The homeowner went down into the garden and sat by the pool.
The garden – it was quite spacious, and the pool could be called a lake or even an ocean — was not visible from the street; you would not guess its presence behind the modest, slightly neglected house that resembled the other houses in the row. The homeowner was not noticed either when he left the house and walked about the city. No one knew him and no one thought about the fact that they did not know him. They just did not focus on him.
The homeowner sat on the bench and looked around. The place was beautiful. All the plants and bushes and trees were flourishing; and on the lawn and among the trees and in the air the beasts and insects and the birds crept and crawled and flew, for they did not devour each other. There was no trace of the ugliness out there, in the city built on the cursed earth – it looked worse every time he left the house.
But here something was missing.
Everything was beautiful, just a bit disorganized. There was no one to work the land, plant flowerbeds and orchards. He had no one to talk to. That was why he’d created them; it is not good to be alone. Deep in thought, he felt a hand on his shoulder and did not have to turn his head to know who the hand belonged to. The one he had created at the beginning of his way, the one who used to play before him.
She had left the house long ago, probably wandering around town; he preferred not to think about her doings. But now he did not have the heart to scold her. “You have to write something,” she said without preamble. Without turning his head, he said, “I already tried that. I gave them what I wrote with my own finger, I gave myself to them, but they preferred their own work.” He heard a slight sigh. “Yes, the old conflict. Even at the start they did not listen to you. They wanted to know for themselves, you gave them free will …” “Yes, I gave in to them and let them build the world they wanted … although it’s hard for me to think they really wanted that world …”
“They lost control,” she said. “Their competitiveness …”
“… starting with Cain and Abel …” he growled. “… Their will became divided … And I think they took some seeds from the tree of knowledge when they left here, they have gone on eating of its fruits … One invention leads to another, and they have to adapt, and whoever controls the inventions controls the people …” “Strange,” he mused. “When I told man he would have to earn his bread by the sweat of his brow, I meant it as a curse, but when man is replaced by his machines, the ability to earn his bread becomes a blessing hard to come by.”
“You must intervene!” “But I tried to intervene! I gave them the Sabbath, so that they could recover once a week from the rat-race … I asked them for sacrifices, I told them over and over that the earth is mine … I gave them the Sabbatical year to restore a bit of equality. It was supposed to be a mechanism for correcting the tendency toward increasing inequality that’s inherent in the economic process. But the mechanism never worked well, and now it is not functioning at all.” “That mechanism was intended to function in an agricultural society …”
“Yes, to a technological society it no longer seems that relevant. The problem is that they can’t take a hint, they don’t know how to apply the principles to the new situation, their brains are hostage to that cursed process. They distort the human character by advertising and entertainment, until I no longer recognize My image in them.”
There was a long silence.
Finally she said, “You know what? You need to write a novel.” “A novel?!” “Yes, a novel. You have already given them laws, but at present the laws are not being obeyed, or are being distorted. Now you have to tell them a story in which they behave the right way and repair the world. You’ll write it so brilliantly, and make the happy end so appealing, that they’ll imitate your characters of their own free will.” “You mean a Utopian novel. How many Utopian novels have been written, do you think? They’ve helped even less than my Torah. And since when have I been a novelist?”
“First of all: shall the Creator be less persistent than the inventors He created?! They persist until they do the impossible. For hundreds of years they dreamed of a flying machine, until someone managed to invent it. The novel that will show the right way to repair the world has not yet been written. And, of course, you won’t write under Your own name. You’ll dictate it to me, and I’ll give it to some person who will think it’s his idea. ” “Yes,” he said bitterly, “and everyone will be jealous of him.” “If they catch the vision, they will not be jealous.”
After another silence, he sighed and said, “Well, let’s give it a try. At this point there isn’t much to lose.” After a few minutes he began to speak in a firm voice, and she took out a notepad and began to write. “I will take for my hero a genius who has made a fortune in computers. He came from a pious Jewish background, of course he no longer keeps the mitzvot, but before he got off the straight path he learned something. I’ll have him do teshuvah.”
“How will you get him to do teshuvah?”
“Somehow or other. Maybe his son will commit suicide because he sees no meaning in existence. Maybe he will be diagnosed with a terminal illness and think he does not have much time left to live … And maybe he will just see the possibility of an amazing work that will be possible if he can correct the distortion, and that will bring him back of his own free will. One fine morning he will wake up with the thought that if mankind has reached a state where almost everything defined as work can be done by a machine, then there is no need for man to work at all, but only to play and take care of his soul. Everything ought to be play!
“Armed with this insight, he starts picking up the hints that I have dropped throughout the tradition. For instance, he is reminded of the eight levels of charity that Maimonides recognized, the higher one Is to help a person find work so that he can make a decent living. It turns out that in the present situation, an even higher level is needed: the invention of an economic system that will enable every honest person to make a decent living without needing gifts or exploiting others. He remembers that the whole earth belongs to Me, I created the laws of nature which they are exploiting, and which give the economic process its momentum, and no one has the right to take all the fruits of this process for himself.
“He thinks about all those games where there are winners and losers, but there are also rules that prevent them from really harming each other, and he thinks: now we need to set rules that will allow people to play the economic game without mutual damage.” “A kind of socialism, is not it?” “Yes, the socialists have grasped part of my intention … But the socialism of my hero — I shall call him Yosef, of course — will be improved, sophisticated.
“The first socialists had a saying: to each according to his ability, from each according to his need. But for some reason they didn’t try to gather information, to find out what the abilities and needs of all the individuals really were. Yosef understands that this is the main task, and it is precisely computers that can help with it – that can store information and match resources and needs.
“He also understands that he can’t invent such a system alone. Many minds have to be connected, somewhat the way computers are connected on the Internet, so he decides to fund a huge research institute and recruit people with knowledge and good middot – people who will recognize one other, because that’s indispensible to the formation of connections. ”
“Don’t forget to give him a wife,” she remarked.
“A little extra understanding will come in handy, and every novel needs a love interest.” “And what will she do, his ‘woman of valor’?” “For one thing she will recruit other women – “bnot binah” – to help with the task. And don’t forget the poets, they have a holistic sense that could be very useful. Also an eye for the significant detail.” “And what about my Torah?” “What a question! Of course, the first thing your hero will do will be to go back to his old teacher, and perhaps the teacher will find him a wife, or recommend that he remarry the one he divorced before he became religious, and the teacher will also find scholars who will advise the group so they won’t recommend anything that goes against the Torah.”
He gave a short laugh: “And what shall I do with the wicked?” For a moment her face fell. “Listen, sometimes I think you should not leave so much up to free will. If you were, for example, to add — or create some mad scientist who would add to the atmosphere some kind of gas that would moderate the hormones a bit….”
“You know what happened when I allowed the sages to slay the evil inclination?!” “All right, all right, forget I said that.” Then, sounding as hopeful as she could: “But even without that, there is strength in the spirit. ‘Not by might and not by power but by My spirit.’ You had a prophet say that.” “Yes, I had almost forgotten … Well, let’s say that my Yosef initiates a process, and people understand that it is a great thing that restores meaning to life, and more and more join until the wicked find themselves isolated. Yes, like with the lower waters – if there is enough fresh water the salt water doesn’t come in. In the end I made the creative power stronger than the destructive power. ”
He was silent until she finished writing.
“Well,” he said, “I think that’s it, you can take it.” She took a deep breath. “Now I have to find a writer who can describe all this, in fresh colors and with characters that come to life.” “And don’t forget to find readers for the book …” “Actually it will be enough if just one person reads it. But you know, you will have to help them a lot. They’ll need many miracles.” “Revealed miracles?” “The hidden ones will be enough, I think.”He gazed around him for a moment and then rose to accompany her. “Who knows, maybe someday I’ll have some company here again. And then you’ll come back too?”