Priorities Begin to Change
Now that we have read the framing story for this simplified economic system, we can perform the first thought experiment.
You may note that this is not the simplest economic system we could, ideally, describe. Part of the reason for that is that we already think we know too much about the subject.
Part of what makes physics difficult is when we describe (for example) a cannonball and a feather interacting with the earth in a vacuum to children who haven't really ever picked up a cannonball, much less properly experienced a vacuum.
But most children have played with marbles and balls and feathers. And their intuition will usually betray them.
Playing with planets as physics toys requires a bit of preparation. Simple is often not simple without preparation.
A proper Adam and Eve story requires laying too much groundwork -- and there's too much of the models inside my head that I would have to explain explicitly if I were to just start off telling you about the Adam and Eve of Karel and Bobbie's world.
Even the uninhabited island location is a bit outside the ordinary experience, but it's much more within reach, I think. If we've never been to one, we've heard about such things, and I can tell you more about their island as we go.
I thought, by the way, of stranding Wycliffe on a different desert island, for his experience going one-on-one with nature and God. But he needs to have a bit more direct interaction with God than that, for our experiment to proceed.
God. I keep talking about God. Maybe you are an atheist. Or, maybe you don't think you can believe in my God.
No problem. You understand that the universe we live in is a product of natural laws. For the purposes of this novel, their God is the expression or embodiment of the natural laws by which their universe operates. In a sense, their God does not just own their universe, but their God is their Universe.
And praying is how they consult with their conscience, how they compare things with the impress of the laws of nature within their heart and mind.
Let's continue with Karel and Bobbie's story.
"Where is Wycliffe going?" Bobbie asked, half to herself, as they watched the airplane disappear over the horizon.
Karel shrugged. "I suppose he needs to do more prolonged tests on the engine. I hope that's what he's doing. Or maybe he's going back to civilization for parts or something."
They looked around themselves at the island as a few minutes passed. They could see the beach stretching fairly straight away from them, and the sea seemed smooth enough. Inland, the land sloped up gently for a ways, with a small mountain off in the distance.
"How long do you think it'll take?" Bobbie leaned back on one of the trunks.
"How should I know?"
A few minutes passed without conversation.
"What time is it now?"
Karel looked at his watch. "One twenty-six."
"Just wanted to know." Bobbie paused for thought. "Do you think he was acting a little strange?"
"Strange?" Karel thought for a moment. "Well, you know that most of the people out here are not what we would call normal back home."
"It would be hard to tell what strange might mean for him." He laughed. "The island natives are a little easier for me to read."
"I think he was acting a little strange."
Karel looked around the beach again, then at Bobbie. "Maybe so. You need something to keep the sun off you, I think."
"No, I'm okay. But I'm thinking maybe we should move our stuff up the beach a bit. The tide line seems a little close here."
"He should be back before the tide rises too far. I hope."
Bobbie drew her knees up under her chin and thought.
Then she said, "Let's explore."
"Agreed. We've been sitting here long enough."
And they stood up and dusted themselves off a bit.
"But we need to keep the beach and the luggage in sight."
Karel picked up a stick of driftwood and drove it into the sand upright. Bobbie watched him check his watch and the position of the shadow.
"East seems to be that way." He pointed out across the water.
"I do hope we're not here long enough to find out for sure."
They walked north, along the beach, first. After walking about five minutes, Karel drove another stick in the ground and checked directions.
"The beach seems to be curving a little towards the west."
"Do you want to draw a map?"
"If we had the time, it could be interesting."
"I think we could make the time. We could put off our return a day or two, after we get back to the main island, and then have them fly us back out here to explore."
"Sounds fun. Maybe so. Wycliffe would approve. So would Professor MacVittie and our parents. Heh."
Bobbie smiled at the thought, too.
"Let's head inland a bit."
After about a minute of walking, the beach's level had risen five feet or so, and the sand began to be covered with grass. Another minute brought them into low shrub and high grass, and another brought them into thicker, taller wild woods.
Karel said, "We could lose track of the stuff if we go further."
"I think I do want to come back here to explore." replied Bobbie, and they turned back and walked south, keeping just outside the tree line. Passing the luggage on their left, they continued for another five minutes.
"Still heading slightly east. If we've been walking about 80 yards a minute, we've covered about a half mile of beach. The beach doesn't curve much here. Let's save this for when we come back."
"Sounds good. So, Karel, we are coming back after Wycliffe fixes the plane."
"Yeah. We can let him think he persuaded us to have an adventure."
"We could ask him to be our chaperon." Bobbie laughed.
Karel chuckled. "He'd be an interesting chaperon."
They walked down to the water and both of them took their shoes off and waded in. Bobbie kicked a bit of water at Karel, getting his clothes wet, and they laughed.
"Really nice water."
"Definitely going swimming when we come back here."
Carrying their shoes, they followed the water line back to below where the luggage was sitting in the sand.
"Is it almost two?"
"Yeah. Maybe we should move the luggage up to the grass, anyway."
"I'll need your help with my trunk."
"Sure. And I'd appreciate it if you helped me with mine. I'm not quite into proving I'm Atlas today."
They cleaned their feet and put their shoes back on, and then moving the luggage occupied maybe ten minutes. They had a trunk and a suitcase each, and there was Bobbie's purse, and Karel's shoulder bag, and a backpack each, along with some other small personal stuff of Bobbie's, wrapped in a scarf.
"I didn't really think about it at the time, but is it a little odd that Wycliffe put our personal stuff off, too?"
"Maybe. He is taking a long time."
And there were also supplies from the plane -- a box of emergency supplies, and the rubber dinghy and the tent each in its own canvas carrying bag. And there were two boxes that they hadn't really taken notice of until the rest of the luggage was moved.
"Something of Wycliffe's?" Karel picked one up. "There seems to be a tag on this one."
Bobbie picked up the other, and they carried the boxes to the grass and set them down. Karel looked at the tag, but what he had thought was a tag was an envelope. "Oh, for, ... It says, to us."
"Huh?" Bobbie took the envelope and read it. "To Bobbie and Karel." The envelope was not sealed, and inside was a card with a heart and a Cupid's arrow drawn on it.
"You guys need a vacation. There's enough food in these boxes. I'll be back in three days. Have fun."
"That ..." Karel didn't know whether to laugh or cry.
Bobbie turned the card over to see if there was any more. "I'll call your professor and tell him you decided to postpone your return for a little adventuring. There aren't any dangerous animals on this island. Don't worry about a thing. See you in three days. Love Wycliffe." And she took a deep breath.
"How sweet." she said. "In a twisted sort of way."
"Meddling busybody." Karel muttered.
They each thought their own thoughts for a minute or two.
"Professor MacVittie will uhm, have mixed feelings about this." Karel started.
"I have mixed feelings about this! Flying out from the main island early in the day, with time for a little hiking and a picnic, and flying back after a day trip, that would have been a fun vacation."
"Mmm hmm. Yeah. Fun."
"We might even have had Wycliffe or Zedidiah join us while we camped out for a night. But this is not going to make our bishops happy, either."
"Or us. Blast Wycliffe. Legally, this is kidnapping."
"And a bit worse. But swearing at him won't bless us."
"Okay. Bless him."
More silence. Then Bobbie laughed. "Yes, bless him. I think we should pray."
"Indeed." Karel shook his head as he got down on his knees. "I'll go first?"
Bobbie also knelt down. "Please. It'll give me some time to calm down."
Karel prayed for Wycliffe to be forgiven, and for his heart to be softened, and for their safe return to civilization. Then he prayed for help for him and Bobbie, that they would be guided and kept out of spiritual danger as well as physical.
Bobbie concurred with a heartfelt amen, and then added her own concerns:
"... Father, we don't know what the future will bring, but please, keep us from doing anything that would offend our future companions or prevent us from being married in the temple. ...."
And Karel concurred with an equally heartfelt amen.
Temples and marriage?
I should mention that E-P-ism has a lot in common with the way commonly known as Mormonism in our world.
A temple in the E-P religion is a place where covenants of an eternal nature are made, and marriage is one of those. But individuals and couples wishing to enter into those covenants are asked to maintain a certain moral decorum that Wycliffe had not considered carefully enough when he made his plans for his little practical joke.
I think, had he stopped to think about it, he would have taken Zedidiah's advice to heart and just brought them back to the airport on the main island.
They stayed on their knees, listening with their hearts. And got an answer:
Wycliffe is in my hands.Karel looked puzzled and checked with Bobbie. She nodded, she'd felt the same impression.
Karel again prayed. "Father, if Wycliffe is in danger please protect him. And we do hope that he will be able to return in three days, as he promised."
Bobbie added, "We'd rather it were sooner, if he could change his mind, but please at least bring him back by then."
I want you two here, now, for a while. I know how to save Wycliffe's soul, and I know how to save yours. It's time for both of you to start preparing.Bobbie and Karel looked at each other and repeated together what they had each felt, watching each other's eyes as the words matched exactly.
Then they prayed together for Wycliffe's friends and family, and then for their own, as they realized the possible meanings of the impressions they had received.
When they felt they had prayed sufficiently, they decided they should follow the impression they had received to prepare.
Karel dug into the emergency supplies while Bobbie opened the boxes of food that Wycliffe had prepared for them.
"Bread, cheese, water. Sausage. Thoughtful of him about the water. Wine. We won't need that."
"Keep it in case we need crude antiseptic. We have one tent. It could fit four in an emergency. You get that. I'll make a lean-to or something. Oh, good, we have a water filter and some fishing string and hooks. Rope. A hand shovel, an axe, a good knife. It looks like a good scout packed this, or someone who knows what one needs in the wilderness. We'll be okay for a while." And he put the supplies back carefully.
Was that Scout? No, scout. Either way, really. They had something like Boy Scouts, too.
Bobbie closed the boxes of food and got her lunch out of her purse. It was an egg salad sandwich. "How careful do we need to be with our food?"
Karel got out his lunch. "Let's eat what we've brought, so it doesn't spoil, and then we'll start exploring for real. We'll set the tent up before it starts getting dark." He paused.
She looked up. "What?"
"Where I was reading in The Book on the plane this morning. Book of Ioba."
Of course it was not the Book of Job in the Bible of our world. But it was an account of one of the holy men of The Book of their world, whose life was taken as a parable of patience. And it had verses like this:
You've let this man gain a lot of wealth. He's living the good life. That's why he's being such a good person. If you reach out and take away all the good stuff that you've let him get, he'll start behaving and talking badly enough pretty quickly. Just try it and see.
And God gave the deceiver permission to test Ioba. But He said, Only the material wealth. You may not harm his health or his family.Bobbie nodded. "That's in the first chapter. God doesn't hate us, he just figures he can let us be tested."
"I reckon so."
Let's watch the values Karel and Bobbie put on things, and consider how those values change as their understanding of their situation changes.
Also, let's think about what Wycliffe has exchanged with Bobbie and Karel, and to what purpose.
And we can think about the ways in which Bobbie and Karel have been cooperating and sharing, and what it is that allows them to cooperate and share.
If I tell that story in full here, it will distract us, so let's save that for another time. But we can think about what it might be that allows them to do the unusual things they do together on the island.
Note how their ideas and priorities were in agreement when they prayed, and how that sense of unity allowed them to hear the answers they got.
Prayer? Perhaps you still wonder about that. Bear with them on this. We all have this connection in our hearts with the forces that created our universe, whatever we call those forces.
The Book? E-P-ism has its scriptures. One of their books of scriptures is a book which they share with other religions around them, and it is usually called, The Book or The Holy Book. And it is similar, as I say, to our Bible.
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