A new fact, a new movement of the spirit, now emerged in the cosmical drama. It was a twofold and sometimes a self-contradictory movement; and one which, though unique and nebular, was strangely reminiscent of human history. It was one of those great reorientations which are preceded by prolonged chaos and bewilderment. Needs already widespread in the community, and here and there obscurely recognized, remain unfulfilled until they are lived through and expressed and heroically served by a single person of supreme vision and courage. In this case there were two persons, very different in temperament and behaviour, but at heart one.
Of these two great ones, the first to make himself felt was originally a member of a small, isolated and youthful group which had for long escaped the ravages of war, but was at last overrun and broken up by a campaign in which its members had no interest whatever. Most of the members were killed or maimed. The dance life of the little community was destroyed. It had been a singularly idyllic community, in which, though the members had matured in a rather loose social order, and had achieved great diversity of self-expression, they were held together in spirit by vivid personal intercourse. Because of their own happy past and the. unusual depth of consciousness which they had already achieved, the survivors of the disaster experienced perhaps more poignantly than others the spiritual devastation of the cosmos.
One of these survivors was known to his fellows, and later to the whole cosmos, by a name which can best be translated "Bright Heart." Though this name was given because in his case the nebular core attained an unusual brilliance, it turned out also to be appropriate in a more significant sense.
After the destruction of his community, Bright Heart, wounded but not seriously crippled, set out on a laborious journey through the corpse-strewn war area. Stage by stage, and often on the point of being seized by one army or the other, he crept away (without mechanical aid) into a neighbouring "desert" people only by a few lone nebulae. Here for a while he remained, healing his wounds, bitterly grieving for his slaughtered friends, but above all wrestling in his own mind with the problems of his world.
Now it so happened that in his neighbourhood two of the lone nebulae drifted within close range of one another and became a binary system, each seemingly destined to distort and wound the other for ever after.
With infinite care and tact, Bright Heart managed to induce each agonized mind to conceive that it was not alone in the universe. And since by good luck neither of the solitaries was yet a mature and rigidly self-sufficient organism, he was actually able to kindle in each a bewildered and excited interest in the other and in himself. With infinite patience he taught these two blind beings to see one another, though obscurely, to talk to one another, and above all so to adjust their internal economy that henceforth the proximity of other conscious beings should no longer be a torture but a joy, a stimulus releasing all manner of new delectable activities of body and mind.
To me, who knew well the absolute solipsism of the lone nebulae, it seemed indeed a miracle that through the insight and faith of Bright Heart these three beings should have been formed into a trinity of lovers. For so it was. With incredulity, and then with awe, I watched their orbits interweave, their tresses lightly trend toward one another and withdraw, or delicately touch and part, fulfilling the rhythms of their new dance life. With amazement I experienced in each of the two emancipated minds first the horror and fury of mutual realization, then, stage by stage under the unerring touch of Bright Heart, mutual interest and mutual need. With grave wonder, too, I experienced through these minds the long ardent story which Bright Heart chanted to them during the dance, the story of the great nebular world with all its horror and its hope, the story of his own heart searchings, and of the purpose which was now clearly forming in his mind.
Only for a short while was this personal beatitude allowed to continue. Presently Bright Heart withdrew, little by little, further and further from his companions, gently reshaping their orbits into a binary system, wistfully bidding them for a while to live on without him in mutual delight and in pursuit of a common aesthetic form. Thus, he said, they must prepare their spirits for the great work which he would later require of them, namely to seek communication with other lone nebulae by means of radio messages, and to awaken them from their solipsism. Thus would the gospel of community, passed from solitary to solitary, percolate throughout the cosmos, until all nebulae, solitary and social alike, would be eager to play their parts in the all-embracing dance pattern of the cosmos. Meanwhile he himself must leave them, to go once more among the social nebulae, preaching the gospel and persuading all to will the end of war.
Withdrawn now from effective gravitational contact with his companions, he still called to them enheartening messages, until they lay beyond the range of his "voice."
For a while the couple carried out faithfully the discipline which Bright Heart had imposed on them. But presently they began to disagree about the interpretation of his teaching, and about their several functions in the immediate dance and in the missionary work which was to come. The quarrel grew bitter, each claiming that he alone was faithful to the spirit of the master. Infuriated with one another, they grappled. The struggle became desperate. The weaker was mangled into insanity. The stronger floated off in proud but guilty self-absorption, seeking in vain to return into solipsistic bliss. Eventually he was butchered for ammunition.
Bright Heart meanwhile had journeyed back among the social nebulae.
Throughout the "modernized" area, which comprised perhaps a third of the cosmos, things were going from bad to worse. War was perennial. Moreover whole populations were now employed in preparing the flesh of the slaughtered for use as "fuel." Innumerable natural groups had been broken up and their members herded together with vast labour corps. Deprived of their natural dance life, and goaded either by force or by propaganda into working themselves beyond their capacity of endurance, they fell sick in body and mind, and died in hundreds.
To these industrial slaves and to the embattled armies themselves Bright Heart now addressed himself. He could not travel far among them, unaided by mechanical power, but he testified fervently to those near at hand, and these spread the gospel. To me it was a gospel at once familiar and strange.
He told of his experience with the two lone nebulae, how they had at first blindly wounded one another, how through his intervention they had become aware of one another, how the discovery had first outraged, then exalted them, how in cooperation they had achieved what was for them a new order of dance life, how in that new life they had found insight into one another and themselves, and had discovered the underlying principle which moved all things. This principle he called by a word which I hesitate to translate—love—though I can find no other word for it. Literally its significance was "glad beholding and glad dancing with." Only in "glad beholding and dancing with" one another, he said, could nebulae find peace; and even so, only if they could "gladly behold and dance with" the underlying principle itself. Those who did this could not but long to "gladly behold and dance with" every nebula, could not but strive to turn the cosmos into one great pattern of "glad beholding and dancing," in which every nebula would be enriched by the dance life of all, and each would contribute his unique beauty to the whole cosmical figure.
All this, he said, the two humble solitaries had seen; and now (so he believed) they were ardently preparing themselves for the great mission with which he had charged them, the salvation of their fellows.
He spoke with an eloquence and passion which it is beyond my power to translate into human speech. All I can do is to indicate the bare outline of his theme.
"Is it not true," he said, "that one and all we desire in our hearts above everything else to behold one another gladly, to delight in the endless variety and beauty of one another, and to dance with one another in such rhythms as beauty shall dictate, so that we may be possessed ever more and more by the spirit of glad beholding and dancing? But what beauty are we making? The perfect flesh of the lone nebulae we tear to pieces for power to destroy our fellows. And this violated flesh has poisoned our hearts, with meat for the greed of power and for the fear of one another's greed, so that there is no glad beholding in us, and all our dance is base. Greed and fear are native to us, but in the heart that is possessed by the spirit of glad beholding and dancing they cannot flourish. Then what must we do? We must do always as the spirit dictates, never as greed and fear suggest. We must stop warring. We must give up mechanical power, which is impossible without slaughter of the innocent. And above all, we must look toward one another gladly, even with enemies we must be eager to dance gladly, to express the spirit with them. And if the rulers try to compel us to fight and to use power, we must refuse, even though they punish us with death."
Thus he spoke, urging his ever-increasing followers to live and die for the faith. In season and out of season they must tell the good tidings and exemplify the new way of life. Never must they fight, but they must have the courage of the boldest warrior, and they must welcome death in the cause.
Almost with the speed of light the gospel spread from nebula to nebula. The maimed and the oppressed welcomed it. The mighty at first scorned it and ridiculed it; but when they found that it was a power in the world, they began to deal ruthlessly with the believers. Yet the faith spread. Whole armies were infected by it and refused to fight. Whole populations allowed themselves to be overrun and decimated without resistance.
Such was the success of the movement that the rulers of the warring empires secretly consulted one another as to the best method of checking this universal rot in the morale of their peoples. It was decided that the best plan would be accept the faith and turn it to good use. One by one the lords of the empire announced their conversion. Persecution ceased. The lieutenants of Bright Heart found themselves treated with respect, and even taken into the counsel of the governors. Under the influence of flattery and sympathetic treatment, they began to see the necessity of compromise. Wild idealism, they told one another, was ineffective or dangerous. Not at a leap, but step by step, the millennium must be reached. The lives of the faithful must not be risked by unilateral disarmament. Diplomacy must aid idealism by a realistic search for security. Stage-by-stage disarmament must be achieved, and demechanization; but not suddenly. The whole social order was at present adapted to warfare and to mechanical power. A violent change would wreck it. The office of Bright Heart had been to inspire, and his work had been nobly done. But the time had now come for sober practical work, and for that he was unfit.
Many of the lieutenants of Bright Heart were hoodwinked by this policy. Under their influence conditions were made easier for the faithful; but the faith waned.
Nebula Maker Contents