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Premiered June 24, 2003

Chapter Seven


Michaels looked up and saw Woody coming into Control. With everyone else  present, primed, and waiting, Michaels decided on no more delays. He ordered, "Let's get started. Rip, let's start with your report, first."

"Aye, sir." Rip quickly punched in appropriate signals, and the screens flashed with the report format:


Comprehensive Status Reports


Executive Summary

Report XC-137-4-007

Religion-Tentative Assessment

Based upon observations with a limited segment of Riwan's population and geography, the following conclusions may be drawn:

(1)      A single religion is practiced by the world's population. This is supported by the strong consistency with which the Riwanians view their religion and the subsequent obligations, the lack of a name for the religion (i.e. an identification to distinguish the local beliefs from any other variation), and the prevalent attitude of the Riwanians to dismiss out of hand the very idea of an alternative set of beliefs. From the Riwanian point of view, there exists 'The Gods', and the fact that The Gods wish to be viewed in a clearly specified manner.  To do otherwise would be contrary to The Gods' wishes and is therefore unacceptable. The Riwanians find the existence of a second religion to be totally illogical, impractical, and very likely, inadvisable. Paradoxically the Riwanians see no difficulty in the members of the Intrepid's crew not believing in The Gods.  No evidence has been obtained by the Intrepid, which suggests that there exist any significant variations in the local rites or religious practices in different localities on the Riwanian world.

(2)      Religion constitutes the dominant factor in the lives of the Riwanians. Every aspect of their daily actions appears to be heavily influenced by religious considerations, which are in turn completely interwoven within the fabric of their society.

(3)      The Riwanians profess a strong and overriding belief in The Gods. Basic and fundamental beliefs include:

(a) "The Gods will love and protect us."

(b) "All of life is provided by The Gods."

(c) "All good derives from The Gods."

(d) "The Gods are responsible for the joys of our lives."

It is axiomatic that the Riwanians consider The Gods as the prime mover, and as being currently active. No evidence has been obtained by Intrepid for such extant currency or which would suggest the actual existence of The Gods.

"Pardon me, sir." Everyone turned toward Van Lantz, who had interrupted the report. There was surprise on most faces as Van Lantz almost never interrupted his superiors. But in this case he was ready to challenge a conclusion. "Any evidence of the so-called existence of The Gods should not be limited to The Gods themselves, but to any evidence that they have been active." When no one challenged his statement, he added, "I'm not about to argue that The Gods exist," There were smiles as everyone knew the junior officer was not about to venture anything as speculative as that. "But the Riwanians have not the slightest doubt."

Thomas leaned forward to interject, "I agree with you the people are totally subservient to The Gods, but that is not evidence they exist. The question should be: Has anyone found any evidence that directly suggests there is some entity which can be considered to be The Gods."

Sorrenson knitted his eyebrows and looking directly to Marie, answered, "Doesn't the fact the Riwanians are so completely convinced, serve as evidence?"

Thomas shook her head. "It may indicate there is something here, but it doesn't tell us a single concrete thing about them. We have no hint about their motives, how they arrive at decisions, make policy, or supervise the people. If everything about them is unknown, then the question of whether or not they exist is purely academic."

"That's stupid," Kat answered. When Thomas glared at her, Kat said, "Well it is. You're making The Gods out to be nothing more than overlords or bureaucrats."

For a moment there was silence. Then Van Lantz started again, "The motives of The Gods are clear enough. Their people are happy, well fed, healthy and totally grateful. Obviously the prime motive is to maintain the status quo."

The others saw the gravity of the statement, and settled back, a little less belligerent and quick to challenge. Then Van Lantz continued, "The fact of the matter is that there is some evidence of their existence!" The statement caused several oblique glances and clearing of throats. With everyone’s attention on him, Van Lantz laid it out. "In my discussions with the Riwanians, I realized several obvious facts. The Riwanians believe The Gods are active, and that they produce results. If a loyal follower, an adult over the age of 16, requests something, he or she will eventually get it. The recipient may upon occasion have to give up something, but they can always get it back with a little horse trading with The Gods. I have had more than one Riwanian state their case in those simple terms. The end result is they get to have whatever they need, but do not simply acquire possessions just for the sake of having them.

"Second. You're all aware now of the individual chapels in the homes." There were a few smiles as Woody's color changed to a deeper red. "Each and every home has its own chapel, and each Riwanian always prays only in his or her chapel. In the act of praying the people always look directly forward to the chapel's central portion. The chapel is established in secret and as if by magic, when a youth reaches the age of sixteen."

"This we know. But the important point is that we have not yet asked the critical question." When no one was ready to guess where Van Lantz was leading them, he continued, "Where do they obtain all these wonders? Where do they get the chapels? Not from their elders; but from The Gods! Where do they get the things they ask The Gods for? Not from the priests, not from the elders, their neighbors, or anyone else. Where then?

"One other item: We've all noticed the relatively low level of technology available to the people. On the other hand the priests seem capable of calling on vastly superior resources if they need it. They knew our incoming flight plan. They had already devised a method of communications. They were ready for the problem of translating, despite the fact there is only one language on the entire planet. Even the very idea of a second language would not normally have been expected to have occurred to them. Recall the priest was at first startled that we didn't speak his language."

The other heads were starting to nod, to agree with Van Lantz. "It all comes down to one thing. Where is the technology that is running this world?"

Woody guessed, "The Industrial Centers?"

Van Lantz smiled, "That’s my guess. I have inquired about them, and the sense I got is they appear to be major centers of the religion, but not major temples. They do have a limited access. So if you're thinking about a quick trip there, we had better go slow and get prior permission."

As Michaels nodded, Van Lantz went on, "Still it's a better than fair shot that the industrial centers are where the action is. I've only received inferences but the centers appear to be where the raw materials, some food, and most of the hard-to-come-by essentials are manufactured, stored or otherwise made available. The centers may be the repositories for The Gods and, for all we know, operate by computers. The Riwanians do recycle things -- that seems clear. The requests for material goods are usually answered by the requestor recycling some no longer wanted article. It is customary to offer something when requesting anything. And because it's so easy to trade, there is never a motivation to stockpile or hoard.

"The reason for the very devout and strong belief by the people that The Gods will deliver on their prayers -- assuming they are reasonable and worthwhile -- is probably based on the excellent past performance by The Gods in fulfilling previous requests! That makes for very easy acceptance of The Gods' will."

Thomas raised her hand slightly. "Are you saying the prayers are routed to the industrial centers?"

Van Lantz smiled, ready for the question. “The prayers are to their individual chapels. The chapels are probably the communication points. The people don't know this, but they aren't likely to tinker with the chapels in order to discover their functions."  He smiled and looked at Woody.  “There are rules about that.”

Woody grimaced slightly, while Thomas forged ahead, oblivious to Woody’s chagrin. "I would think The Gods would be hard pressed to respond so effectively to all requests. Surely the Riwanians must ask for things that are not that plentiful in supply!  And is this an opening for possible interstellar trade?"

Van Lantz smiled again.  "The relative value of an object or material is based on the rarity or the uniqueness of the object or material. The people here do not have a real good concept of value, since they are usually unaware of the availability of the object or material that they request. Thus there's a good chance that they would not ask for the unreasonable.  But as you point out, this would imply that unique items from earth could in fact become all the rage."

Thomas started to smile, but knew Van Lantz wasn’t finished. "However, a crucial point to the success of this society is that there is a certain lack of imagination in the people. There is constant prosperity so being 'rich' has virtually no meaning. No one, absolutely no one, saves for a rainy day. Everything they need or want is available. There is never any testing to see if The Gods can bring a new object. New doesn’t have that much appeal to it.  Even off world goods might have little demand.  There is rather the belief that anything and everything will be brought if they deserve it. If they ask for something that is not easily deliverable, and as a consequence they fail to receive it, they will figure they didn't deserve it, need it, or that they’d be better off without it.  They would never consider that it might be beyond the resources of The Gods. They get 90% of what they ask for, so there is never any doubt."

Van Lantz leaned back, his insertion complete. Everyone else sat quietly thinking. No one was quite ready to challenge him; it all seemed too neat and well packaged. Michaels indicated his approval to Van Lantz without speaking a word. It was enough for the junior officer.

Then Rip quipped, "I suspect I'll want to update my report slightly." When the others laughed, he smiled and acknowledged Van Lantz's very slight smile.  "But to go on."

"(4) A basic tenet of the Riwanian religion is that each and every Riwanian worships The Gods by following the laws and rules that are laid down by The Gods, and by living in a manner which is pleasing to The Gods. This charge, however, requires little or no sacrifice as there are a limited number of God Imposed rules. There is, nevertheless, a clearly disciplined adherence to these rules and laws. So while the people obey the rules, they do not worship in our sense of the word. Importantly they also do nothing in terms of worship which demeans them. They are not required to humble themselves in any way, except of course to obey the logical and necessary rules."

Rip looked up from his report. "Everything seems to hinge on the fact that the Riwanians are totally confident they know what The Gods desire from them. They derive this confidence from the apparent fact The Gods have made their wishes known directly to them, and not through some other Riwanian. In other words, the priests and educators, the whole hierarchy of the society, never interpret the law of the Gods. This is important and to me an incredible fact! For without the power to interpret the laws, the priests relinquish most of the power we might otherwise associate with them.

"I suspect this lack of power by the priests is also connected with the hierarchy of the society. In my mind there is no hierarchy worthy of the name here. There is certainly no policy making organization on the local level. No one decides what to do in terms of the other members of the society, or as to what The Gods mean by their laws. There’s no need for anyone to administer, interpret, or modify any of laws. There is no law enforcement, no diversity, and no administration. Everyone lives his own life, and assumes The Gods will take care of anyone who gets out of line. From an organizational point of view, I find this condition absolutely intolerable!"

There were several smiles now. The common consensus was that Rip could only get excited about things that appeared to be out of control. Rip liked organization, rules, and structure. Chaos was Rip's name for Satan. And now as he glanced around at the others, he felt a twinge of embarrassment. Quietly, he said, "But I digress."

There were several chuckles, cut short by Michael's suggestion, "Please go on."

"(5) Objects or "shrines", attributed to The Gods, are fairly widespread. This is in addition to the home chapels. These other objects, however, do not require any formal acknowledgement by the Riwanians if they come into contact with them. These objects are considered as merely reminders of The Gods presence, and act as assurances that The Gods ‘will love and protect the people’. There is in fact a minimal worship of objects. This derives from the Riwanian view that public worship of an object tends toward self-glorification, and is therefore to be avoided. The analogy is our biblical story which condemns public worship when such worship is for the benefit of others and not the recipient of the worship. 

“In the case of prayers at the individual home chapels, the so called prayers are more like casual chats with The Gods, somewhat along the lines of a 'dear diary', or something between close friends.  In the case I observed, unfortunately, there was no response from The Gods. This was explained by the fact The Gods generally do not respond if more than one person is present. The idea is that The Gods talk only to one person at a time, and if another person is listening, they might get advice which was not suitable for them. The only analogy I can think of is of an old golf pro who refused to teach more than one person at a time on the basis of the critical need for individuality in their golf swings, and what was good advice for one golfer, could be disastrous for another.

“In these personal chats, the Gods are reportedly very friendly. Quite often they are thought of in very unique ways, depending upon the individual. Each Riwanian seems to have a different picture of The Gods when they are praying. This fact leads me to believe that the lack of consistency in a society which spells consistency with a capital 'C', may be due to the fact The Gods are in fact not responding to the prayers, but that no one is willing to admit to the fact he's never been spoken to. It's expected, and if no one challenges the idea, the idea continues on unabated."

Thomas asked, "You don't think there really is a two way communication?"

Moltz took a deep breath, and answered, "No, not really. I can't dismiss the idea yet; Van Lantz may have already identified where the other party could be working from. But I really suspect that there is very little direct response verbalization, if any at all."

Van Lantz asked, "You seem to be assuming the need for private prayers are due to the fact there is a definite lack of real response. But isn't the privacy of prayers just another indication of the importance of individuality?"

Moltz smiled, "Ah yes, individuality. That was to be my next topic." "

“Let's finish religion first."

Rip acknowledged Michaels' statement and continued.

"(6) There are minimal formal gatherings. The only known 'required
attendance' is during the 'Day of Renewal'. This observance is held at varying times during the year, with no specific day in any given year. It's possible to have one or two a year, or go for several years without one. In any case the dates for each one are set by different individuals for each Day of Renewal, and therefore are quite random.
Shari will have more on the 'Day of Renewal', when we get into the hierarchy section.

"(7) There apparently exists no formal, or standardized religious music. However, 'spontaneous music' appears to be an integral part of the 'Day of Renewal'.

"(8) There are six basic tenets relating to the concept of love. They are: (a) Love of The Gods, (b) Love of the Order of the Universe, (c) Love of all children (especially all children within their care, but not necessarily limited to one's own offspring), (d) Love of one's fellow man (including aliens?), (e) Love of Nature, and (f) Love between a man and a woman (i.e. sex).

Woody chuckled, "Let's hear it for number six."

Michaels frowned at the remark, as several others smiled discreetly. Moltz, meanwhile continued, "One last note. What is the result of this religion? Or perhaps a more relevant question is, where is the flaw in this neatly organized package? I don't have a good answer yet, but I did investigate one possibility: The failing of the Riwanian religion related to the apparent lack of a search for truth and understanding. With every individual doing their own thing, is there any attempt by the whole to question the so-called, well established truths? Where is the quest for knowledge, which humans deem so important?  The consoles show one attempt to deal with this. I'm talking with the local priest."

The consoles shifted from the black and green of the video screen report to a grassy knoll where the priest leaned casually against a tree, looking notably unlike a priest. Moltz was nearby, his hands folded across his chest. Moltz was speaking.

"For example, what is the meaning of the Universe?"

"Who cares? Let each man who does care determine his own view. Clearly he may talk to others, hear their ideas, but in the end, he must draw his own conclusions."

"Surely you realize that any individual acting alone is unlikely to develop a view of the universe which is close to the actual truth."

"Again, who cares?"

"But an individual may answer the question and be completely wrong."

"And how does this harm him? It is the search that is more important than the goal. Secondly it must be obvious that one's own view of the universe must always be affected by one's experiences. It is simply not within the power of one individual to remove completely the bias of his or her own life's experiences. And because all persons have different experiences, it follows naturally all persons must have different views; however slight or major the difference. Even two people witnessing the same event will have different descriptions of the event."

"But there is some underlying, absolute truth."

"Truth is in the eyes of the beholder."

"But surely there is some fundamental truth which cannot change purely as a matter of perception of each person."

The priest smiled. "Perhaps. Perhaps not.  But once again, who cares? The truth must be perceived to have meaning. And in their perception, each will modify the truth to balance with his own experiences."

As the console blanked off, Moltz turned to the other members of the
Intrepid. "This goes on for a bit. One point of interest is the discussion eventually boils down to one of observers, as defined in general and special relativity."

Van Lantz immediately raised his eyebrows. "Really?"


For a moment, no one said a word. Then Michaels looked at Moltz for his next report.  Moltz immediately punched his console to life again. "I've tagged onto the Religion report a few observations on the question of individuality among the Riwanians. Clearly, as we have all observed, individualism is the rule among the Riwanians. Additionally, there is a very close relationship between the idea of individualism and the religion to which they so closely adhere.

(1)    “Individuality is stressed in all of their education. The most noteworthy quote in this regard is the one we've already encountered: ‘Uniqueness implies value.’

(2)    “Almost all activities are individual-oriented. Events involving more than one person are never planned, although they happen often enough. They are invariably spontaneous. Riwanians are generous in their affections and friendship, but with a very heavy dose of respect for other people's feelings and property. There is also, an overriding respect for another's person's time. Just to ask a question is to infringe upon another's time, and is consequently not taken lightly. It is understood that two people engaging in any common activity is acceptable only so long as both people are benefiting from the activity.

(3)    “Private ownership is a respected right (within certain limits, i.e. no hoarding). We've already discussed this some, but note that it applies to couples with small children. Both parents maintain separate identities and property. Technically they do not even share the children. According to Riwanian Law, the children belong to the community, not to the parents! They even have a phrase which emphasizes this: ‘The children are the life blood of the community; literally.’

(4)    “There is absolutely no inheritance. This would violate all concepts of individuality by tying a child to the power of his parents. Because the parents have nothing which can be willed to the child, they have no power over the child, other than that deriving from their mutual love. Secondly, inheritance would violate the need for each individual to accomplish his own thing.

(5)    “Not only is there no inheritance, there are virtually no gifts as we think of them. The official doctrine is that only The Gods give gifts. The single exception, and an absolutely fundamental one, is that the one gift one person may give another is the gift of one's time. Again the value of a person's time is held sacred.

(6)    “People do not accept anything, which they do not obtain by their own efforts. No one is looking for a handout. The two exceptions are, of course, the gift of another person's time, and any number of gifts from The Gods. In the latter case, the gifts are considered correct, just, and based on the person's devotions, prayers, and their constant adherence to the wishes of The Gods.

(7)    “Finally, the gift of one's time is what gives priests and educators the status of their respected and lofty position. Inasmuch as these people are giving of their time to the community, the people are appropriately grateful.”

Moltz looked up, and reported, "That's all I have."

After just a brief second, Woody asked, "What about the Chosen? The respect the people have for her is awesome! What is this based on?"

Rip glanced toward Shari, who answered, "From what I've been able to gather, the Chosen is a temporary position. It's a one time thing, and has to do with a major religious event. I'll cover it in just a moment, when we talk about the hierarchy."

"Inasmuch as there seems to be some common ground, why don't you start now," Michaels suggested.

"Yes sir." Shari smiled and started, "Report on the basic structure of the Riwanian's governmental hierarchy. There are effectively only two classes that we have encountered. The people form the overwhelming majority. Above them are the priests and educators. These latter two groups are autonomous of each other -- effectively separate but equal. Seldom does any single person serve both as an educator and a priest, and definitely not at the same time.

"There is another 'titled' individual, referred to as the 'Chosen'." Woody's ears perked up, as Shari continued, "From what I've been able to gather, the Chosen is a 'temporary priest', i.e. their only function is to prepare for and administer the Day of Renewal. This event is a day long celebration, when the Riwanians reaffirm their faith and belief in The Gods. The Chosen selects the date and time for the Day of Renewal, makes the appropriate arrangements beforehand, has the authority to enlist others in preparing things, and is the chief performer of the various rites on the specified day."

Woody said, "The girl at the landing was one of the Chosen. Are you saying she is a temporary high priestess?"

"Not exactly. I do know the next Day of Renewal is only a few days off, and the girl you are referring to is one of the Chosen. But I don't think the Riwanians consider her to be a priestess. She is more like a layman, or an elder of the church. And the Day of Renewal is her only responsibility. She simply presides at the ceremonies."

Woody smiled to himself. The idea the Chosen was a temporary position encouraged him. Soon Dawn would be just an ordinary citizen and their courtship could be correspondingly simpler.

Shari was continuing.  "Both the priests and educators can be either male or female. As a matter of fact, the Chosen can be male or female as well. The Riwanians simply do not have any sexual bias.

"The priests serve four year terms, and are celibate during this period. They are 'aided' in their celibacy by the use of drugs, with which to subdue their sexual drives. The drugs are apparently part psychological, as well as physiological. One of the standing jokes is that anyone who displays an extraordinary sexual appetite is a former priest, earnestly attempting to make up for lost time." Shari smiled, as the others chuckled. Then she noticed Woody's look of concern. Thinking quickly, she added, "Apparently neither the educators nor the Chosen practice celibacy during their terms of office." The look of relief on Woody's face elicited a much bigger laugh.

"Educator candidates understudy for four years before serving as educators. During this period, they can have sex as they prefer. There are no understudy requirements for the Chosen. The idea here apparently is to ensure the input of a common citizen, without the narrowness of an educational doctrine.

"Finally the priests administer all formal functions with respect to The Gods -- although they are subordinate to the Chosen on the Day of Renewal. They actually have little authority. Furthermore, what little authority they do is only in matters of religion, and even then, not in terms of interpretation. A very clear factor is that a person going astray will be handled by The Gods; and therefore it is not the priest's responsibility. For the most part, the priests serve as oracles, mediators, or in rare cases, act as liaisons. They will mediate disputes, but generally on the basis of convincing the antagonists to do what is right and work it out among themselves. The noteworthy point is the priests always operate with the authority of The Gods.  It is possible that a priest may be defrocked if he or she begins to act on his or her own authority.

"The priests assist in the medical areas we discussed earlier. But again, they have no real authority or control over the proceedings.

"The educators serve six year terms, are considered to be on equal footing with priests, and have a slightly more complicated selection process. The candidates for the position of educator understudy for four years, but are much more likely to 'flunk out', if they can't make the grade. Apparently, less than 60% of those who study manage to become full fledged educators.  The Riwanians consider the education of the children to be absolutely critical.

"Finally, there are absolutely no lines of authority or chains of command between the priests and the educators."

As Shari leaned back, Thomas sat up. Quietly Marie commented, "From what you've just said, the so-called 'hierarchy' hardly seems to be worthy of the name."

"I would agree," Shari answered, "But one of our tasks is to determine the structure of their hierarchy, and at this point, that's all the Riwanians apparently have."

Marie frowned. Quietly she said, "Weird!" Then easing back into her chair, she turned toward Woody and said, "Perhaps Woody can give us some additional data on the Chosen."

Woody glanced at Marie out of the comer of his eye, and smiled, determined not to take the bait. Casually he remarked, "I did happen to get the opportunity to talk to one of them. Her name was Dawn, I believe. And she appears to be all we might expect from the Chosen."

The others waited while Woody paused. Then as if their silence implied consent to continue, Woody added, "There is in fact a very calm and happy relationship between the Riwanians and their Gods. The Chosen's simple and total acceptance of The Gods clearly supports what Rip and Shari have been talking about. But the thing that impressed me was that there is no greed. These people have everything they could want or have time to use. They know it's available if and when they need it. Thus possession for later use or for 'insurance' is simply unnecessary. The effect is possessiveness is not a trait of the people. They enjoy the here and now, with what's at hand, and don't think of the future in terms of whether or not they will have it then.  It is the joy of the here and now, which they seek in all cases, and not the security of having something assured them whenever they might want it in the future. They are the perfect examples of living today, without a concern for tomorrow."

Van Lantz interjected, "Planning ahead is certainly not one of their strong talents." Several others smiled or laughed.

Michaels, on the other hand, was not laughing. He was simply staring
at Woody, a sense of disquiet in Michaels caused by Woody's attitude. Then he remembered when he had seen that same expression on Woody. Michaels frowned even more, remembering their trip home with Woody looking forward with great gusto to the reunion with his wife. Only upon their landing, Woody gets a divorce notice served on him. The nightmare of that monster in Woody's life was something Michaels never wanted to encounter again.

On the other hand, Michaels realized there was no real connection with the present to that earlier tragedy. Still, deep down, hidden away in Michaels' mind was the nagging thought that Woody's present rapture and excitement might be short lived. For just a second the thought surfaced, only to be driven away by the calm rationality of Michaels' mind. Michaels simply was not the type to expect and/or relish disasters.

Suddenly Michaels noticed the momentary lull in the control room. Everyone was looking to him for the next comment. Without any external sign that he had noticed their silent expectations, he said, "Commander Sorrenson, your report on the science and technology aspects."

Sorrenson immediately took a quick breath and began, "The dominant aspect, which we've all recognized, is the evidence that individuality dominates the technological process. As has already been pointed out, and has since been confirmed, no one works as a team. In fact, teamwork is a completely alien concept. The theory is, of course, that there is no motivation or purpose in doing anything, if the credit must be shared.

"This fact we've established. Now note the effects. First, technology never gets out-of-hand and cause any sudden 'inputs' into society. Clearly this aids the maintenance of the status quo. Secondly, there is no bartering for labor, no unions, no strikes, no management, and no negotiations between the two. The really good news is that there are no lawyers!  Third, no team work ensures that major achievements such as space flight are exceedingly unlikely to occur. Fourth, the system allows for the maximum individual freedom.

"The latter point is very important. In some respects it implies a cyclical nature of the society within certain strict boundaries. Progress is strictly individually oriented with each new generation repeating progress in a random sort of way. Newton's Laws, for example, can be discovered over and over again. Entropy wise, this is ideal.  The system is chaotic and thus very stable. It also allows for each new generation to meet the same or similar challenges, and each experience success in their own victories. Nothing becomes so immense, that the young cannot hope to somehow excel."

Van Lantz added, "I think the fact all potential achievements are individual achievements is very important. The people are still challenged by obtainable goals. I know when I was a teenager all the necessities and most of the luxuries of life were neatly furnished to me without my exerting any effort. My only real challenges were to stop the wars, control an out-of-control world economy, and end the hunger and despair in the world. Obviously I could do none of these, and consequently had little or no motivation to attempt anything. Anything I might have been capable of accomplishing was accomplished by others on my behalf. The rest was far beyond my capabilities. The Riwanian concept of allowing each person meet all the basic, achievable challenges strikes me as a good system."

Sorrenson nodded his agreement with Van Lantz and continued, "I agree much of the rewards of life are in meeting the myriad challenges and discovering for one's self what life is all about. The Riwanians urge their young to 'Learn, think, and experience." The emphasis is on not accepting previous work, but relying on one's own hypothesis and experience. The fact that one person operating independently might build up a completely erroneous science is irrelevant, because no one else will ever use it.

"The Riwanians have also taken our advice that 'Advice is cheap' and extended it to 'Advice is a joke'. Advice from elders is very limited, because of a belief that it is better for youth to experience life first hand rather than attempting to impress the elders' view on the child. The thought is, 'Why should youth be denied the right to learn as their forebears did.  Aren't the experiences suffered through and enjoyed by their elders part and parcel of what makes the elders the people that they are?' The only apparent exception is life-threatening experiences.

"One final note is the reaction I received when I asked if some of the Riwanians would like to go into space aboard the Intrepid. They categorically refused. Their refusal was based on the fact the ride was something they were not capable of obtaining, except without another's assistance, and thus it would not be fair. In addition, there would be an unacceptable sense of gratitude imposed. The Riwanians positively refused to even attempt to derive pleasure from someone else's achievements. Even if one of them wanted to go to space, he would want to do it alone or not at all. If it proves too difficult for the one person to accomplish, then that person doesn't go and accepts that fact as part of life."

"That effectively keeps everyone at home," someone remarked.

"The priest did say some people have managed to fly in their own particular designs -- conceived and built by the aviator. And the basic principles of flight are available in the library system. But no others have ever ridden in another's flying machine. There have also been some notable failures. The Riwanians did not elaborate on that latter point.

"In summary, it is a violently individualistic technology, with practically no limit on individual achievement for the simple reason no one has to start at too high a level of technological sophistication."

When Sorrenson had indicated he was finished, Rip Moltz added his own thought. "My sources indicate the concept of a team is in fact, strictly outlawed, and that this is one of the few essential rules promulgated by The Gods. It is actually laid out in specific terms by 'No one may work for another'. Slavery is a condition which has no parallel concept in Riwanian thought. It is, for all practical purposes, equality unexcelled."

No one spoke for several moments. Then Thomas reluctantly observed, "I really hate to challenge my tenure as the Intrepid's official 'Doubting Thomas', but logic must have its day. It is not physically possible that this society is running on some sort of automatic, that it requires no management. There has to be some leadership, and the only possibility I can see from here is a 'true hierarchy' which is probably located at the industrialized centers.  Or The Gods. It's not just a question of active or passive leadership, if only because passive leadership is a contradiction in terms. The bottom line is someone is actively managing this world."

Everyone was silent as they watched Thomas with her unwanted charge. Then Michaels leaned forward to rest his elbows on the edge of the console, his hands smoothing his grey hair. Looking up at Thomas, he inquired, "Did you check out the question of population control?"

"Yes sir," Marie answered. "I summarized the question with a few other features of Riwanian, quote, social life, unquote."

"Let's have it."

"Yes sir. In terms of family life, almost all the people are singles, although they will join temporarily for the initial raising of a child (particularly in the first four years). The law requires they share the responsibility until the child is eight years old. The theory is that by keeping the child in the care of individual parents during the first eight years, the child is more likely to develop individual traits and thus the greater uniqueness of each child.

"Importantly, the child is not considered the property of the parents, and in fact the parents are not at complete liberty to decide what is best for the child. The parents have instead only the primary responsibility for the child's upbringing.  Meanwhile the community has a secondary, and if necessary, the overriding responsibility for the child's development.

"The right to bear children is strictly controlled. Each person has the right to bear one child. Thus two parents can have two children; i.e. each parent using one-half birthright per child. This is simple self-duplication. Occasionally, The Gods will allow certain persons to have an extra ‘half-birthright’, and thus the population growth rate is prevented from going negative.

"A man or woman can have his or her quota with two different mates. Thus there are a lot of half-brothers and half-sisters, and thus a complicated structure of family relationships with specific designations of "half-brother by father", and so forth. It is noteworthy that half-brothers are treated the same in all respects as brothers -- there is no prejudice or even any real distinction between the two types of relationships.

"Birth control is accomplished by the equivalent of tying of tubes and vasectomies while the kids are adolescents. This reversible process is done by The Gods and reversed when permission is given to have a child. This is apparently a very religious moment following the untying or restoration of tubes. Further the conception is usually arranged for at special locations -- effectively 'Honeymoon cottages'. After conception, the birth control is reinstated.

"The effectiveness of the methods are evident in the fact the population of the planet is only about 9 million, and this value has apparently been fairly stable over a long period of years. In addition the population is well scattered over the land surface of the planet. There is a fair amount of travel by the people to other parts of the planet, and these journeys are typically fairly time consuming -- they walk all the way! The favor with which travel is viewed is also probably responsible for the Riwanian's long tradition of welcoming strangers.

"One last item is the subject of gifts. As has been noted, there are no actual gifts, other than the gift of one's time. This is due in part to the fact there is a light sense of obligation for such gifts. Obviously a request for one's time limits that person's use of his or her time. Even sex is considered a gift of one's time. And time is the only measure of a gift's value. Other possessions are apparently too easily obtainable to warrant the status of a gift."

Marie glanced around the faces of the others, as if to gauge their reactions. Everyone seemed thoughtful, except Shari Ryerson, who had a look of indecision. Then, after a moment, she made up her mind and said, "I'd like to add another piece of data that might shed a bit more light on what Marie has been talking about.”

"Certainly, Shari. Go ahead." Marie was intrigued.

Shari smiled slightly, with just a hint of shyness. Then she laughed to bolster her resolve. "It might be considered just a bit personal, but I'll try to limit the display to only the more relevant details.”

With everyone's amused but total attention focused on her, Shari began, "Suffice it to say, that the Riwanian, Hoyunb, shown in the next replay, has just finished one of the most beautiful propositions for having sex I think I've every heard. But since it really is rather direct in some ways, I'll start the tape where I make my rather stumbling refusal."

Stevens and Marie showed an immediate disappointment while the men (with the notable exception of Sorrenson) chose to be amused only.  Then everyone's attention was on the consoles.

"Thank you Hoyunb, but I'm afraid I must say no.  I'm afraid I can't." Hoyunb looked suddenly concerned. "Oh Shari, you are unable? That is terrible! Surely there is something to be done?"

Shari blushed, "Oh, I can. I mean I'm able. But I can't because I’m not permitted."

"Not permitted? You are prohibited from one of life's true joys?"

"Not exactly. It is by my own choice, you see. I wish to remain faithful."

Hoyunb continued to look perplexed. "It is a question of faith?”

"No." Shari seemed suddenly intent on making her meaning precise. "I have chosen to be faithful to one man because of the love I feel for him. It is not precisely a religious question."

Hoyunb was clearly amazed. "This is certainly unique. I don't think I have ever heard of such a love."

"Oh it's rather common on Earth. It is based on what we call marriage. Two people, who are in love, choose to marry, and forever after are faithful to one another to the exclusion of all others."

"This is a permanent relationship?" Hoyunb's mouth was practically wide open.

"Oh yes. At least in most cases."

"That's incredible! You're telling me that two people would choose, voluntarily, to devote their time and their lives to only one other person for the remainder of their lives?"

"Yes." Shari smiled slightly.

Hoyunb was impressed. "That speaks very well for your people that they can muster such love and sacrifice."

"Thank you."

"You, for example, have voluntarily agreed to devote all of your time and love to one single man?" When Shari only nodded with a smile, Hoyunb smiled broadly and said, "He must be some man!"

Shari looked at Hoyunb carefully and answered, "He is."

Then for just a moment, they said nothing. Then a cloud appeared over Hoyunb. "But wait. What about now?"

"Excuse me?"

"You are spending time with me now. I am enjoying your company; we are having a pleasant conversation. Obviously you are not now with your man. You are in fact doing other things. Are you not unfaithful by these actions?"

"Oh no! I'm not unfaithful simply because I'm not with him. I can still pursue other interests."

"Like what?"

"Well for example, I very much enjoy a diversion on Earth called volleyball. This is something I like to do with other friends. Unfortunately he does not enjoy it. Thus I enjoy myself with others as well."

"Because of his unavailability?"

"No.  Because he doesn’t like volleyball."

"But is this not being unfaithful to him? He is clearly denied your companionship.”

"But it is not considered to be unfaithfulness."

"Does he permit this diversion with others that you call racquetball?"

"Oh yes."

"But why?"

Shari stopped for just a second, thinking. "I suppose it is because my enjoyment of it makes me happier, and thus he is happy for me."

Hoyunb thought for a moment. "Yes that makes some sense. But if you can enjoy sex with another, would he not be just as happy for your happiness?"

"Uh, not really. Sex is different."

Hoyunb's eyebrows shot up, with an astonished doubtful look. Then with a slight smile on his lips, "What's the difference? Why is your time with him in pursuit of sexual pleasure different from your time with others in pursuit of other pleasures?"

Shari only looked at Hoyunb for a moment. Then when she continued to hesitate, Hoyunb continued, "You're telling me that two people join as one for their mutual benefit. They devote themselves to each other. This is commendable, and I admire you for the strength of your devotion. But if one neglects the other in pursuit of some other goal, the neglected one suffers for this lack. What difference does it make if the goal one pursues individually is sexual or not?"

"Well for one thing, sex has a measure of intimacy that other goals do not."

"Are you not intimate with your children? Not sexually of course; but in other ways?"

Shari took a breath as if to speak, but nothing came to mind. Then Hoyunb pressed his advantage. "If you spend time at your favorite diversion with others, your mate may be lonely and be denied the pleasure of your companionship. This you say is permissible, and is faithful. But if you have sex with another, even a brief encounter, such that your mate is not even aware of the event or of your absence from his side; then this is not permitted and is considered to be unfaithful?"

Shari could only answer, "Yes."

"Incredible! You have placed sex, an act as natural as eating, on a plane above the pursuit of happiness."

"Perhaps," Shari answered carefully. Then, "But sex is different. If for no other reason than it may result in children."

"Why is this important? If you have two children by two different men, the two children may share two fathers instead of having only one. Similarly if the two fathers have children by two other women, your two children have the love and affection of still more others. Such ties are the essence of family. Why would you want to limit your children to such a fragile parentage as only two people who have limited their affections to among themselves only?"

As the tape shut off, Shari turned to the others as they looked up from their consoles. Then, "It was about this time I gave up." When the others looked at her with more amusement than necessary, Shari quickly added, "I told Hoyunb that I would have to think about his words, and promptly left!" Everyone smiled broadly as Shari blushed and pretended a modest anger.

Then when no one ventured to add anything else, the meeting began to break up. As Van Lantz and Stevens walked down the passage from control, Kat said, "Everything about this planet is incredible. Have we stumbled on Utopia?"

Van Lantz shook his head slightly. "If there ain't no free lunch, it's a lead pipe cinch that there ain't no Utopia. Somewhere, somehow, there's a price to pay. I just hope we're not the ones who get to pick up the check."


Copyright 1983, 1996, 2003 Dan Sewell Ward

Chapter Six -- Boy Meets Girl

Forward to:

Chapter Eight -- The Garden



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