Book 4. Co-creation (1999)
School, or the lessons of the gods
After my final visit to the dolmen on Stanislav Bambakov’s property and my meeting with his son I began recalling more distinctly my conversation with Anastasia about one’s Motherland, and about her lot’ project. My head was floating in memories of the individual plots comprising splendid communities of the future which she had outlined with a stick in the moist earth. And how enthusiastically, with unusual intonations in her voice, she had endeavoured to describe them — it was as though I could hear the very leaves rustle in the gardens now covering the former wasteland, and hear the pure water gurgling in the brooks, and look and see the beautiful and happy men and women living among them. And hear the children’s laughter, and the songs at the close of the day. Along with this, the extraordinary nature of her description provoked a whole range of questions, such as:
“The way you’ve drawn them, Anastasia, it looks as though the lots are not right up against each other. Why?”
“This splendid community has to have walkways, roadways and paths. There should be a passage no less than three metres wide on all sides between the lots.”
‘And will there be a school in this community?”
“Of course — look, there it is, in the middle of all the squares.”
“I wonder what kind of teachers will be teaching in the new school, and how they will structure the classes. Probably the way I saw at Shchetinin’s school. A lot of people are going there now. Everybody likes the forest school at Tekos.1
And a lot of people want to set up similar schools in their own communities.”
“Shchetinin’s school is indeed marvellous. It is a step toward the school where children in the new communities will study; The pupils who have gone through Shchetinin’s school will help build them and teach in them. But wise and educated teachers are not the only principal component here. Parents will also be teaching their children in these new schools, and at the same time they will learn from their children.”
“But how can parents become teachers all of a sudden? Will all the parents have a higher education, let alone specialised education? There are a lot of different subjects — maths, physics, chemistry, literature — who will teach the children these in the schools?”
“The level and specialisation will not be uniform, of course, for everyone on the whole. But then, after all, the study of sciences and other subjects should not be considered an end in itself, a primary goal. It is much more important to learn how to be happy, and that is something only the parents can show by their example — that is their role.
“It is not at all necessary for the parents to teach classes in the traditional sense. Parents, for example, can participate in joint discussions or collectively administer an examination.”
‘An exam? Whose exam could the parents administer?”
“Their children’s, and the children could examine them, examine their parents.”
“Parents administer their kids’ exams?! You’re talking about school exams?! Now that has to be some kind of joke!
Then all the kids would end up with top marks! What parent is going to give his own child a low mark? Any parent, of course, is automatically going to mark their son or daughter near the top of the class.”
“Vladimir, do not jump to conclusions. Along with classes resembling those in today’s schools, the new school will have others — more important ones.”
“Others? What kind of others?”
And all at once a thought crossed my mind: if Anastasia could so easily show scenes from millennial antiquity (whatever the process involved — her ray, hypnosis, or something else besides — it still worked), that means... that means, she must be able to show the near future too. So I asked her:
“Could you show me, Anastasia, at least one class from that school of the future, the land of school that those new commu-nities will have? Could you show me a non-traditional class?”
“Then show me. I want to compare it with what I saw in Shchetinin’s school. And with the classes I had back in my own schooldays.”
‘And you will not ask about or be frightened by the power that I use to create scenes of the future?”
“I don’t care how you do it. It’ll simply be most interesting for me to watch.”
“Then lie down on the ground, relax, and doze off.”
Anastasia quietly placed her hand on top of mine and...
I could see, as though from above, amidst a whole lot of plots, one which had an internal configuration different from the rest. It comprised several large wooden buildings linked by footpaths, lined on either side by a variety of flowerbeds. Near the building complex stood a natural amphitheatre: along the side of a hill rows of benches descended in a semi-circular formation. On these were seated about three hundred people of different ages, including both grey-haired elders and some quite young. It looked as though they were sitting in family groups, since adult men and women were in-terspersed with children of various ages. Everyone was talking excitedly amongst themselves, as though they were anticipating something out of the ordinary — a concert performance by a superstar or a presidential address.
In front of the audience on a wooden stage or platform stood two small tables and two chairs, with a large chalkboard behind. Alongside the platform there was a group of children, about fifteen in all, ranging in age from five to twelve, engaged in an animated discussion.
“This is the beginning of something resembling a symposium on astronomy,” I heard Anastasia say
“But what are the children doing here? Don’t their parents have anybody they can leave them with?” I asked Anastasia.
“One of the group of children arguing amongst themselves will now give the keynote presentation,” she explained. “Right now they are voting on who it shall be. There are two candidates, you see — a boy, he is nine years old, and a girl, she is eight... Now the children are voting... Ah, the majority has picked the boy”
Ayoung boy approached one of the tables with a confident, businesslike step. From a cardboard folder he took out some papers containing designs and sketches and laid them out on the table. The rest of the group of children — some slowly and solemnly, others with a hop, skip and a jump — headed over to where their parents were seated on the benches. A little red-headed, freckle-faced girl — the other candidate, who was not chosen — walked past the table, her head held proudly in the air. The folder in her hands was a little bigger and thicker than the boy’s — no doubt it too contained sketches and designs.
The boy at the table tried to say something to the girl as she went by, but she didn’t stop. She simply straightened her braid and walked on past, deliberately looking the other way For some time the boy followed her distractedly with his gaze. Then he once more focused his attention on rearranging the papers in front of him.
“Who on earth could have managed to teach these kids enough astronomy so that they can make a presentation before a group of adults?” I asked Anastasia.
And she replied:
“Nobody taught them. They were given the opportunity to work out for themselves how the whole Universe is structured, to prepare their arguments and present their conclusions. They have been working on it for more than two weeks already, and the final moment has come. They will now defend their views, and their conclusions may be refuted by anyone who wishes to do so.”
“So, it turns out this is some kind of game?”
“Tou can think of what is going on here as a ‘game’. Only it is very serious. Each person present will now have their thinking about the planetary order accelerated, and may perhaps start contemplating something even greater than that. After all, the children have been thinking and pondering for two weeks now, and their thought is not limited by anything — there are no dogmas or theories of planetary order to weigh them down. We still do not know what they will come up with.”
“They’ll be fantasising with their child mindsets, you mean to say?”
“I mean to say, they shall present their own theories. After all, even adults have not come up with any proven truths regarding planetary order. The goal of this symposium is not to work out any canons, but to accelerate thought, which afterward will determine what is true, or at least come closer to the truth.”
At this point a young man stepped up to the second table and announced the presentation was about to begin. Whereupon the nine-year-old started to speak.
He spoke confidently and enthusiastically for about twenty-five or thirty minutes. What he said struck me as sheer childish fantasy — a fantasy not grounded in any scientific theories or even an elementary knowledge one would get from a high-school astronomy course. He spoke in substance as follows:
“If you look up to the sky in the late evening, you see a whole lot of stars shining there. There are different kinds of stars. Some stars are little and others a little larger. But very small stars can be big, too. Only we think at first that they are little. But they are very big. Because when an aeroplane flies very high, it is small, but when it is on the ground and we walk up to it, it turns out to be big, and it can hold a whole lot of people. And each star could hold a whole lot of people.
“Only there are no people on the stars right now. But they shine in the evening. The big ones shine, and the little ones too. They shine so we can see them and think about them. The stars want us to make the things we do on the Earth just as good on them too. They are a little envious of the Earth. They really want berries and trees to grow on them the way they do here, they want the same little streams and fishes.
“The stars are waiting for us, and each of them is trying to shine to make us pay attention to it. But we can’t yet travel to them, ’cause we’ve got a lot of things to take care of here at home. But when we do take care of everything at home, and things are good everywhere on the whole Earth, then we shall travel to the stars. Only we shan’t travel by plane or rocket ship, ’cause flying by plane would take too long and the rocket ship would be long and boring. Besides, we won’t all fit into a plane or a rocket ship. And there won’t be room for all sorts of things we want to take with us. There won’t be any room for trees, or a stream. But once we make everything right all over the Earth, we’ll fly the whole Earth to the nearest star.
“Besides, some stars will want to come to Earth themselves and snuggle up to it. They have already sent their fragments, and their fragments have snuggled up to the Earth. People used to think that these were comets, but they are fragments of stars which really, really wanted to snuggle up to our beautiful Earth. They were sent by the stars, which are waiting for us. We can fly the whole Earth to a far-off star, and whoever wants to can remain on the star, to make it beautiful, like on the Earth.”
All this time the boy had been holding up his sheets of paper and showing them to the audience. They contained drawings of a starry sky and the Earth’s trajectory as it headed toward the stars. The last drawing portrayed two stars blossoming with gardens and the Earth moving away from them on its intergalactic journey
When the boy finished talking and showing the drawings, the master of ceremonies announced that anyone who wished could challenge him or put forth his own views on what had just been said. But no one hastened to speak. Everybody remained silent — it looked to me as though they were concerned about something.
“What are they hesitating for?” I asked Anastasia. “Don’t any of the adults here know about astronomy?”
“They are hesitating because they know whatever arguments they put forth must be clear and well thought through. After all, their children are present. If what they say is not understandable or acceptable to the children’s hearts, then the speaker will risk being mistrusted or, even worse, treated unsympathetically Adults cherish their relationship with their children, and hesitate to risk any harm to it. They are afraid of incurring the audience’s disfavour — especially their children’s.”
The heads of many in the audience began turning in the direction of a grey-haired elderly man sitting in their midst.
He had his arm around the shoulders of the little red-haired girl sitting beside him, the same one who had been one of the candidates to give the keynote presentation. Sitting next to them was a young and very beautiful woman. Anastasia commented:
‘A lot of people now have their eyes on the elderly man in the middle of the audience. He is a university professor, a scientist, now retired. His personal life got mixed up rather early on, and he had no children. Ten years ago he procured a lot of land, and began to establish a home on it all by himself. A young woman fell in love with him and the little red-headed girl was born to them. The young woman next to him is his wife and the mother of his child. The retired professor very much loves the child of his old age. And the girl, his daughter, treats him with great respect and love. Many of those present here today believe that the professor is entitled to take the floor first.”
But the elderly professor had trouble getting his first words out. I could see him nervously rumpling the pages of some journal with his hands. Finally he got up and started to speak. He said something about the structure of the Universe, the comets and the mass of the Earth, and finally summed up his remarks something like this:
“The planet Earth, of course, is moving through space and rotating. But it is inextricably linked with the solar system, and cannot move independently It cannot leave the solar system and travel to distant galaxies. The Sun gives life to everything living on the Earth. Moving away from the Sun would involve a serious cooling of the Earth, and we would end up with a dead planet. We can all observe what happens even when we move just a fraction away from the Sun. We get winter.”
At this point the professor stopped abruptly The boy who had presented the paper flipped distractedly through his sketches, then gave a questioning glance to his peers in the group, the ones who had helped him prepare the presentation. But it was apparent that everybody had found the argument of winter and cooling very cogent and plausible. This argument had the effect of crushing the children’s beautiful dream of a space-travelling Earth. And all at once in the ensuing quiet, which had lasted a half-minute already, the voice of the elderly professor once more sounded forth.
“Winter... Life can’t help but slow down if the Earth doesn’t get enough solar energy Simply can’t help! You don’t need any scientific studies to see that, to be convinced... On the other hand... it is possible that the Earth itself possesses energy, the same as the Sun. Only it hasn’t yet manifested itself. Nobody’s discovered it yet. Perhaps you yourselves will discover it at some point. Perhaps it is possible that the Earth could be self-sufficient. This energy will be made manifest in some way... The Sun’s energy will show itself on the Earth, and, like solar energy, it will be able to unfold the petals of the flowers. And then we can travel on the Earth across the galaxy... Yes, then...”
The professor lost his train of thought and fell silent. A murmur of dissatisfaction could be heard through the audience. And then it all began...
The adults in the audience began getting up from their seats and holding forth, denouncing the professor, especially the possibility of living without the Sun. Some of them spoke of the photosynthesis of plants, others about environmental temperature, still others about the fixed nature of planetary trajectories. Through all this the professor sat with an increasingly drooping head. His red-haired daughter turned her head to look at each of the speakers — on occasion she would try standing up, as though she were trying to protect her father from his challengers.
An elderly woman who looked like the teacher type took the floor and started holding forth on how it wasn’t right to appease or flatter children just to curry a favourable attitude toward you on their part.
‘Any lie will be exposed with time, and then how will we all look then? This isn’t just a lie, it’s cowardice!” said the woman.
The red-headed girl tugged on the lapels of her father’s jacket. She began shaking him, practically crying, her voice breaking as she kept at him:
“Papochka, you lied about the energy... Did you lie, Pa- pochka? Because we’re children? The lady called you a coward. Is that bad?”
A silence fell upon the large open-air amphitheatre. The professor raised his head, looked his daughter in the eye, put his hand on her shoulder and quietly said:
“I believed what I said, daughter.”
At first the girl remained silent. Then she quickly stood up on the bench and cried out as loudly as her little child’s voice could muster:
“My Papa’s not a coward. Papa believed what he said. He believed it!”
The little girl surveyed the now hushed audience. Nobody was even glancing in their direction. She looked at her mother. But the young woman turned away with her head lowered; she fiddled with the buttons on the sleeve of her cardigan, undoing them and doing them up again. The girl once more surveyed the hushed audience, and looked at her father. As before, the professor seemed to be gazing helplessly at his little daughter. Once more, this time in the absolute quiet, the red-headed girl’s voice sounded gently and tenderly
“People don’t believe you, Papochka. They don’t believe you ’cause the Sun’s energy has not yet showed itself on the Earth — the energy that is like the Sun and can open the petals of the flowers. But once it appears, then everybody will believe you. They will believe you later, when it appears. Later...” And all at once the professor’s daughter quickly straightened her hair, then leapt out into the aisle and ran off. She ran to the edge of the amphitheatre, and hurried toward one of the nearby houses. She disappeared inside, only to reappear in the doorway a few seconds later. This time the girl was holding in her hands an earthenware pot with a plant in it. She ran with it over to the speaker’s table, which was now vacant. She put the potted plant down on the table. And her child’s voice, now loud and confident, resonated over the heads of the audience:
“Look, here’s a flower. Its petals are closed. All the flowers’ petals have closed. ’Cause there’s no sun out today But they will open, because there is energy on the Earth... I shall... I shall transform myself into the energy which can open the petals of flowers.”
With that the little girl closed her hands into a fist and began staring at the flower. She went on staring without blinking.
The people sitting in their seats refrained from conversation. Everyone was looking at the little girl and the plant in the earthenware pot on the table in front of her.
Slowly the professor rose from his seat and went over to his daughter. He went up to her and put his hands on her shoulders, trying to lead her away. But the little redhead shrugged him off and whispered:
“Why don’t you help me instead, Papochka!”
The professor was no doubt utterly bewildered. He remained standing at his daughter’s side, his hands on her little shoulders, and he too began staring at the flower.
But nothing was happening with the flower. And I began to feel somehow sorry for the little girl and her professor-father. But he really got himself into a fix with his declaration of faith in some kind of undiscovered energy!
All at once a boy stood up in the front row — the same boy that had given the presentation. He partially turned toward the silent audience, sniffed his nose and headed over to the table on the stage. Solemnly and confidently he approached the table and stood next to the red-haired girl. Just like her, he fixed his gaze firmly on the plant in the earthenware pot. But as far as the plant was concerned, of course, nothing was happening.
And then I saw it! I saw how children of all ages began rising from their seats and one by one came down to the stage. They silently took up a position, staring intently at the flower. The last little girl, about six years old, was carrying her very small brother in her arms. She managed to squeeze in front of those standing and someone helped her stand her younger brother up on the chair by the table. The toddler, after taking a good look at everyone around, turned to the flower and began blowing on it.
And all at once the potted plant began to gradually unfold the petals of one of its flowers. Little by little. But it didn’t escape the notice of the hushed crowd in the amphitheatre. And several of them rose silently from their seats. And now, on the table, a second flower was already opening its petals, along with a third, and a fourth...
“Oooh...” cried the teacher-type in an excited, childlike voice, and began clapping her hands. Then the whole amphitheatre broke into applause. The beautiful young woman ran over to her professor-husband, who by this time had stepped off to one side of the crowd of delighted children surrounding the flower and was rubbing his forehead. She leapt at him on the run, threw her arms around his neck and began kissing his cheeks and lips...
The little redhead took a step in the direction of her embracing parents, but the boy who had given the presentation stopped her. She managed to wriggle her hand away, but after taking a few more steps, she turned, went up close to him and buttoned up a button which had become undone on his shirt. With that she gave him a smile, then quickly turned and ran off to her still embracing parents.
More and more people were now heading from their seats down to the stage, some with babes in arms, others shaking the hand of the young presenter. He just stood there, his arm outstretched for handshaking, while his second hand was clasping the button the little girl had just done up for him.
All at once someone struck up a tune on a bayan4 — something between a gypsy melody and a Russian folk dance. And when some old fellow began stamping his feet on the stage, he was joined by a plumpish lady who made her entrance like a swan. And two young fellows had already launched into a boisterousprisiadka? And the flower with its unfolding petals watched as more and more people got carried away by the tricky and boisterous rhythms of a Russian folk dance.
Then, all of a sudden, the scene of the unusual school dis-appeared, as though a screen had been turned off. I was sitting on the ground. Taiga vegetation stretched all around, as far as the eye could see, and there beside me was Anastasia.
Inside me, however, a kind of excitement lingered, and I could still hear the laughter of happy people and the sounds of the cheery dance music, which I didn’t want to let go of. When the sounds within me gradually died down, I said to Anastasia:
“What you showed me just now is nothing at all like any school class I’ve ever seen. It’s some kind of family gathering, of families living in the community And there wasn’t a single teacher there — everything happened all by itself.”
“There was a teacher, Vladimir, a very wise teacher. But he purposely did not attract anyone’s attention to himself.”
“But why were the parents there? Their emotional reactions only provoked stress.”
“Emotions and feelings can accelerate thought by a factor of many times. They have lessons like that every week in this school. Teachers and parents are united in their aspirations, and children consider themselves to be equal with adults.” ‘All the same, it seems weird to think of parents participating in their children’s education. After all, parents aren’t trained to be teachers.”
“It is sad, Vladimir, that people have got into the habit of handing over their children to others to be raised, regardless of who these others are — a school, or some other institution. They simply hand their children over, often not knowing what kind of world-view will be inculcated in them, or what destiny awaits them as a result of somebody’s particular teaching. By giving their children over to an uncertain future, they are actually depriving themselves of their own children. That is why children whom mothers hand over to someone else to be taught learning often forget their mothers in turn.”
The time came to leave. My mind was filled up full with all the information I had acquired, so much so that I was scarcely aware of my surroundings. I took my leave of Anastasia in some haste. I told her:
“Don’t bother seeing me off. When I’m walking alone, I can think unhindered.”
“Yes, do not let anyone hinder your thinking,” she responded. “When you come to the river, my grandfather will be there, and he will help ferry you across to the landing.”
I walked alone through the taiga in the direction of the river and thought about everything I had seen and heard, all at the same time. But one question persisted above all others: how did we get into this situation (‘we’ meaning the majority of people)? We think everyone has their Motherland, and yet none of us has a little piece of Motherland to call their own. And there isn’t even any law in our country, no law guaranteeing a Man or his family the opportunity to own in perpetuity a single hectare of land. Political leaders and parties in their ever-changing procession promise all sorts of benefits, but they all manage to avoid the question concerning a piece of our Motherland. Why?
And yet our grand Motherland consists precisely of little pieces. Native, small family homesteads, with little houses and gardens on them. If nobody has anything like that, then what does our Motherland consist of? A law must be drawn up to guarantee everyone their piece of Motherland. For every family that wants one. The deputies can pass such a law The deputies are chosen by all of us. That means we must vote people into office who agree to pass such a law A law! How should it be worded? Maybe this way?
The State is obliged to provide each family couple, upon request, one hectare ofland for use in perpetuity, with right ofinheritance. Agricultural yields on these family lands shall never be subject to any kind of taxation. Family lands are not subject to sale.
Something like that would be okay. But what if somebody takes the land and doesn’t do anything with it? Then the law should also state:
If over a period of three years the land is not cultivated, the State may take it back.
But what if some people want to live and work in the city and use their family domain like a dacha? Well, let them. Women will still come to their kin’s domain to give birth. Those who do not will not be forgiven later by their children.
And just who will push this law through to final adoption? A political party? Which one? We need to set up a party for this purpose. And just who will take care of organising it? Where do we find politicians like that? We must seek them out, somehow. As soon as possible! Otherwise you could die, and not once come nigh to your Motherland. And your grandchildren won’t remember you. When will an opportunity like this come again? When will it be possible to say, “Greetings, my Motherland!”?
Anastasia’s grandfather was sitting on a log by the shore. Nearby a small wooden boat was tied up, rocking ever so gently on the waves. I knew it wasn’t too hard to row to the nearest landing a few kilometres downstream on the other side of the river, but how would he fare coming back against the current, I wondered as I greeted the old fellow. I asked him about it.
“I’ll make it by and by,” answered Anastasia’s grandfather. Always cheery as a rule, on this occasion he seemed rather
sombre and not much inclined to conversation.
I sat down beside him on the log.
“I can’t understand,” I said, “how Anastasia can hold so much information inside her — how she can recall things from the past and know everything that is going on in our lives right now. And here she lives way out in the taiga, and delights in the flowers, the Sun and all the little creatures. It’s as though she doesn’t think about anything.”
“What’s there to think about?” her grandfather replied. “She feels it, this information. When she needs it, she takes as much as she wants. The answers to all questions are right here in space, right with us. We need only know how to perceive them and make them manifest.”
“How do we do that?”
“How... How... Say you’re walking along the street of a city you know very well, thinking about your own affairs, and a passer-by suddenly comes up to you and asks how to get somewhere. Can you give him an answer?”
“"You see how simple it all is. "You were thinking about some-thing completely different. The question put to you has absolutely no connection with what you were thinking about, and yet you are still able to give an answer. The answer ‘lives’ in you.” “But that’s just a request for directions. But if the same passer-by were to ask me what happened in the city we’re in — let’s say, a thousand years before we met, no Man could give an answer to that.”
“He couldn’t if he’s lazy or neglectful. Everything, right from the very moment of creation, is stored in and around each individual Man... Why don’t you get into the boat? Time to push off.”
The old fellow took the oars. When we had got about a kilometre from our departure point on the shore, Anastasia’s erstwhile taciturn grandfather began to talk.
“Try not to wallow in all your information and contemplations, Vladimir. Decide what’s real by yourself. With your self, you should be able to feel both matter and what you cannot see in equal measure.”
“Why are you telling me this? I don’t understand.” “Because you’ve started digging around in all that information, trying to define it with your mind. But you won’t get it with your mind. The mind can’t possibly fathom the volume of information known to my granddaughter. And you’ll stop being aware of the creative process taking place around you.” “I’m aware of everything — the river, the boat...”
“If you’re aware of everything, then why weren’t you able to say a proper good-bye to my granddaughter and your son?” “Well, maybe I wasn’t able to after all. You see, I was thinking more globally”
I had indeed left almost without saying good-bye to Anastasia, and I got so immersed in thought during my whole journey back to the river that I hardly noticed the time, but suddenly found myself on the riverbank. I added:
‘Anastasia also thinks about other things, she thinks globally, she doesn’t need a whole lot of sentimental gestures.” ‘Anastasia feels with her self all planes of being. She doesn’t feel one at the expense of another.”
“Take your field-glasses out of your bag and have a look back at the tree on the bank where we pushed off.”
I got out my field-glasses and had a look. Standing there by the tree-trunk, holding our son in her arms, was Anastasia. On her bent arm hung a little bundle. She stood there with our son and waved her hand at our boat, which was moving further and further away downstream. And I waved back.
“Looks as though my granddaughter and her son followed you. She was waiting for you to finish your contemplating and start thinking of your son, and of her too. And she gathered together that bundle for you. But it seemed the information you had gathered from her was more important to you.
“The spiritual and the material — you need to feel it all in equal measure. Then you’ll be able to take a solid stand in life, with both feet planted firmly on the ground. When one predominates over the other, it’s like a person going lame.” The old man spoke with no trace of anger as he handled the oars with dexterity
I tried to respond aloud, either to him or to myself:
“Most of all now I need to understand... To understand things for myself! Who are we? Where are we?”