The Angel took Enoch up in a spaceship over the mountains of a beautiful land that would someday be called Zimbabwe. In front of them now, hidden within a hollowed-out granite fortress, was one of the Watcher’s four Earth bases. Enoch took a mental picture.
Over the years, he had been inside all four of the angels’ Earth bases. The main one was below ground in a once densely forested area that would later become The Great Victoria Desert of Central-Western Australia.
There was also a small base built into a cold mass of dark granite that would eventually receive the name, Mount Hayes, Alaska.
The angels had hidden their fourth base nearer Enoch’s home, deep inside a lime cliff in a mountain range that would someday be called the Pyrenees.
Enoch’s Angel friend, the Watcher Naomi, wore a white tunic and usually went barefoot, though her feet were peeking out of living sandals today. Her teeth were always the first thing he noticed whenever they met, they were perfect, unlike anything he had seen in an adult human.
The Angel leaned back on a soft sky blue couch in front of a wall, a bulkhead that radiated white granular light. Enoch sat on the edge of a red chaise lounge across from her, a narrow black table on the floor between.
“There’s a nice Earth-sized planet not far,” she said. “When your people are ready, we hope you’ll-”
“Wait.” After years of friendship, Enoch felt comfortable interrupting her. “You said every possible worldviews is inaccurate. I’m sorry, but that idea is drilling a hole in my head. Trying to get out , I think. Could we go over it again?”
The angel looked a little concerned but proceeded. “Consider the earth and understand from the work done upon her, from the beginning to the end, no work of God changes as it becomes manifest.”
“I’m not following.”
“The Universe is neither real nor unreal,” she said. “At its highest magnification and sharpest reduction, it remains both genuine and illusory.” Her eyes seemed to call for comprehension. Enoch felt none. “And if any of that feels logical to you, you’re in the wrong universe.” She laughed and gave him a reassuring smile.
Enoch’s mind went fuzzy as her words sifted through it. “But if what you’re saying is true, any worldview would be as good as the next.”
“Wake up.” She leaned forward and touched his forehead for the third time that morning, an uncharacteristically rude gesture that now seemed to sharpen his mind. Perhaps it wasn’t a gesture at all.
She leaned back and sank into the yielding matrix of the couch. “To avoid a war of extinction, your species needs a specific belief system that’s literally set in stone. They must have structured practices that train and ingrain a reflexive forgiveness of all suffered and imagined wrongs. And their loving kindness must create no lethal options for an enemy.”
“I hear your words, but if the ultimate view of the universe can only be a false picture, I don’t imagine the details matter much.”
“For Heaven’s sake, it’s hot in here?” She twisted and reached behind her for a glass ball that floated near the wall. “Are you hot?”
This was always a rhetorical question. Enoch kept his mouth respectfully shut.
She tapped on the top of the ball with a polished fingernail and turned back to him. “Now listen. Your comprehension is not essential. The nature of this worldview is all that matters. The new one I hope to impart to your people must be unshakable. The details cannot self-contradict and invite scholarly criticism.”
Enoch hadn’t factored scholars into any of this. Those people seemed to hate anything less tentative than an abused child. “Do you think claims of infallibility would be wise, then? God hasn’t actually said anything to you about the nature of things, right?”
She nodded as her toes curled down over the front edges of her sandals. “We must be economical with the truth when there isn’t any,” she said. “Since empirical data contradicts itself, the truth is intrinsically hidden. We can only assume that God has limited our reasoning abilities in some fundamental way.”
“And yet nothing would help us more than a reasonable understanding of God’s Universe.” Enoch sighed. Why would God select an opaque universe for us? What had we done to deserve such a thing? “To be clear, though. All claims of worldview infallibility must be false. This is what you’re saying and you’re sure it’s accurate?”
“Yes.” She drew her palms together. “Fundamental reality appears not only to be beyond comprehension, it’s beyond anyone’s imagination.” The muscles of her broad shoulders slumped beneath her white gown. “Our only infallible claim, if you insist on the term, is that all the empirical evidence available to us suggests that reality is irreducibly baffling.”
Enoch had always felt pleasantly trapped by her superior intellect, but now that he was staring into the limits of it, he had another feeling, doubt.
“In a sense,” she said, “if you accept the view that any falsehood requires a converse truth, then no worldview is a lie. None of them has a correspondingly opposite truth. All grand-scale views are orphans, any of which might grow to be king.”
“You’re saying, if everything’s a lie, then nothing is.” Enoch grunted in frustration. “And I’m supposed to believe this? Have you asked yourself where your fundamental capitulation leads?” But he knew deep down that she was always right. And so the gravity of her revelation began to pull an abstract sorrow down over him.
“Eye hath not seen nor ear heard,” the Angle replied, “neither hath it entered into the heart of man.”
But lies were wrong. Rationalizing them was to invite disease.
“Let’s say that for the sake of a far, far greater good, I am able to overcome my disgust with the spreading of falsehoods. After all, I do trust you implicitly, Naomi, and if you say that some particular false view of things would help others overcome their lust for war, at least I believe that you believe it. Perhaps I even believe it myself now. But say I do, for sure. What outcome would you foresee?”
“Ultimately, once your people are no longer a danger to themselves and to all creatures in the wake of their behavior, the Watchers would hope to help your entire species move far away from the blast zone of your star.” She glanced toward the morning sun. “Before the next micronova, I should say. Your people have seven thousand years until the next wave comes through and sets the devil on the loose. It’s not much time, I know, but we are hopeful.” Her eyes sobered in on Enoch’s skepticism. “Actually, my friend, I am the one with genuine hope. My colleagues say your people show no justification for hope.” She picked up a small stick, ignited the end of it with her gaze and held it down against the side of an incense block on the bare tabletop between them. “But what do they know? None of them met your ancestors. Those people, the ones in India, were on the verge of loving kindness before the last micronova sent them back… into caves and starvation. I was not permitted to help them. The Council admits the mistake now and has formally apologized to me, as if that fixes everything.”
Enoch’s head was spinning. “What was that about a solar eruption?”
“You don’t remember India? Years ago?”
“I remember our flight, but–”
“No fears.” She gazed above his head and as he turned to see what held her attention, the small rectangular opening in the front of the ship expanded until a third of the bow was invisible. “Take another look, old seer man.”
Beyond the invisible bow, a vast structure of intricately carved stone rose from the bottom of a huge basalt pit with vertical walls. The builders, whomever they were, had carved full-sized elephants and full-hipped dancers into every surface of the solid-rock monuments. Some of the dancers had joyous stone bodies with multiple sets of arms, but some of them held a stern expression. The closer he looked, the less human some of their faces appeared.
The Angel picked up the smoldering incense block and inhaled the smoke through her nose. “These celebrators of life were thousands of years ahead of anyone before or after them.”
Enoch wondered how these people could have been happy and yet so scantly clothed. The bare chest was wrong in public. These carvings were bare and sensual.
“When the oceans receded after the sun’s third eruption, a handful of survivors from beneath the rocks came out with the remnants of their technology. They migrated west, settled in north Africa and built the underground realms of Egypt. As the last of their tools ground to a halt, they completed a monument encoding the sun’s eruption history. I’m sure I told you all this. Right here, nine years ago.”
The ornate stone miracle of India moved away rapidly, and an old tan pyramid of limestone rushed at them menacingly but stopped short of smashing their ship. Now it stood filling their view like a proud mountain.
“This is a shadow of her original glory,” the Angel said, “but the builders cared nothing for show, only for permanence. They needed a structure to stand as a warning forever, or until the continents sank again beneath the seas. It’s a regular affair on this planet.”
Enoch remembered no mention of sinking continents, though this brick pyramid seemed familiar. Was he getting old and forgetful? He tried to tell himself he wasn’t, and it didn’t matter anyway.
Then he imagined himself lying to his family about some new worldview, trying to pass it off as the infallible truth from God. The idea made his skin crawl. He couldn’t do such a thing. He wouldn’t do it.
Over the years he had suffered for the sake of honesty, especially with his son, Methuselah. In retrospect now, though, he sometimes wished he’d hidden more from the boy. More of the world’s harsh realities and all of his own spiritual doubts. But mostly he wished he’d hidden his fears. If only he had pretended to be more certain of the sacred teachings, his little boy, a grown man now, might not have become so prone to trouble and sadness. So absorbed by poppies, mushrooms, and Soothsayers.
“Think of what you’re saying.” Enoch felt suddenly unable to match the Angel’s politeness. “You want me to go down there and lie to my wife and children? Fabricate some idealistic lie that you hope will be clever enough to withstand scrutiny for thousands of years.” Tears threatened and seemed to silence him.
“No, my beloved,” she said, leaning across the table and taking his hand. “You know too much to argue or to judge, let alone bear false witness to your family. Your influence there would ruin everything… all chances of your people’s eventual transformation.”
Her words, though spoken kindly, felt cruel. Enoch had poured all his years into helping the Watcher Naomi. How could she call him a hopeless failure and a detriment to everything?
“How would I ruin things for you?” he asked. “My views are in harmony with yours, which are, evidently, entirely beyond any possibility of either correctness or being corrected. Have I wasted my entire life for you, Naomi?”
“You are a hero and a champion. The truth is the only one who has failed. An honest man who knows the truth… that within a simulation all possible worldviews can only be inaccurate… such a man is not a failure or a problem.”
“With you, first it’s one thing, then the opposite. You’re making no sense.”
“Unfortunately, the truth as we understand it offers no bond with love and benevolence. No higher purpose worth devotion and life. A higher truth is what your people need, an unbreakable worldview that ties them to love, trust and trustworthiness. A worldview such as this can change the heart and the behavior. Nothing else can, especially among primitives.” She stepped over the table and sat beside him. “Your people are extreme primitives. I’m sorry, but this is their unfortunate status.”
She let out a breath and turned to a topaz platter materializing beside her on the red chaise lounge. From it, she lifted two bending glasses of pink fluid, grasping them each by the bottom as they finished an upward entanglement from a digital realm that Enoch couldn’t understood despite several descriptions of the mechanisms involved. Naomi the Angel extended one glass to Enoch. He took it reflexively. “You’ve finished your work. A man of your integrity could not germinate a lie to his family and friends. Nor to his enemies. Though all of their lives desperately depended upon it.” She sipped her drink as he gazed down at the small rising bubbles in his glass. “That’s why I love you, Enoch. Unfortunately, it’s also the reason you can never return home now.
“I’m so sorry, my friend. So very sorry. You’ll have to put up with me and my people for a long time, it seems. The Council has declared it. Your character has been evaluated and confirmed. You will become an immortal, in simulation terms.” Tears welled up in her eyes.
Enoch was torn. He would never see his wife again. Her heart would break and tears drive her to the grave. His son, on the other hand, would be better off without him. He missed him already, but when was the last time he’d come home?
“And what am I now?” Enoch said to his Angel, the Great Watcher, Naomi. “Your house pet? A diplomatic figurehead?” Or an Angel’s tired out lover?
Morrill Talmage Moorehead, MD