Book 8, part 1. The New Civilization (2005)
“Goosey, goosey, ga-ga-ga” or
The superknowledge we are losing
We started heading off from the lake, Volodya leading the way He had changed somehow His analytical and concentrated mood had given way to one of joyfulness and excitement. Sometimes he would do a pirouette as he walked along, or a little leap into the air, as he explained to me:
“I never looked after bunny-rabbits, Papa. I did something else. I am not sure what to call it — gave birth? That will not do. Created? Not really... Ah, now I remember. I think in your civilisation it is called sitting on eggs. So, I sat on some eggs.” “What d’you mean, you sat on some eggs? That’s a mother hen’s job, or some other kind of bird’s.”
“Yes, I know. But in my case I had to sit on them myself.” “What for? Tell me everything, in the proper order.”
‘All right, in the proper order. Well, it happened in this order:
“I asked Grandfather to find me some eggs laid by wild ducks and wild geese. At first Grandfather grumbled a bit, but three days later he brought me four large goose eggs, along with five duck eggs, which were smaller.
“Next in order, I dug a little hole in the ground, and put some deer manure in the bottom along with grass stalks, and then I covered them over with dried grass, and then on top of this I placed the two sets of eggs Grandfather had brought me.” “What was the manure for?”
“For warmth. Eggs need warmth to hatch. And they need warmth from above, too. Sometimes I lay down on the ground myself, covering the hole with my stomach. When it was cold or rainy, I assigned this task to the bear.”
“How did the bear keep from crushing the eggs?”
“Ifou see, even though the bear is big, the hole containing the eggs is pretty small. He lay on top of the hole, and the eggs were at the bottom. Sometimes I would have the she-wolf guard the eggs, at other times I would sleep on the ground nearby myself, until they started to hatch. It was so wonderful to watch them hatching. Not all of them made it, though. From the nine eggs I started with, were born two goslings and three ducklings. I fed them grass seed and crushed nuts and gave them water to drink. Whenever I fed them, I would invite various creatures living on our territory to watch.”
“To show them how I cared for the little chicks, to help them understand that they should not touch them, but that they should protect them instead. I would also sleep beside the hole where the goslings and ducklings were born, except on cold or rainy nights when I had the bear take over for me. The chicks nestled in his warm coat, which made it very nice for them.
“Next, if I am to proceed in the proper order: I put up stakes around the hole with which I made a wicker fence from branches, and put branches above the nest as well. As the goslings and ducklings grew and learnt to climb out of their hole, I would walk around their nest and make short whistling sounds: tsu-tsu-tsu. Upon hearing this, they would immediately climb out and run after me. They tried running after the bear, but I trained them out of it. The bear can travel quite a distance, and the birds might not make it in one piece.
“But nothing happened to them. They grew up, feathers appeared, and they learnt to fly I would toss them up in the air to help them along. Then they began flying off on their own, but always returned to their nest.
“When autumn came and a whole lot of birds started gathering in flocks to fly south, my grown-up ducks attached themselves to a whole flock of ducks, and my geese joined a flock of geese, and they all flew off to warmer climes.
“But I guessed — I was almost certain — that they would return in the spring. And they did. Oh, how fantastic that was, Papa! They came back, and I heard their delightful cry: ga-ga-ga. I ran over to their nest and began calling: tsu-tsu- tsu. I fed them grass seed and some nut kernels which I had ground up beforehand. They took the feed right out of my hands. I was so happy, and all the creatures around heard the cry and came running oh so happily...
“Look, Papa, here we are! Look!”
There in a secluded spot between two currant bushes I saw the nest my son had fashioned. But there was no wildlife to be seen anywhere around.
“Tou say they’ve come back, but there aren’t any birds here.”
“Not at the moment. They have flown off somewhere to have a stroll or look for food. That is why they are not here right now, but look, Papa!”
As Volodya pushed the branches aside to widen the open-ing, I caught a glimpse of three nest holes. In one of them lay five small-sized eggs, probably, duck eggs. In the other, just one, slightly larger — a goose egg.
“Wow! That means they have come back. And they’re laying eggs. Only just a few.”
“Yes!” Volodya exclaimed in excitement. “They have come back and are laying eggs. They could lay more if I took some of the eggs out of the nest and fed the mothers more often.”
I looked at my son’s happy face, but could not fully com-prehend the reason for his joyful excitement. I asked him:
“What are you so fantastically happy about, Volodya? I know none of you — either you or your Mama or your grand-father — eat eggs. Which means that your actions cannot be called ‘work’ or a ‘job’, since there’s no practical benefit from it.”
“You think so? But remember, other people eat bird’s eggs. Mama says it is all right to use anything the animals them-selves give to Man. Especially for people who are not accus-tomed to a vegetarian diet.”
“What have other people got to do with your activities here?”
“I have decided that something needs to be done so that people living on their domains can be free from the burden of so many household tasks. Or almost free. So that they can have time to think and reflect. This is possible — if you understand God’s intent in creating our world. I find delight in the science of getting to know His thoughts. It is certainly the grandest science of all, and it is something that must be known.
“We need to learn, for example, why He made the birds fly south in the autumn, but they do not stay in those warmer climes, but come back in the spring. I have thought a lot about this, and have guessed that He did this so that Man would not be burdened during the wintertime. In winter birds cannot find food for themselves, and they fly away But they do not stay in the south, but come back — they want to be useful to Man. This is God’s intent. There is much for Man to learn from what our Creator has conceived.”
“What you’re suggesting, then, Volodya, is that ducks and geese can live in every domain, lay their eggs, feed themselves, and then fly off in the autumn and come back in the spring?”
“Yes, quite right. After all, it worked with me.”
“Yes, I see — it really did work with you. But there’s just one concern I have... It will probably upset you to hear this, but still, I have to tell you the truth. Just so you don’t go looking ridiculous with your proposal.”
“Tell me the truth, Papa.”
“You see, there’s this science we call economics. Economists are trying to figure out what is the best way of handling the production of various goods — in this case, eggs. In our world a lot of chicken farms have been set up, where a whole bunch of chickens are kept in one place. They lay their eggs, and afterward these eggs are shipped off to grocery stores. People can go to these stores and easily purchase as many eggs as they need. It’s all worked out to ensure the least expenditure of labour and time on a per-unit basis.”
“What does ‘expenditure of labour’ mean, Papa?”
“It refers to the quantity of time and resources spent on the production of a single egg. You have to carefully work out what’s going to be the most efficient method of production, and that will be the best method.”
“Fine, I shall try to work it out, Papa.”
“When you work out the whole thing, you’ll understand. But to figure it out you’ll need expense statistics. I’ll try to get them from some economist.”
“But I can calculate everything right now, Papa.”
Volodya gave a bit of a frown, evidently concentrating, and after a minute announced:
“Minus two to infinity.”
“What kind of a formula is that? What does it refer to?” “The efficiency of the Divine economy is expressed in an infinite series of numbers. Even starting from zero, modern scientific economics is already two points down.”
“You’ve got a pretty strange method of calculation there. I can’t fathom it. Can you explain how you arrived at that figure?”
“I set the benchmark for our current case at zero. All the expenses involved in a chicken factory — its construction, maintenance and delivery of eggs to stores are summed up in the figure of minus one.”
“What d’you mean, ‘minus one? These expenses should be expressed in roubles and kopeks.”2
“Monetary units are relative and will always vary, and so they are not significant in this methodology. They all need to be lumped together under the arbitrary value of‘minus one’. Whatever expenses there are, in terms of a zero benchmark, they can be expressed as ‘minus one’.”
‘And where did you get the second minus figure?”
“That is quality. It cannot be very good. The unnatural maintenance conditions and the lack of variety in feed cannot help but lower the quality of the eggs, and this gives rise to an-other value of minus one. So we get ‘minus two’ altogether.” “Okay, let’s say you’re right. But in your case, too, there are huge expenditures of time. Here, tell me, Volodya, how much time did you spend, as you put it, ‘sitting on’ the eggs, and then feeding the ducklings and goslings, and watching out for them?”
“Ninety days and nights.”
“So, ninety times twenty-four hours. And all that in aid of producing no more than a few dozen eggs — and that only at the end of a year! For people living in their domains, it would be much more efficient to buy some little chicks at a market or hatch them over the winter with the help of an electric in-cubator, and in four or five months they’ll start laying. In the ~kopek (Russian: kopeika) — a coin worth 1/100 of a rouble. It is derived from the Russian word for ‘spear’ (kop’e, pronounced kap-TO), in reference to a warrior piercing a dragon with his spear — a scene depicted on early Russian coins. The word ‘rouble’ itself is derived from the verb mbit’ (‘cut with an axe’) — early coins represented a silver band cut in rectangular pieces.
second year, before winter sets in, they’re generally slaugh-tered, since their laying capacity goes down by the third year. So they kill them and start raising a new batch. That’s tech-nology for you.”
“That is the technology of never-ending burdens, Papa. You have to feed the chickens every day, store up food for the winter, and every other year raise a new batch of chickens.”
“Sure, you feed them and raise new ones, but thanks to modern technology it isn’t nearly as time-consuming as your alternative.”
“But those ninety days will launch a programme that will last forever. Once they come back, the migratory birds will raise their young all by themselves, they will teach them how to get along with human beings and come back to their home-land. And they will go on doing this for thousands of years. In launching a programme like this, Man is passing it on to future generations of his family. He is giving back to them a little particle of the Divine economy A hundred years from now an expenditure of ninety days in calculating the cost of producing a single egg, will count as minutes, and continue to diminish with each passing year.”
“But still, there are expenses, and you haven’t taken these into account.”
“These expenses are offset by a powerful counterweight, which is no less significant than what is produced by the birds.”
“When birds once again fly from faraway lands back to their native woods and fields, people are delighted to see them. Thanks to their joyful and beneficial energy, many people’s diseases are eliminated. But this energy is ninety times stronger when they do not merely fly back from the south, but come directly to you and start greeting the Man living on that domain with their happy cries and refrains of exultation.
Their singing brings joy and strength not only to Man but to the whole Space around him.”
Volodya spoke with confidence and inspiration. It would have seemed foolish to continue arguing with him. I pretended to be absorbed in contemplation or to be figuring out some-thing in my mind. I felt a little put out that there was nothing I could teach my son or even offer him a few hints on.
And what kind of upbringing or education do we have here anyway? Here is my son standing right in front of me, and yet he seems like a child from another planet or another civilisa-tion.
He has a different concept of life, a different philosophy and speed of thought. He can do instantaneous calculations. And it is clear, as I have been made aware, that even if I spent a year on computer calculations, whatever he comes up with would still be more accurate. It’s as though everything inside him were turned upside-down. Or perhaps it might be more accurate to ask: To what degree have we perverted our own lives — our concepts and meaning of life? All our disasters have arisen from these perversions.
No doubt this is all true, but still... I’m so anxious to find some way of being useful to my son. But how? With no ex-pectations left, I asked him quietly and offhandedly:
“I’ll give some thought to those economics of yours. Maybe you’re right... But tell me, son: you’ve been playing with dif-ferent tasks here, working them out. Have you ever had a really serious problem to meet?”
Volodya sighed deeply and, it seemed, rather woefully. After a brief pause he replied:
“Yes, Papa, I do have a big problem. And only you can help me solve it.”
Volodya was sad, while I, on the other hand, was delighted to find something at last where he required my help.
‘And what does it involve, this big problem of yours?”