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Stories from the Verse
Old Verses New
Chapter 79: Hastings 69
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Expanding the school beyond her small group of companions was not going to be an easy task for Lauren. First, as much as they seemed to love learning, they didn't see any reason for anyone else to benefit from what they viewed as their discovery, their treasure. It took long hours of debating to show them that if everyone knew what they knew, they could rebuild the world. Certainly Spire had learned a lot about building roads and bridges and tracks and cars and trains, but in her entire life she would not have time to fix even the road they had traveled together to get here, not by herself. And while Dorelle was learning much about robots, it would take many people who understood robots to make them an important part of society again. Eventually everyone agreed, except, of course, for Grarg.
Then there was the problem of actually finding people, or creatures, willing and able to come. Most of those the group knew were at least several days away if they had a place to live, and many had been much as themselves, wandering in search of some place better. There was no way to reach these people except to leave the compound and go for long walks, possibly weeks at a time. Even if they could agree to abandon their compound for a while to do that, it was dangerous. They had lost friends before, sometimes quite unexpectedly, and knew that going outside was a high risk activity. Lauren would have to give a lot of thought to how to do it. Obviously signs wouldn't work, because she was trying to reach people far away many of whom couldn't read. The only long range communication they had was the Internet, and anyone they could reach that way probably wouldn't need to come to them (and might be too far away even to try). Besides, she couldn't say she actually knew where she was in any sense that she could tell people how to find her; even if she did, it would be very difficult to find a good landmark for a starting point. For a while, at least, it might be limited to this group, just because there wasn't a good way to invite others.
And then there was Grarg. Lauren couldn't help noticing that he was very much disinterested in all her teaching efforts. Finally she decided to discuss it with him, on his terms, by telepathy.
Grarg, she asked, what is it that bothers you about all this learning?
You're trying to restore the old ways, the old knowledge, he thought back. The ways of the ancients are forgotten, but you're bringing them back.
Yes, that was what she was trying to do. Civilization was a good thing, and she wanted to bring it back to the world.
But, he suggested, the ancients destroyed everything, not only themselves but their things and places and the forests and the wilderness; and there are still places in the world uncounted generations later which are poisoned, and the only things that live there are poisoned. The ways of the ancients unleashed a horror on the world because they had knowledge beyond their wisdom; and she would give that knowledge back to a world more divided, more violent, more self destructive perhaps than the ancients had been, and allow this world to unleash those powers on itself again. He did not trust the knowledge of the ancients; but more, he did not trust himself or the people of his time to have that knowledge.
Besides, the machines she called computers couldn't read his thoughts, and he couldn't push the buttons with his claws very well at all.
At this Lauren laughed aloud, and lost her telepathic link. So she spoke. "The people who did all this were not all wise nor all foolish. They learned and taught many wonderful things, and only some of them were dangerous. You are very wise, Grarg, and I admire you. But there are good things in the ancient knowledge, and you could learn so much from them. And maybe if you can come to understand them you will be able to see why they made the mistakes they made, and how you can keep your people from doing the same thing."
She smiled at him. "One of the things the ancients use to say is 'those who fail to study history are doomed to repeat it.' If you want to learn about anything, anything at all, I will be more than happy to help you with the computers. Maybe we can get Dorelle and Derek to set up something more practical for your hands."
So it was that Grarg started to study history, and to learn about the ancient people who had built and destroyed the world forgotten years before. So it was that Dorelle and Derek got some hands-on problem solving experience inventing ways for him to study these things on his own.
As to Lauren's problem, the only way she could find which might bring new students was to stand outside during the days and look for travelers. This was a tedious task, as they seldom saw anyone more often than two or three times a week, and because the road ran through a wooded area here they weren't in sight more than a minute or two. But it was worth it to her, because the goal was always clear in her mind. Whenever anyone was seen on the road, she would greet them with open arms, assuring them that she meant them no harm. She would tell them that they had built a school where people could learn to read and write and use numbers and eventually study the knowledge of the ancients; that they were welcome to stay and learn something, but even if they didn't could they please tell others they might meet where they were and what they were doing. She couldn't be outside every day, but as spring blossomed she took every opportunity to watch the roads, and invited many. A few stayed, one or two a month. Many more said they might return and would certainly spread the word.
That autumn there was an influx of students which exceeded her hopes. Qualick said that most of them were looking for a way to beat the cold; they had heard that there was food and shelter and heat here, and that those who had it would share it with strangers. The schooling was for some the price of admission. Lauren didn't care. As long as they came and they learned, it didn't matter what their motive might be. Some would stay, some would leave and return, and some would spread the word to others that there was a place to learn.
The influx of students meant new organization. Those who had been students had to become teachers. Against their objections, she told them how much they would learn by teaching, that nothing gives you a firmer grasp on your understanding of a subject than answering the questions of someone else trying to learn it. She couldn't teach all the classes herself, nor could she tutor all the students alone. Even with Derek's help, there was more to do than they could split between them. Now Dorelle would teach math, Spire basic science, Starson reading and writing, and Grarg history. Lauren continued teaching her Bible classes, but Qualick began helping. As students conquered the basics, they would join Derek for instruction on how to use the computers to learn whatever they wanted.
As she had predicted, when Spring returned far more of them stayed than left, and most of those who left said they would return. As the snows melted, more came, who had heard of the place of learning from the many she had told along the road.
She taught the Bible, almost all day, almost every day. Her last class before dinner was the simplest, the early Bible stories of creation, the flood, the history of Israel; and it was in some ways the most difficult, as it was the first one for all her students and brought the most difficult questions. How did she know these things, what was a god and where could one be found, how did Abraham know it was God speaking to him–and these were the easy ones.
One afternoon, as she was concluding a lesson about Noah, one of her newest students wanted to ask a question. He stood up. His ancestors must have been cats, she thought; he had the look of a lion about him, although he stood erect and spoke. She had noticed that it was more common for the intelligent animals to use telepathy than to speak, so this was unusual.
"You tell us that man brought evil into the world," he said. "And you tell us that because of the evil of man, God destroyed the world, but saved the animals. But did men not by their evil destroy the world again?"
"I'd say that seemed very likely," Lauren answered. "We haven't been able to find out what really happened, but the blame would seem to fall on the evil of men."
"And yet you, a child of men, have chosen to bring evil back into the world through the teaching of all that was good and evil." And before she could answer this, she was struck by an invisible force and thrown against the wall. Before she could think of how to react, her chair flew at her head.
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with eight other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #104: Novel Learning. Given a moment, this link should take you directly to the section relevant to this chapter. It may contain spoilers of upcoming chapters.
As to the old stories that have long been here: