

Years later, upon his death, 5,786,411 people signed the online remembrance book, jamming the nets for 3.71 days. In that guestbook, preserved in the Academy archives, is an entry by T’Vei who wrote, “I shall never forget the day Surak suddenly appeared among us. I had previously seen him from afar and was familiar with his image posted on the nets, but he was much smaller than I’d imagined, and at first I didn’t believe it was him. He was very thin, for he was constantly on the move in those days. He had come through the tunnel leading to the storage chamber beneath my studio. My family mostly used it as a shelter from air strikes during the war.

“The day Surak came, I was preparing glazes for a series of firepots commissioned by the Suta Temple. He inclined his head and said, ‘I ask forgiveness. My days are not mine and I have no wish to disturb yours.’ He was not hurt, but one of his two companions had a cut over one eye. They had escaped a disagreeable crowd that corned them in the market. ‘We lost the fruit and bread we had purchased,’ the one with the cut said, ‘but not our honor.’

“I gave them fire and water in the custom of old and we shared a meal of mashya and fire-fruit. When they left in the middle of the night, I gave Surak a cup I had designed for the temple priests. Again, he inclined his head, and accepting the cup, he said, ‘What we begin here will alter the face of our world. Live long and prosper, t’hy’la.’”

T’Vei went on to write, “Surak and his companions carried very little with them, obtaining what they needed in exchange for their teachings. But Surak tied the cup to his belt with a scrap of cloth and it went everywhere with him. Every time I caught a glimpse of him on the nets, it was either cradled in his hands or tied to his belt. I was told later that he would drink from no other vessel – to minimize the risk of being poisoned.”

Surak's Mug 2T’Vei became one of Vulcan’s most famous potters, and much of her work can now be seen in the T’Sar Museum. The Suta Temple kept careful records of the work commissioned from her, and because of these records, the fragments of the cup found in the recent excavation have been identified as originated from her studio. DNA analysis of the residual protein molecules adhering to the glaze has revealed that the cup had been used by Surak and handled to a lesser degree by T’Vei. In a journal entry made accessible by T’Vei’s estate, she noted that the cup was returned to her following the death of Surak and kept as a prized possession on a shelf in her studio. The cup was presumed lost when the studio was destroyed in an earthquake. Although she had the means to hire a salvage crew, she allowed the city to fill in the area and retired from her craft. “Surak always said, ‘Kaiidth – what is, is,’ she wrote, ending her journal entry.

Surak’s cup, along with several other artifacts currently under study at the VSA, will arrive later this year as part of a special exhibit at the T’Sar Museum entitled: Surak: The Tunnel Years.

Kohl-Lodzh’a: A Vulcan New Year Tradition

Many offworlders know that the writings of Surak were preserved in the artifact known as the Kir’Shara. What many don’t realize, however, is that the Analects survived because they were copied into an ancient script designed for writing in clay. The script was developed thousands of years ago in the city-state of Dzhaleyl on the eastern shore of the Voroth Sea. Located on the mouth of the River Na’Ri, Dzhaleyl flourished as a busy seaport, controlling access to all other trading centers and settlements along the river. What remains of the Dzhaleyl script can be studied through the interpretive displays of shards, and in some cases wholly intact specimens, of accounting tablets, ship manifests, and storage containers in Dzhaleyl’s maritime museum and in the Hall of Antiquities at the Vulcan Science Academy. 

"Sochya" or "Peace," carved in the Dzhaleyl script on a kohl-lodzh'a.

But these aren’t the only places the offworlder will see the Dzhaleyl script. Today, small samples can be seen in the windows and the shrines of many Vulcan homes. They’re called kohl-lodzh’a, a word meaning “meditation clay.” Quite simply, they are miniature tablets adorned with a single word or sentiment carved in the Dzhaleyl script. Following the discovery of the Kir’Shara, teachers brought the Dzhaleyl script into the classroom with this simple craft project using the red clay, which is similar to the terra cotta of Earth, found in the Na’Ri Valley. Students use replicas of ancient tools and are taught basic carving techniques along with the history of Dzhaleyl and the Kir’Shara. The example here was created by a student in Kir and deemed “acceptable” – worthy praise – by her teacher.

Lately, the creation of kohl-lodzh’a has become a tradition for marking the start of the new year. Meditating on the future one hopes to create, one carefully selects a word or phrase that reflects that ideal and inscribes it into clay. Some choose philosophical constructs, such as a’Tha, a’riv’ne, kaiidth, ni’var, or kahr’y’tan, but the most popular sentiment seems to be sochya – “peace.” The craft continues the meditation exercise, ideally completed on the eve of the new year. Na’Ri clay dries quickly, without the need for firing, and is worked and reworked with wet fingers until the desired result is achieved. The next day, the clay is ready for hanging and scented with oils, if desired – a quiet reflection, resolution, or reminder for the year to come.

ADDENDUM

Here is another example of a kohl-lodzh’a that a reader has kindly shared with me. May it also inspire peace and creativity through the new year.

A kohl-lodzh'a created from wire by Zelfh'am T'ama.