Something Sacred - Prologue
In the time of antiquity, back before our written records, we are told that humans and gods freely played together and created a beautiful city in the heart of an exquisite landscape where all were free yet happy to cooperate so all might share a common bounty and all might know the joy of engaging each in their true work, respecting the best in all. It was a peaceful time, a happy time, with energy displayed in healthful work and joyous art. Every day was celebrated and every contribution honored.
But then the gods, who are immortal and powerful, grew away from their human playmates. The games they played became more sophisticated, less easily joined in. They developed concerns with a longer view and devised complicated scenarios, complex barriers which humans could rarely overcome to play in the fields of eternity. We became confused and frightened. Some of us would develop feelings of superiority believing we were the arbiters of rights and wrongs, that we deserved and needed power over others, to make our dictates law and punish those who did not properly honor and obey. Others developed feelings of inferiority and great fear of insecurity. We started to believe that there could not possibly be enough bounty for all, that we must hoard and fight off those who might take what we thought of as ours. Instead of happily joining our efforts to assure common good, to find equitable and practical solutions to problems, to enjoy and honor our individual abilities, we broke off into groups that underscored and denigrated our differences. We expended our energy inventing weapons, teaching and learning war. We praised our warriors, poisoned our lands and our minds with the detritus of hatred, passed on violence, discord, deep pain within our families and against our neighbors. We despoiled the gifts the gods had freely given us, repurposing them as game pieces against each other, even against our own best interests, even against the peace-loving, hopeful and ecstatic parts of ourselves. We dishonored the gods and all they had given us. We dishonored our own beautiful potential.
The gods were horrified and disgusted when they saw what we had done. Being ancient and wise, they did understand that they had a part in the blame. They tried to tell us where we had gone wrong, tried to enter our hearts and minds to lead us back to our true paths. But humans, for the most part, had gotten too caught up in our own dramas, feuds, thirst for vengeance or wealth, power, fame. The newer generations had been raised with these values rather than valuing themselves and their collective talents. They had never developed an interest in working and growing together at a high level of prosperity for all. They had learned, instead, to be bitter and angry and depressed, impatient for wealth that even when attained never provided the peace they unknowingly yearned for.
The gods held council and discussed the tragedy that the humans had made of their lives. Taking the long, immortal, view, they decided upon an experimental course of action. They would plant songs, ideas, legends, methods of discovering sacred knowledge. They would at whim walk among us and whisper or sing, act out, prophesize for any who were strong enough or weak enough or somehow developed the space in their minds to understand. They would plant the seeds of salvation in a variety of environments, then watch to see if any sprouts took hold. In this way they hoped to slowly encourage us to find our way back to our true nature as vibrant beings, to help us relearn, become the glorious people we were meant to be.
That is the story we tell. But, of course, we humans had become entrenched in our unhappy ways. A promise of something better was not sufficient motivation to change. The gods devised crises of various kinds and durations to shake up our misaligned order and give us new configurations to deal with, in the hope that in being forced to learn new ways we would eventually turn to the abandoned way that had given us so much. And, despite their horror, disgust and sadness, the gods found joy in their efforts made into games for their own amusement. Some of these games, their stories, are passed down as legends for celebrations or teaching, or told by our storytellers as spontaneous inspiration.
I am an old woman. I have lived a blessed life, with so many wonderful and terrible memories to keep me company. I have gone on a marvelous journey and won the greatest prize. Well, actually, there were several journeys. There were long, dangerous roads and dramatic adventures. There was love; there was loss. There was dedication to an underlying truth that carried me along even when all hope and reason strayed. I have grown and learned from experience, into a deeper wisdom, a luminous joy that is all I could ever be, till it flows out from me into all I perceive and into the hearts of my people to go on into those who will come.
I was born in the City, the only city on my world. It is a huge and sprawling center of culture, seat of government, depository of knowledge. There are marvelous tall buildings, street and underground transportation systems, concourses of commerce, magnificent museums, libraries, concert halls, theaters. There are public ceremonies of much pomp and circumstance. There are great universities, industrial complexes, sports arenas, and all manner of commercial enterprises. It is an efficiently run city where public servants take pride in their work and everything is kept clean and gleaming. I only have vague memories, but this is what I have been told, and have seen in elders’ memories. The military trains in camps on the outskirts of the City, not too far from the prison camps, from which many of the troops are recruited. Nothing is left to chance; little is wasted. There is freedom for the citizens in their private lives, but only insofar as they obey the public rules.
My name is Caela, and I am of the witchfolk. That is what we were called on our home world, Earth, centuries ago. Where shall I begin? There was that ancient era when a craze for genetic solutions came with advances in genetic research, as the histories tell us. Fashionable parents of that age reveled in their ability to choose special gifts for their offspring through the miracle of gene manipulation. It was thought by someone with the clout for the research dollars that there was a crying need in their society for people with enhanced empathy, minds that could probe the minds of others – maybe as clinicians, maybe as spies, maybe as weapons. We were used for all of those purposes, and not to our benefit. We became vilified, feared and hated by those who did not share our gift. Naturally, we tended to band together, to marry and live within communities of our own, of those who neither feared nor revered us but simply knew us as we were, as people much like themselves. Bonding together in enclaves within which we felt accepted and protected, we left the others to develop their fears and resentments. We had natural advantages in myriad social situations, able to know what others felt, to enhance those feelings or divert them to our purpose. Of course, some of us had used those advantages unscrupulously – although that very empathy in some ways puts a damper on the advantages of manipulation over time. Thus, there was actually much less abuse of our abilities than was expected by the general population.
Over time many of us learned to keep our abilities to ourselves and blend in more with the mainstream. By the time of the big wave of colonization, most of us were quietly assimilated, not particularly noteworthy. Still, many of us hoped for less constrained lives on a brand new world. Those who came to this planet, Eden, so named because of its bountiful natural resources, did so as common recruits like anyone else, looking for the possibility of paradise. Genetic engineering technologies did not ultimately solve Earth’s problems of over-population, pollution, depletion of resources. The solution came from the science of space travel, the brave new adventure of colonization. As star travel and planetary exploration permeated the media and popular imagination, the idea of leaving the troubles of Earth behind to start over on other worlds became a common dream. People from all walks of life became enamored of their own fantasies of what they could become given such a new start. People from all walks of life ultimately made the journeys, took the chance, found themselves vastly far from home, and, perforce, created new homes which they were privileged to build from scratch, in league with the others who had made the journey with them.