Gregory and Anthony were shocked and skeptical about my deal with Timothy (see next post), head of the Telepathic Unit (TU), which had recently attacked us with "hallucitronic missiles." I had told Timothy I would collaborate with the TU's anti-war positions.
"Timothy is a very sophisticated telepath, devoted to a single-minded cause," Gregory pointed out, "not that you aren't devoted to a cause, to give you credit. But how can you be sure you saw into Timothy's mind? How hard would it be for him to give you a false anti-war vision of himself and his group?"
"But what if it's true that the TU is opposed to the war conspiracy," I responded, "They could be important allies. We need to find out, and there's not much alternative for us anyway."
There was rough agreement on this.
Gregory said, "I have some news too. I have located Rebecca Silversmith."
This was news indeed! Both Anthony and I came to attention. I had encountered Rebecca in the future, the year 2044, when she runs for U.S. President against Anthony. They head the two dominant political parties of their time, the Scientific Humanists, led by Anthony, and Cosmic Merger, led by Rebecca. Both parties were founded by the teachings of Gregory, who is in our time a minor guru in the Mojave Desert, and 19-year-old Anthony is his disciple.
Regarding Gregory, I did not see him in 2044, but I made an effort not to find out if he dies before then (I'm assuming he does). He has not asked me about this, perhaps out of a feeling that he's not "supposed" to know. He is quite interested, however, in the schism that occurs among his followers (see the Prologue and Chapter 1).
Gregory continued his findings on Rebecca.
"She is fourteen years old, freaking people out with sermons, or speeches of some kind, at her church, if that's the word, in Atwater Village. She has a large following, no help from me!" [This last with an affectionate look towards Anthony]
"Fourteen years old?" I asked.
"Yes. From all accounts she speaks with a sophistication and vision, and an eloquence, beyond her years."
"We should find her," I said.
"I agree," said Anthony, "she could be an ally in what we're doing."
Gregory told us Rebecca speaks to her followers every night. He wanted to see her that night but he had a commitment, so we agreed that Anthony and I would go that evening and report back to Gregory.
Atwater Village is a combination industrial accumulation and arts district, a sliver to the east of the 5 Freeway, between Griffith Park and Glendale. I knew from experience that this fascinating area grew naturally over the years into a tangle of streets that defies outsiders, so we searched for Rebecca's "church" using Waze, which I've found is smarter than any human. However, Waze was at a loss in Atwater Village. Maybe there is an energy in the place that prefers anonymity.
After locating the venue- a large tent on a vacant lot- half by luck, we found Rebecca speaking to about 50 people who appeared a diverse group in age, socio-economic level and ethnicity. She was saying something about "the death of 'isms'" when we entered the tent. She stopped and looked at us, as did the audience, and there was a moment of silence.
I said, “We’ve heard about you and we've come to learn."
She smiled and said, "Welcome," and we sat down.
"To continue," she addressed the room, "we've run out of 'isms.' They're all defunct. Capitalism, as a way of life rather than a distinct, ad hoc activity, has defeated communism, the other great 'ism' of our time, but it has not known what to do with its victory. If capitalism is not the cause of the current disaster, it's fair to say that it's standing by helplessly and letting it happen.
"We don't even have an 'ism' for what we need now. All the old terms for fundamental systems to guide human behavior, like humanism, liberalism, conservatism, and other divides like secularism versus faith, have been used up and depleted of meaning.
"Why is this happening? Why have we run out of 'isms'?" she asked rhetorically, and took a moment to look around the room.
"It's not that we've run out of 'isms,'" she continued, “rather, we’ve realized that the problem lies not with economic, social or moral theory- all the 'isms'- it lies with the question of what a human being is. How a human being is constructed."
She looked at Anthony and me in a way that seemed prescient.
"We don't need an 'ism' now. We need a view of ourselves, a realistic one, based on our actual structure. In the past a variety of fantasies sufficed to keep us relatively stable, but like all fantasies, over time each lost its force. Our age, however, is the first in which we can look at the human being, in exposed detail, and recreate that human, male or female, in a different way, hopefully a better way. It's time for us to decide what we are going to be. This is not science fiction. This is current fiction."
I had to agree.