Boriele Sim

Five Lives on the Earth. Souls' Evolution

vol. 1:   Slighted Knowledge

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Translated by Elena Crumbaugh.
© Boriele Sim and Elena Crumbaugh, 2015
ISBN: 9789659119271
ISBN: 9789659119288
© Boriele Sim / Бориэль Сим, 2008  (Original in Russian)
ISBN: 9789659119202
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Chapter I

ANXIETY

 

 

Better is little with the fear of the LORD than great treasure and turmoil with it . . .    

—Proverbs 15:16

When I am afraid, I will put my trust in You . . .      

—Psalms 56:4

You will not be afraid of the terror by night, or of the arrow that flies by day, of the pestilence that stalks in darkness, or of the destruction that lays waste at noon.    

—Psalms 91:5-6

 

The dry clear weather lasted for almost a month; it was unusual for the foothills of the northwestern United States.

It was Friday and the sun was already setting.

Shai Levi, a tall slender young man, slightly limping, walked his dog, a one year old Doberman named Leda.

The park bordered the Space Research Center where Shai worked. About two and half miles across both sides, it gradually transitioned into nature preserve, and on the east rising up the hills into the mountains. The park was well groomed around the Research Center, but further away it was more like wild forest, and only an occasional bench reminded the observer of the proximity to civilization.

Shai usually started his weekly hikes with power breathing exercises. A fast shallow inhale was followed by a slow exhale through the rounded lips so that he could feel resistance of air.

On the inhale Shai imagined that live Prana energy enters through the top of his head. On the exhale he spread this energy all over his body so that it would reach each organ and each cell.

Usually Shai completed three full cycles fifteen minutes each with five minutes breaks. The energy he received this way lasted for a week. But for some reason today he did not feel that light dizziness he had by the end of the second cycle. ‘Perhaps it is due to the lack of negative ions,’ Shai thought. ‘It did not rain for a while. Or maybe it is because I could not completely relax lately.’

Shai was automatically walking along the central alley looking at the ground passing under his feet. He felt a pleasant warmth from the sun on his back and left shoulder. Different thoughts appeared and argued in his head, sometimes interrupting each other. If someone could have heard them, he would have been surprised at the variety of Shai’s interests.

Lately Shai had noticed that his thinking had become more and more chaotic. He even compared it to a meat processor which grinds everything they load in it. Unlike a meat processor, his head was self serving. Sometimes it processed problems that had been ground earlier, under the influence of this or that thought which had suggested looking at the problem from different angle.

The most annoying was the thought which considered itself especially valuable, Shai called it a “first thought” or Prima. It would push through without waiting in line, ignoring other thoughts which waited to be processed on the periphery of his mind.

The visit of Prima always disappointed Shai by the platitude of its arguments; it often made him lose a chain of thoughts, but he was unable to chase the Prima away. If it happened during his walk, Shai would mechanically stop and look around after his normal thoughts were disrupted.

Now he stopped and looked around as usual.

But neither the fall colors, nor the smell of pine needles, dry grass, and fallen leaves cheered Shai up. He wanted to inhale more air than his chest could take. Feeling a fresh breeze on his face, Shai slowly inhaled and held his breath.

Ahead he could see the familiar outline of an old, spreading oak, with a lovely trail twisting to the right and disappearing behind it. Beyond the oak, the trail passed through mixed forest, a sunny pine grove and then a damp spruce forest, and on up the hill.

Shai kept on walking and doing breathing exercises. Perhaps it is better to meditate today under the pine tree, like last time, he thought.

‘Five sixty six, five sixty seven, five sixty eight. . . . Where did these numbers come from? Oh, I am counting the steps again. Who can explain why I am doing it . . . ?’

After reaching the oak, Shai stood for a minute in its shadow, and then moved down the scenic trail.

The tops of ancient trees closed above his head.

Shai walked for three hundred feet until he reached a warm pine grove, drenched in sun, bright spots marbling the tree trunks.

He spotted his meditation pine. Shai moved towards the tree, his feet bouncing on the soft tussocks covered by moss and grass.

The tall and sturdy tree trunk was boldly sticking out of a moss covered hump. The tree was clinging to the ground with five strong roots, looking like biceps. The thin roots weaving around them looked like enlarged veins of a weight lifter, strengthening the impression.

The bark in the lower part of the trunk looked torn, and yellow resin was sparkling on the bare spots. ‘It looks like some animal was meditating here while I was away,’ Shai grinned. Gray-green moss was covered with pieces of bark, and bright red beads were shining among them. He picked up the firm clusters of mountain cranberries with pinkish ends and put them in his mouth.

The sharp sour taste made Shai squint his eyes and shiver.

He cleared the ground of large pieces of bark, pulled a newspaper out of his pocket, unfolded it, and put on the sticky trunk. Then he sat down leaning against the trunk. The area seemed to be cooler than last time.

He called Leda who was running around.

The dog ran back to him, circled around the bush and reluctantly laid down by his feet.

Shai glanced at his watch and then lowered his eyelids. He imagined that cosmic Prana, filled with healing vibrations, was entering through the tip of the pine, flowing down the trunk, and channeling into his body. Mentally he was slowly moving from the top of the pine to his toes over and over, trying to ignore the thoughts creeping into his mind. Still he did not feel familiar pulsations and needles in his fingers.

Shai looked at his watch—ten minutes passed. He suddenly realized that his muscles are barely relaxed, something was keeping him tense just like the last time. Going through his most frequent thoughts he picked one—the seventh delay of the space shuttle launch. ‘I need to let the steam out, and then I will relax,’ he thought.

He closed his eyes again and lowered his head. Scary thoughts rushed through his mind—the story of Apollo-13 nearly ended in disaster, the tragedy of Columbia, and numerous failures which had taken place lately and caused one delay after another, official and unofficial.

Even though Shai was not an astronaut, and worked in one of the labs of the Center, the tragic connection between the quality of services and flight results bothered him. He was well informed about various programs and projects, knew the managers, and so his conclusions were reliable.

Shai admired the courage of the astronauts, but was not ready to risk his life like they did. Why? He told himself that he needed to accomplish something very important and should treasure it. He did not know exactly what was it, perhaps at least give birth and raise two children, a son and a daughter.

Every time spaceships ready for launching malfunctioned or even worse, blew up causing the deaths of astronauts due to a technical failure or negligence, Shai worried and did not think about the eternal soul. His thoughts were depressing and unsettling.

The official reason for the latest delay which was a crack in the engine pipeline seemed odd, because the pipeline passed commission check without any comments three weeks ago. If they were fine, then they should still be good. Does it mean that the commission overlooked a defect? This made sense. The pipeline wouldn't deteriorate like weathering stone in such a short time.

Perhaps, the problem is with the commission. They are all humans. Everybody has personal problems—family, children, or on the job. Maybe somebody had a serious personal problem. Everybody can make a mistake or be disturbed by troubling thoughts. As a result the astronauts are at the mercy of chance. “Who would have thought . . . ?” they will say. It happened exactly like this—

In the case of Columbia a fragment of thermo insulating cover broke off at launch because it came in contact with the triggering element. Was this situation so impossible that nobody could think of it and provide for an emergency? And why did it not shock the people who monitored it and saw the possible outcome when the cameras recorded it . . . ? I remember well. Calm down, mass media and citizens . . . we provided for everything and everything is under control— See, we are smiling. It means everything is OK. And the tragedy was unavoidable, as another commission concluded.

If only the old Columbia had my composite material instead of thermo insulation . . . Shai imagined the body of space shuttle built of the composite and felt confident about it again. But is it worth thinking of what never happened and does not exist? “History does not know the conditional case,” my grandma used to say when I was five or ten years old and tried to explain my behavior with phrases like “What if. . . .”

In aeronautics, like in everyday life, people rely on each other and good fortune. What if there was bad luck? They will suspend the program for a year or two until the pain, indignation and disappointment fade away, and people forget all the details, and everything will start all over. But people’s mentality will not change, so the risk will not get any smaller. The same people of the same human breed. . . . Am I not right?

Something light hit Shai on the head and bounced to the side. He shuddered and found himself sitting on the tussock under the pine tree. His back was already slightly numb.

Shai looked straight up. A fuzzy creature holding a pine cone froze two yards above him and was studying him with a black, beady eye, its head tilted. He stretched out his arms widely. The squirrel suddenly dropped the cone and ran up the tree, jumping from branch to branch.

Shai lowered his head, looked in the distance and tried to relax again. But in two minutes he was imagining that he was working in the Control Center which he had visited several times. He is in a huge hall with dozens of people who are on duty as the shuttle Columbia is launched. An announcement says that it looked like the thermal insulating tiles were damaged at the launch. Shai realizes that due to the friction in the upper layers of the atmosphere the part of wing with missing part will heat up and melt, and a few moments later the fire will start.

Shai imagines that he gets up and goes to the program manager. He is surrounded by co-workers. It is Shai’s turn; he shares his worries and talks about what might happen. The project manager puts his hand on Shai’s shoulder, smiles widely and warmly thanks him for the thought; he nods his head in understanding, shakes his hand, and that’s it. Meetings follow up, but nothing serious is done.

What is he after all, a clairvoyant? Is he a super specialist in aeronautics? Why is only he, Shai, worried? Maybe his nerves or head are off balance?

A minute later Shai imagines that due to a lucky coincidence everything ends well: Columbia lands safely. The same program manager approaches him, smiles, slaps on him on the shoulder—“Buddy, you need to take a break.” Meaning you need to get some medical help. Does he really need to bug them with his ideas, now that he is a laughing stock?

This is a human system—some senseless rock, or a robot without a soul, which finds a winning solution in every situation. Every question will have a seemingly correct and convincing answer prompted by a banal thought. Astronauts and citizens should simply believe that all possible situations were thoroughly analyzed, everything is taken care of and the negative influence of the human factor with all the worries, doubts and subjective errors is negligible.

Negligible? Was the explosion of Columbia then inevitable for obvious reasons as it was found out later?

The Council on Aeronautic safety was pointing out vulnerabilities of the shuttles and persistently demanding the banning of flights. After finding no support from NASA management, they appealed to Congress. Then, just six months before the catastrophe, management laid off five out of nine members of the counsel and two consultants. There were rumors that it was done to shut the complainers up and demonstrate to the others what might happen to them.

But they only needed to throw away ambitions and doubt, and trust critical thinking. Critical thought usually lacks self confidence—it doubts and is afraid to make a mistake. Thoughts like this are suspicious. In contrast a banal thought is arrogant, does not know fear and is convinced that it never makes mistakes. Later on its mistakes will be sorted out by a critical thought which will complain that nobody listened to it when needed. A banal thought always has reasons, any nonsense would work. People get tired of listening to it, and it goes away full of dignity.

Columbia . . . only pain and shame inside and unexplainable worries. . . .

Why do I think about it? Just want to understand. Only understand. . . .

But understand what? I should not worry about it at all—otherwise I will have to analyze all possible situations without any exception.

And then what? Go insane. How can I help the astronauts?

Can anyone else help them?

Shai raised his head towards the sky and shook his head. At this moment he visualized the grinning face of Jeff, his department head.

What does somebody’s life mean to Jeff? It seemed like nothing mattered for him besides his personal problems. People like him are the real threat to the astronauts . . . and is it a threat only to them?

Columbia. . . .

Shai tried to get rid of the thoughts related to the recent catastrophe with the shuttle, but they were returning in this shape or another.

Few moments passed, and he imagined himself being Ilan Ramon, the first astronaut from Israel.

He is in orbit with the crew. He is happy—his oldest dream has come true. He is completing his part of the program, not knowing about the defect in the thermo insulation. He knows the history of the twenty-two year old shuttle with its numerous failures and repairs, which raises concerns. Two years ago they tried to retire it from flight, but then kept it due to financial cuts.

Shai-Ramon wants to make jokes, but subconscious worries are bursting through into his mind. ‘Why worry?’ he tells himself. ‘Everything is under control in the Center, and they have experts there. They thought through all the possible situations and will do everything that is needed. It is better to think of the dangerous situations you were in as a pilot. When you bombed the nuclear reactor in Iraq, and when you had to eject twice. Thank God everything ended well. . . .’ Shai-Ramon consoled himself while completing his part of the program.

Shai-Ramon is sitting in his chair, leafing through the journal and trying to relax. ‘Today is the first of February. We will start descending in a few minutes.’

He reaches for a bag and pulls out a drawing of a fourteen-year old boy who died in Auschwitz. Ramon’s mother miraculously survived it, but his grandmother and grandfather did not, like many other relatives who died in the camps. A talented Jewish fellow called his drawing “Moon Landscape”. He probably imagined flying to the Moon for safety while being tortured by the carnivorous animals in human form. Or perhaps he was dreaming of the space flights. . . .

‘Now you are in space,’ Shai-Ramon smiled to the drawing which was generously given to Ramon by the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum for the duration of the flight.

Columbia is entering atmosphere. Landing is in seventeen minutes. . . .

Here comes information that the temperature in the area of the left wheel is rising. A strange smell appears. The smell is getting stronger. . . .

Shai-Ramon sits comfortably in the chair, closes his eyes and quietly sings, ‘Shema Israel! Adonai Elohenu, Adonai Echad!’

At the same moment he felt how his body and mind get relaxed—a soothing sensation of rest. He sees himself sitting at a table with his family. His wife is putting a meal on the plates. Four children are laughing at his jokes. . . .

Shai shivered and discovered that he was sitting on the hump under the pine tree, alive and unharmed. Even more so, he felt relaxed.

The sun had moved a little, and his legs were in shadow.

So what is existence versus non-existence if the first state is separated from the second one by a thin border, often a blind fortune . . . ? And people are coming into this world from somewhere and disappearing like ghosts. Two weeks ago he was shaking hands with a neighbor, a middle aged man, saw his smile, but yesterday he found out that the neighbor died. What does it mean “does not exist”? Disappeared forever? Or may be he was transferred somewhere. But where? Into nowhere?

Somebody got sick and died. Somebody was killed. Somebody became a victim of circumstances, a so called accident. Somebody lived to old age . . . it is not appropriate to live too long. Or it may not be allowed. One day he will go to sleep and will not wake up, or will fall down and will not get up. But why was he born? What did he live for? Existence without a reason?

Ramon was sent to space, but he did not return to Earth. He perished in a ball of fire in the upper atmosphere. What category does his story fall under? An accident?

Should somebody pay for this accident?

If not, then the price of life is the amount in the insurance policy—then perhaps all bad things should be just wiped out of one’s memory?

What conclusion can be made from the fact that Cain killed Abel? Or the catastrophe of the Jewish people, the Holocaust when millions of old people, women and children were murdered in an organized attempt to wipe an entire people from the face of the earth? Should one be terrified knowing that such “accidents” can take place on this planet? “History teaches us that people do not learn anything from it,” my Grandma repeated often when I misbehaved again and again after apologizing minutes before. Why do we not learn from this teaching? For example—Germans, including descendants of Hitler’s soldiers, are paying monetary retributions to the now aged children who miraculously survived, a massacre done by their fathers and grandfathers. This sounds cynical . . . but it is a good lesson for the descendants of those who carried out genocide against Indians, Vietnamese, Koreans, Chinese, Tibetans, Armenians, Kurds, everybody. . . .

Shai was a happy, calm person with a vivid imagination who liked to get to the heart of everything. Some time ago he became interested in yoga and eastern esoteric theories under the influence of his friend and co-worker Ramandra. After having read many books, Shai concluded that a human is a soul, and as a soul he should live forever. Although he could not figure out what happens to a person after death, he felt confident that nothing bad would happen to him. Why? It seemed correct. One day he will find out . . . but only when this world will lose any meaning to him. For now he should think in terms of this world. But how? Through philosophical ideas? Or in terms of common wisdom? Or perhaps religion gives a true picture of the Universe and a person? Some people immerse themselves in the world of art and discover things that are beyond the consciousness mind. Since he is a scientist perhaps he should not go outside scientific notions . . . ?

Many times Shai thought about it and, like before, he was returning to the same conclusion.

Philosophy?

How can an educated person not read the books written by the famous philosophers and not argue with them?

Shai was especially attracted to the thinkers supporting the idea of creation. He had a high opinion of eastern thinkers such as Lao Tzu and Confucius, which he considered founders of everyday wisdom along with Plato, Socrates, and Aristotle. Their ideas were borrowed and repeated by many generations of followers. When Shai was still a student, and was arguing with the philosophers in his mind, he discovered that philosophical theories do not develop and improve, like natural science does, but just appear like easy reading books. Philosophical schools appeared and grew like mushrooms from scratch but not as continuously growing mushroom spores. A new philosopher would quote others and critique others at the beginning, but then announce that there were virtually no philosophers before him, and there was no accurate understanding of the meaning of life, causes of troubles, and in what direction the society should evolve. Shai thought that a good illustration of his ideas were Marxism-Leninism and national socialist theories about a human and future of mankind which appeared fairly recently on historic scale. In order to conceal contradictions and make their theories appear solid, the ideologists of the “bright future” beautified their theories with references to some philosophers from the past, but if they were alive they would deny any connection to the unattractive followers.

Before becoming really interested in philosophy, Shai learnt about the wisdom of ancients expressed in aphorisms. Shai’s Grandma knew a lot of proverbs and sayings, she quoted the Torah and classical writers; Shai thought he had inherited the passion for aphorisms from her. Wisdom expressed in these sayings quickly filled his young head, and it seemed like he was quickly becoming wise. He had a remarkable memory and could say something clever about anything that made sense. He thought this way in the past, when he read a lot and highly valued these words. Later his trust for words not related to natural science started to diminish and it declined especially quickly in the past few years. Mass media hurt credibility of the words the most. Shai and his wife, Iris, had a brief contact with it in the evenings by the TV set. After realizing how powerful the words without meaning are, and how most people trust them, Shai became cautious about any statement, and even doubted the wisdom of the ancients and the aphorisms he remembered. Aphorisms seemed to live their own lives in books, and people lived their lives as if they did not have anything to do with each other. Shai saw how people were occupied with their own affairs and ignored the streams of words coming from everywhere. And words stained by participating in lie and meaningless jabbering, as if they lost innocence, continue to flicker in speeches and songs like butterflies. They already told everything, promised what people desired, apologized for mistakes, and now they rest, talking new nonsense, lying, and entertaining in any way they want—

‘But somebody else's wisdom didn’t give me answers to the most important questions,’ Shai thought. ‘Maybe something’s wrong with me? Maybe my mind cannot reach the answer. . . .’

Religions?

But they are completely detached from the realities of modern life. Self-sufficient religions are frozen in their shells—in dogmas of statements, rituals, and symbols, which they use to achieve their own goals, sometimes very different from the goals of the founders. Sometimes it seems that they are hiding something behind the carefully guarded shells. But what? Supreme Truth? Why do they have to hide it? Why do different confessions not merge for the triumph of Truth? Why do they not argue, if they have doubts? Why there is no temple on Earth to God the One and Only? But what can different confessions argue about, if each of them does not go beyond its shell, guarding its own truths with symbols and domes, absolutely confident that it is more correct and truthful than the others. . . .”

Maybe it is atheism?

Outside the conventional religions and sophisticated philosophies, which admit the Supreme Mind in this or that form, is the anti-religion. Its powerful idol, its golden calf, is ideology. It steadfastly, absolutely denies the creation of the world and claims to admit only rational thinking—science and law—the pre-eminent products of a society invented by these descendents of apes. The shiny ideology of wealth and fame is the ancestor of materialism and realism. Atheism gives the world technological progress and points to a different meaning of life. According to the opinion of many modern ideologues, philosophers, and politicians who serve in its temples—it results in more complete satisfaction of the natural needs of the two-legged, their desires, their feelings. These thinkers did not move far from their ancient Greek colleagues and fathers. I wonder if any one of them could logically and clearly answer the old man's question, my neighbor. Who needs an educated, wise retiree who learned many useful things, met different people, tried many things in life, and got sick from it? Heirs, who hope to improve their material situation after his death? But in order to get it they want for him to stop breathing as soon as possible. And then the objects which meant something just for him, which he treasured, most likely will end up in the garbage. As for himself—who needs him? Who needs us? Hello, atheists! What do you live for? In order to live better and then disappear into nowhere? Why do you keep silence? Maybe you don't know . . . ?

Thus Shai was returning to various troubling topics, sometimes not being able to catch up with the jumps of his own thoughts, which argued and denied each other, while he was sitting under the pine.

In this world a man exists in time, dizzy from the fast moving events that flash past him—a workday, a weekend, hurried plans and deadlines which add to the wrinkles already lining his face. Prima raised her voice, ‘time does not allow a man to relax for long. Time demands he cling to the earth and put out roots in order to survive—and not slide to the bottom, but live well. And this is the answer to your doubts.’

‘But what does this mean “live well”?’ said a “second thought”, lifting its head, an eternal opponent of Prima and obviously bored by it. ‘Live to become rich, to become famous, to acquire power, or maybe just to be needed by somebody? At least not to be uprooted from the place where you were randomly placed, and not lose your job and livelihood? Many people are pleased with this existence—’

The thought faded out by itself. It had asked the same questions many times before and it seemed to have completely lost its self-confidence, its intensity.

‘But people have always strived for more—legal power, the biggest salary, expansion of property, influence over others—and for many it became the purpose and meaning of existence. And of course people want to improve their quality of life,’ Prima continued to prove its position. It radiated calm confidence: the majority was behind it, and the whole history of mankind could serve as a proof.

‘But why “of course”?’ its opponent asked in surprise. ‘For example, I don't know what “quality of life” means. Is there a standard? Perhaps you know what you should strive for. And why should you spend days and years of your life in futility and near slavery—in order to own a huge mansion, a yacht or plane, an island in the ocean, or have a harem and many servants? What will you tell your children when they ask, what you should live for . . . ?’

‘You live for life itself,’ Prima argued confidently. She had answers to all the questions, and was impossible to confuse by piling questions on questions.

‘You don't have to be very smart to come up with that answer,’ the opponent grinned. ‘Perhaps those who are happy with this gibberish are even less intelligent. Some children will not leave you alone until you satisfy their curiosity and explain why they were born, for what purpose. Are you going to say, “in order to be entertained as much as you can and try to eat as many sweets as you can while you're still alive, until you are sent to fight the enemies of the president in a faraway country?” Or maybe one should live to a ripe old age by skillfully and smartly avoiding obstacles, accumulating vast wealth—and then, being almost unable to see and hear with your body shaking from the ravages of old age, try to be pleased with the obsequious looks of the vultures awaiting their inheritance?’

‘You should not answer such childish questions,’ said Prima sensing a trap. It turned away, showing that it is not going to discuss the obvious.

Is it obvious?

As Shai grew older, he was more and more surprised with the organization of human society. People striving toward their goals, but not quite sure how to achieve them are surrounded by others who want to help them, lead them, take advantage of them. They are invited somewhere, assured and reassured of things contrary to their interests. They are convinced to buy something, sign something, join a club, a party, an organization . . . and of course follow its regulations.

Politicians strive for their own goals, but it seems they hide them, lie here and there, and sincerely assure everyone that this politician truly cares about them and their families, about the people and the nation. Let's take the slogan “growth of consumption of goods and services per capita.” They will pay you off with money for the years of your life, for the timeless loss of your family members . . . and you'll be much happier than before! And most people follow it as if they were moving towards the goal of their lives. Two centuries ago the aborigines of the Oceania islands were ready to give everything they owned for glass beads and trinkets. People of modern civilization are ready to pay the same price for something different: their desire to own and consume never diminishes. But can this be the purpose of the life? Many people understand it, but. . . . Shai hesitantly came to the sad conclusion, that there was no such goal which the people on this planet considered worth living for. But why?

Western democracy . . . of course, this is not a goal, but a society organized on the principles seemingly guaranteeing freedoms and rights to all. And everyone chooses his own goals individually. It sounds wonderful. But there are countries with other, different forms of organization, and some of them show aggression to the West. How can you co-exist with them? If all the states followed the principles of international law and respected the sovereignty of other countries, if everybody would refuse the desire to take away something or impose their will, then why would we need aircraft carriers, rockets, and bombs? At the same time their number is growing, and it proves the opposite—the soundness of the principle that the more powerful are always right, “might makes right.” And, if so, mutual distrust is the only sound policy. Where is there any guarantee that mankind will not pay a high price for being unable to answer these questions due to a basic misunderstanding of mankind and the purpose of their existence? The simplest extrapolation of the number of victims in the past points at this future.

Am I wrong?

I wonder, when will World War Three begin? When China becomes economically strong and starts dictating its will to the entire planet? Or when the United States will weaken from the fight with terrorism and refuse to follow the dictates of its own conscience? And what about Iran? It seems that it will happen very soon. . . .

But there are regions on Earth which avoid participating in World Wars. Sweden, for example, is a peaceful country with no designs for world domination, and which does not spend huge sums of money on armaments. The cities there were not ruined. The citizens have enjoyed peace for many centuries. This is why there are no hungry and homeless unless people voluntarily chose this lifestyle. I was there. But do people in Sweden know more than citizens of other countries? Do they hold the key to why they were born and the meaning of life? If they had the answer, they would have not have such a high rate of suicides.

However, those who strive for power and wealth are goal oriented and persistent in all countries. This goal of ultimate power and wealth underwent the test of time over millenia. For some reason not everyone pursues it. It seems the majority of people live without this purpose of life. Are they lazy? Maybe they don't have energy or ambition? Perhaps they live without greed or vanity? But where does it all come from? From the parents’ genes? From upbringing? Or from some animal ancestors, as Charles Darwin believed?

Sometimes Shai thought that there is no meaning of life common to all mankind at all, and there cannot be one. But this thought also did not make him optimistic.

Shai was surprised by the purposeless, futile existence of most people, but even more so by the fact that people cling to obviously unreliable elements and values, which only bring them disappointment and suffering in the long run. And they always find about it . . . only after the fact. Each new generation repeats the same mistakes. Shai remembered one of his grandma’s sayings: “If a young one knew! If an old one could!”

Then why didn’t the older generation define and formulate the most important principles, permanent values, which could be an absolute, a supporting point in the life of a man and for mankind? This knowledge would be passed from generation to generation, develop and get corrected, would not be doubted, burned or crushed by revolutions . . . so that people would not have to start all over again. The older people don't know? Or nobody wants to follow their advice?

Do I know myself? Or maybe somebody else knows?

Looking at different elements of this world and analyzing its generally accepted values and goals, Shai, to his surprise could not find anything permanent. Everything around him—machinery, high-end technologies, the promising slogans of politicians with assuring and sincere smiles, and to an even lesser extent, passionately desires—everything was transient, vulnerable, and did not stand the test of time. It all brought disappointment in the end . . . and then it all ended.

Art?

Some people value art highly and believe in its ability to improve a man. Ever since he was a child, Shai heard that beauty will save the world. But his critical thinking would not let art take the critical role of a base line for human values and the meaning of life. Shai is a physicist and inventor, someone else is the artist, composer, or poet.

The process of creation is just a different type of work. It is simply the means of survival for some. And what is the value of what they create? Is it a truthful representation of life? Or is it a novelty of artistic technique? Some unknown artist dies in poverty, and after many years, suddenly his paintings become masterpieces, and his name famous. How can this be? Mankind was passing by his paintings without noticing, maybe even disliking them. How did the works become masterpieces? Somebody decided here is an opportunity to make money—and people, like a herd of cattle, suddenly catch the vision and recognize the genius of the artist! All of his creations, without exceptions, are now priceless treasure of world culture! And why not? Everything the genius creates is great! But the fact that people value every abstract mess of these “great artists” gave Shai even more doubts. He remembered what he read about Picasso, how he had laughed at the critics' rapture over the abstract paintings. Or take the example of Malevich, who had financial problems and resolved them in a clever and ironic way. He painted the famous “black square” and other paintings imitating the avant-garde, which the art critics considered masterpieces when he was still alive. So will the beauty of art save the world . . . ?

Maybe science can do it?

Knowledge obtained by physicists is quite reliable, everybody trusts the models of physics. Chemistry and engineering technologies are based on it. But the models of the world and man created by sociologists and psychologists are not the same, yet they are considered sciences as well.

What the social scientists promise to people seldom comes true. Life in reality is more complicated and frequently different from their conceptualizations. You might as well throw dice or toss a coin instead of believing their forecasts. The historians who described the past are busy with rewriting and correcting history. And what can the “soft sciences” tell mankind besides the collection of accumulated facts and the suppositions, doubts, and beliefs they have attached to these facts? Is this science?

Physics is a different thing—its possibilities seem to be unlimited, like the universe. It promises to resolve all the problems we face now as well as those we will face in the future. And those who rely on science are looking into the future. But who can tell us how we should live today? It is outside the scope of science.

While these thoughts were arguing with each another, other thoughts crept into the edges of Shai's mind. This thought, name it “Number Three”, was always admiring things when other thoughts rested. ‘Look at the sky! It proves the eternity of the world, which is incomparable with a human life. Oceans saw the beginnings of the generations of people on Earth. The world of wildlife does not increase its consumption, does not accumulate, it does not violate ecological balance on the planet. It's harmonious and stable. Do you know why?’

Number Three could not hold Shai's attention for long because the ever critical Number Two woke up and called Number Three a fool.

Shai was just a part of the transient world of people, he could not resist Number Two's arguments. The world was losing its harmony and balance. It looked insane and uncertain. This left a deep, sobering impression in his soul. Shai trusted the honest cold logic of Number Two. And with time this impression only grew stronger.

Of course, Shai had other thoughts too. However, in spite of their variety, he could not find a supporting point anywhere among them.

‘Maybe what your seek is in your soul?’—this was not a thought as such, it was a small voice coming from inside.

‘What is the soul?’ Prima asked with a grin. ‘Why do you, a scientist, think about what you don't know to exist, what is not proven by science?’

‘Let's assume that an invisible soul exists,’ the Number Two posited, ‘where is it in those who commit crimes? Where is it in those who enrich themselves at the expense of the poor, taking advantage of the unfair organization of society? Where is it in politicians, who present the situation always to their advantage? And if they don't have a soul and they are nevertheless people, then it's one of the two: either no one has a soul or there are some among the two-legged without a soul—‘

‘But what is “a soul’?’ Prima repeated.

Shai felt uncertain, worried, and had an inexplicable attack of anxiety. He did not try to continue looking for an argument for supporting point in his soul.

‘Why don't you like the Creator of the world as a supporting poin . . . ?’ the same small voice coming from the depths of his being asked him.

‘Really, hundreds of million people every day send their prayers to Heaven,’ said Number Three as she woke up.

‘But have you ever seen God?’ Prima asked mockingly. ‘Those millions did not see Him either. They would worship anything offered as a god—a golden nugget, a tyrant, or the soul of a prophet who died long ago.’

‘You have criticized religions and denied them for yourself, Number Two added. Why are you coming back to this? This is not logical—‘

The small voice insisted: ‘I do not mean religion, I mean the Creator of the world.’

‘Look at the history of mankind,’ Prima offered, ‘at those who rely on the Creator. Were they happier than the ones who ignored His commandments and acted as if there is no God and never was? How would you explain the Holocaust, for example? How can you justify the deaths of six million; so many were old men, old women, and children? What did it mean to the Creator of the world, and to the Germans who committed those horrors? Where was He when they were ensnared, arrested because of their ethnicity, carried away to the death camps, when they were tortured and killed?’

Shai did not respect Prima, a banal thought, and had an annoyed expression on his face when it talked, but this question stopped him dead, and reminded him of his father.

‘Where does God dwell? Didn't He abandoned this world?’ Number Two continued, reminding Shai of Nietzsche.

‘Bravo!’ Prima applauded insincerely. ‘It looks like Shai is trying to free himself from the circle of questions: “where?” and “when?” - but he himself is 'nowhere' and 'never' and will never be!’

During such moments Number Three helped Shai out.

Shai recalled listening to Number Three, the “foolish” thought, as far back as he could remember. And it seemed like it existed even before he was born. It was always admiring the harmony of the world around him. Shai could look at the starry sky for a long time, study the life of the ant hill as he bent down over it—surprised at the behavior of a single ant—while most of his peers had very little interest in it. This thought also loved the world of fairy tales.

‘For most people the world is something they're used to,’ Number Two pointed out, trying to return him to the reality.

When people grow up they stop admiring the harmony of the world and hardly notice its impressive details. Like bees or ants they hurry to work, to the store, coffee shop or their homes. And every day is like this. What, in the whole, wide world, are they interested in? Tiny holes—easily accessible entrances and exits through which they can carry something useful and pleasant for themselves while expending a minimum of effort. A member of Western civilization is quite happy with a model of the universe which consists of a source of money, a supermarket, a video system, the Internet, a soft couch, nice words and tender caressing. Did I miss anything on the list?

If the world was created with intention and a plan, and Shai’s internal voice told him it was, then the Creator of the world is the key to the meaning of life. But in this case, He is the beginning, purpose and meaning of all that it is in the world! And He is supporting point!

Prima grinned: ‘What do you mean “in this case” or “in the other case”? These scenarios exist only in your imagination, but in the world of hard reality something happens and it becomes a fact.’

‘Hundreds of millions of believers live on this planet,’ the Number Three continued the interrupted contemplation. ‘You have read hundreds of books and did not find answers, but you should not lose hope. Perhaps, somebody knows it and will teach you.’

Believers?

Shai suddenly remembered his grandmother in Haifa, people in kippahs and traditional Jewish clothing. As a child he frequently walked by the church Stella Maris of the order of Carmelites, situated not far from their house in Haifa. He looked at the strange visitors, the number of which was noticeably increasing on the weekends, when the small parking and the neighborhood streets were filled with tourist buses of different colors. Sometimes after going through the lacy gates of the fence Shai stayed by the post in the doorway and curiously watched what was going inside. A couple of times at his request his father, who thought of himself as more atheist than a believer, would come inside with him. The interior was full of strange odors and odd noises as the priests performed their religious ceremonies. Something inside him told him that time was frozen in here. Again and again Shai had visited the tiny church—with the cave of the prophet Elijah under the altar, four steps down. A small statue of the Jewish prophet greeted everybody with a raised right hand. On the dome he was in a fiery chariot surrounded by the apostles. When did they meet? The visitors were going in, lighting candles, and praying in different languages not to God or the prophet, but to the Virgin Mary. Shai had an impression that she was more important than God, although something deep inside him did not agree with it.

His father would not confirm or deny Shai's impression, and when he persistently asked questions: “why?”, “how?” and “what for?” he was shrugging his shoulders and spreading his arms out, as if to say he could not understand it either. Nevertheless his father told him about paradise and hell the way they are described in the New Testament. Thanks to these legends, when Shai walked by the church, his imagination created a fairy tale world populated with angels flying like birds as he had seen in the sculptures there. Under the earth angels were replaced with the warriors of Satan—demons with goat legs who were grabbing the sinners and throwing them in a pot of boiling oil. And above the angels, just like in the upper part of the altar of the church, was a woman with a child in her hands, the Virgin Mary with baby Jesus, in a frozen pose. And this child, when he grows up, will supposedly become God. “The believers,” his father explained, “in their prayers usually say the words of regret about their sins and repentance and sometimes request that the evildoers be punished. However, there are many different religions. According to the beliefs of these praying people the child who Mary holds in her arms took their sins on himself”. “So, now they can sin, and they will be forgiven?” Shai asked. “They believe so,” his father shrugged his shoulders, “and they attract young people to their faith, who agree to believe in it.” At that time Shai didn't know that a sin is being committed every moment. It is born in souls and is infecting thoughts. It is not afraid of future punishment, and does not know deep repentance or hope for forgiveness.

By a strange coincidence, Shai first learned about sin as a young child from his grandmother. She considered him one of the worst sinners. Shai's grandmother was a Jewish believer, but did not attend any religious gatherings. Her religiousness, as Shai's mother said with a smile, showed itself in reading the Torah and book of prayers, observing the Sabbath, and fearing sin. Shai frequently heard about his sins from his grandmother, which she pointed out for him. He only had to admit his sin and sincerely repent. However Shai did not see any connection between his misbehaving, which gave him joy and happiness, and some unknown sins of people at the churches who were crossing themselves with focused and sometimes sorrowful expression. He knew from his grandmother that a sin is an action which comes into conflict with the God's will. What did they do against God . . . ?

God?

When Shai was young, Prima argued that God does not exist because He was not in a hurry to punish evildoers; the police and court take care of them. Thus the “first thought” grew and asserted itself in Shai, and taught him to see the world with the eyes of the majority. Even though his grandmother absolutely insisted that God will ensure punishment of every sinner personally, in his soul Shai had doubts about the existence of the Almighty and Final Judgment.

At school Shai studied the Tanach—the Torah, the Prophets and the Writings, however the ideas of an invisible Almighty God and six days of creation were difficult to understand. At first they mixed with childhood fairy tale impressions from visiting the church, which Shai kept in his imagination as a picture. But with time this picture changed. Angels could look like people—like the three angels in the Torah who visited Sodom and Gomorrah. They were simple travelers, they dined with Abraham and two of them saved the family of Lot, the only righteous man in the cities.

The Virgin Mary from the painting with the child in her arms, which Shai kept in his imagination and which he saw as if with his internal vision on the screen of his consciousness,—disappeared and was replaced by the source of light in the center of the altar. Every time when Shai turned his eyes to it, in his thoughts he discovered that the light was brighter than before. A least it seemed to be so.

Before he turned thirteen, when Jews celebrate the coming of age or “bar-mitzvah” of a Jewish boy, Shai talked to his father and they discussed faith and God. He demonstrated knowledge of Torah, which he learned at school, and his father clarified his point of view. “Torah,” his father said, “is a very ancient book, our people are proud of it, because it testifies to our long history and the fact that following these moral principles is important in our life. However, from the Torah, the Prophets and the Writings it's clear that our remote ancestors did not believe in God and violated the Commandments a lot. After forty days those who gathered at the foot of Mount Sinai and heard His voice, and swore to follow His commandments . . . forgot about them. They made a golden calf and worshiped it. And since you are now familiar with the Tanach, you know that similar actions continued through the entire history of our people.”

His father told him that when he was young, he thought about God and he got the answer not from the Torah but from the Holocaust. “If God existed,” his father said, “then such a catastrophe would be impossible because I do not see any logical or rational sense in God, Who some time ago pitied Isaac, the son of Abraham, giving six million sons and daughters of His people into the hands of atheists to be humiliated and destroyed. He would not indifferently watch their suffering, knowing how His Name was disgraced. This is why I consider the Torah a collection of historic legends from remote past of the Jewish people. If the Jews reinforced their country and had a strong army instead of striving for wealth, creating debauchery and conflicts, the Holocaust would never have happened. Anti-Semites would have found a different object to satisfy their crazy passion, and would kill somebody else.”

At thirteen Shai was full of energy and active. His parents frequently scolded him and sometimes punished him. But as it seemed to him now, they did not point him at something important and fundamental in his life, or direct him to a life which he could happily follow, full of self-improvement and without disappointment. Perhaps they did not know the way themselves. After school Shai relaxed with soccer, jogged with his father, but did not know where he could apply and direct his seemingly limitless energy.

At that time Shai asked his father about sin. “Every person defines for himself, what is shameful and unacceptable,” his father responded. “If the thief steals, he was raised this way and does not think his action is disgraceful. If a politician lies, that means he was raised this way, and considers this means of achieving his goal acceptable. Anti-Semites were raised this way and were happy when Jewish people were persecuted. Rich people for centuries have no problem with the poverty of the majority, and do not feel the shame. I’m raised differently. For me all this is unacceptable, and I would not like to see my son participating in something like this.”

“But if there is a severe punishment for a grave sin, like the Torah states and my grandmother confirmed, how could anti-Semites carry out Jewish pogroms?” Shai asked. “Those people will be punished by God. Why they were not afraid of God? Or did they not know that it's a grave sin? Or did they have a different god, who took their sins on himself, and now everything is forgiven?”

“Only those who were raised like humans have moral standards,” his father spread his arms with an expression of uncertainty. “I think the idea of sin is not applicable to animals or non-humans . . . or evil people. Anti-Semites were jealous of the Jews, and when they had the power, and the authorities patronized them, they started those pogroms and massacres. You can say that it was always this way,” his father lowered his head and stopped talking.

“But how can you explain why the Holocaust took place?” Shai kept asking.

“You should know, son, that most people are susceptible to flattery, and ready to believe in anything, if it raises them in the eyes of the others. 'You are better than the others!'—the propaganda told Germans, and forced the theory of Aryan racial superiority on them. Germans at that time had a lot of economic problems and were humiliated in their own country. Many successful doctors, attorneys, owners of banks, factories, stores and offices were Jews. Jealousy blinded the eyes of millions of people who believed in their own superiority. The massacres started—entertaining the low, heartless, disgraceful people. The scale of the massacres grew, and the measures against the Jews were cynically supported and reinforced by the authorities.”

“But why didn't honest and decent people protect the Jews?” Shai asked. “Did they not exist at all or did they also believe in their racial superiority?”

“Of course, there were people defending the Jews,” his father answered, “but since the Jews were considered outlaws by the German authorities, those who tried to defend them risked sharing their fate. Only brave heroes hid their Jewish neighbors - risking their lives.”

“But why only a few risked their lives to save Jews?” Shai asked with surprised. “Why did no kind-hearted and intelligent people protect them? Why did the government of the United States and other countries not save them? Did they also believe in the superiority of German race? Or maybe they preferred to be neutral and not intervene in the affairs of a European state, even though it carried out the planned elimination of millions of civilians?”

“What happened then is still a terrible, gloomy mystery to me,” his father shook his head. “If somebody could help to solve this puzzle, I would be a very grateful.”

“But it probably puzzles everybody not just you?” Shai asked.

“I don't know,” his dad shook his head. “Today you can hear voices denying the fact of the Holocaust.”

“So, does it mean that for most people there is no sin?” Shai persisted.

“Sin as absolute evil, sin in front of God, has meaning only if God exists and sees everything and punishes sinners,” his father shrugged. “Everybody understands it in his or her own way. You are almost a grown up, and you have a long life ahead of you. You will make your own choices. Let me make a confession, the Holocaust convinced me that there is no God watching us. Maybe He created the world, but, if so, He then moved away with His prophets, allowing anybody to organize or destroy this planet in any way they wanted. Obviously active people striving for wealth and fame had the power. They are cynical, they do not worry about needs of others or the future of the planet unless it concerns them directly. You can only wonder at the degree of immorality and cruelty of the people in power in Germany, and be overwhelmed at how the authorities in other countries cynically ignored the lives of people subjected to genocide. Truly, mankind is capable of anything, and everybody should be vigilant. When you realize that the rulers in your country are worthless, treacherous, and dangerous to you and your family, do not be deceived with their propaganda and do not rely on the chance that this may not repeat itself again. Later they will be held responsible for the suffering and disgrace of the whole nation. This always took place, and it is you, not them, who are responsible for the safety of yourself and your family.”

His father’s words sounded scary, strange, and did not promise a better future.

Is he really right? So, do we need to get weapons?

Shai suddenly remembered that when he was a small child, he thought of his father as a superman. Only the thick hair on his chest, shoulders and back always intimidated him, resembling a monkey. Shai saw men with such hair on the beach, but the animal look of his father for some reason contradicted the way he thought of him. If his father looked like a flamingo, for example, I would not be surprised, Shai thought then. Why did God not make people look like flamingos? Maybe because they had difficulty protecting themselves from carnivorous animals? Then they could fly without wasting fuel. . . .

Time passed, and Shai found he had inherited the hairy features of his father. However, he still could not understand why people, who were created by God in His image and likeness, look apes. Even though science has determined that genetically a man is closer to a pig.

Shai shook his head. However, memories of his conversation with his father returned.

“Mankind is capable of anything, and everybody should be vigilant,” his father told him.

Shai asked: “But Israel has the strongest army in the Middle East. So, nothing similar will happen again. What do you think?”

“I hope and rely on our army,” his father shook his head, “because some leaders of Islamic countries think that killing Jews is not only acceptable, and not a sin for a Muslim, but a right, a duty, and an honor. We have a right to doubt that those who teach this are humans.”

“So, are they animals in human bodies, like those who ruled Nazi Germany?” Shai asked. His father opened his arms not knowing what to say and added: “I do not have complete answers to your questions, son, look for them yourself. Maybe someday you will meet a wise man and then you will tell me what you learned.”

Shai's grandmother was always saying that any decent person is afraid of sin, because in his soul he knows that the Almighty will not leave a sinner without punishment.

“But how could Hitler rise so high?” Shai asked her. “Does it mean that the majority of people are incapable of telling good from bad, virtue from evil?”

His grandma answered that she suspected it long time ago. At the same time she was absolutely confident that the criminals are paying for the Holocaust in full measure in front of God and suffering by the rule of “measure for measure”. Shai wanted to believe his grandmother more than his father, in part because his grandmother knew for sure that God exists.

When Shai became an adult he started thinking more about God and sin. And even though his childhood fairytale impressions of church did not change, in his mind God was not a baby anymore held by the Virgin Mary, but the One from the Torah, who doesn't have an image, the One who created the universe, and Earth, and everything that it is on it, including a man and that baby.

When he became an adult, Shai was attracted to Eastern moral teachings with their mysteriousness and simplicity. But religious institutions were not the places where he could learn more about God. Sometimes he had the feeling that they forced legends on you and make you believe in them. To Shai some confessions seemed to be totally backward and removed from the real world, which was quickly moving on and progressing.

The United States of America, where he lived for the last nine years and now had citizenship, is a country with many religions and confessions, with liberal attitudes toward the religious authorities. With this background if some confession would fight for influence and power over minds, it would look awkward and amusing, giving an impression—Shai laughed when he thought of it—that it looked like each confession had its own God. And the true believers thought that their God is real, which only confirmed his impression. In Northern Ireland, for example, the war between Catholics and Protestants continued until now— And it was a very bloody war. So what was so important that they could not share?

Isn't it immoral for believers to even think this way? Isn't it immoral to fight instead of uniting with believers of different confessions? But it doesn't happen. Why? They don't have enough tolerance to the other faith? But what is it? Peacemaking with a different faith? Accepting the fact that each religion has a right to its own understanding of God and His uniqueness? Only atheists can agree with this, for whom believers of different confessions are equally ridiculous and backwards.

Maybe the majority of believers only think that they believe in God? Perhaps they are simply loyal to the traditions and customs of their ancestors and together worship some power which they are afraid of? In the Middle Ages this power was the Inquisition, under the National Socialists the Germans were afraid of their Fuehrer and worshiped him. Under the Bolsheviks people were afraid of Stalin and worshiped him. In the past they worshiped Caesars, Tsars, Kings and Emirs. Some of them announced that they were sent from Heaven and are gods' sons, and people gladly believed in it.

Maybe the true God does not need all these religions, but He needs for people to know that He is an Eternal Almighty Creator, and follow His ethical requirements? Am I wrong?

While a student at Haifa Technion, Shai, who studied Torah in school, was looking for God and he read hundreds of other religious books including the Bhagavad Gita, the New Testament and the Koran. He sensed the Creator behind the words of the religious books. However, when he tried to analyze what he read with the logical scientific approach, which did not allow gaps in logic, and used the knowledge accumulated by mankind, this feeling disappeared, and on the surface he saw only literary-historical plots with moral teachings.

Shai admired the Ten Commandments in the Torah. He thought that he knew the history of Earth civilizations quite well, and he found it surprising that the Commandments were told by God Himself thirty-three hundred years ago, while the Holocaust, organized and carried out by a so-called Christian nation with cultural traditions of hundreds of years, took place not even a century ago.

So what is progress? Do scientific and technological achievements testify to, or prove the progress of mankind? Hmmm . . . hard to say “no”, but it is not very convincing—

Commandments?

The Ten Commandments could easily claim to be an absolute in this world, and following them would be the main rule of people's lives. Why then did God set so many additional requirements—commandments totaling six hundred thirteen - for His chosen people? And sometimes these requirements look archaic and very strict. The number of requirements was given to him by his schoolteacher; Shai himself never counted them. Some of them he could not understand at all. For example, the ban, which is repeated in Torah three times: “You shall not boil a kid in its mother's milk,[1]”—it set rules for cuisine and restaurants in Israel, where they have different dishes for meat and dairy products. They are washed in different sinks and are kept separately. God forbids the one who wears a kippah to have a drop of dairy at the meat dinner—it's not kosher! And other people eat it and feel healthy. And Abraham treated his guests with milk and calf meat. . . . He just did not cook it in the milk. Shai could not find the explanation for this.

Perhaps this requirement has some mystical meaning? Why only eat the meat of animals with cloven hoofs, who chew the cud—ruminants in other words)? Why eat only seafood with fins and scales—and no crabs, squids, or catfish? But the forbidden foods contain useful microelements and essential amino acids. As for grasshoppers—eat them as much as you want! Although not all types are kosher.

Such dietary requirements looked particularly paradoxical for Shai when he was a schoolchild, with the background of the history of people who were miraculously saved by God from Egyptian slavery. Soon after being freed, Shai’s ancestors made a golden calf, and were punished for the sins of not believing in God. They had to wander for almost forty years in the desert before their descendents were allowed to conquer the Promised Land. However, later the descendents of descendents again started worshiping idols, images of which they brought into the Jerusalem Temple at some point. Shai studied in school the disgraceful history of his people, written in the Tanach, with the glorifying pages, which made his grandmother very upset.

“They forbid the spreading of pornography, and they should be ashamed to tell the children about this disgrace,” she was saying sadly. “God opened Himself to our ancestors and gave them a land of milk and honey. . . . Why were there always leaders among our ancestors who did not appreciate His gift, His commandments? I still see them even know—”

Really, why with words Jews recognized God as the source of life, their supporting point, were proud of being Chosen People, but wanted to live like everybody else? And I myself have doubts about it. Where is the truth?

At the same time Shai found it remarkable how politicians lied, always telling people what they want to hear, calling it the truth and hiding what is truly important: the Tanach, morality, turning away from evildoing and lies. They try to make their lies look like perfect examples of wisdom, honesty, sincerity and . . . liberalism.

Shai had another idea regarding the secret of life. He adored his wife and was dreaming of having children. A man's family is definitely worth living for, patiently overcoming life difficulties and misfortunes. But then, it is necessary to take care of yourself—the foundation of a family and its well-being. But at what price—?

Thus sitting under the pine Shai was analyzing one thought after another. But he could not keep the accident with Columbia out of his mind. It haunted him. Why?

Shai was replaying this story in his imagination over and over, on a continuous loop. It’s almost like a dream, he thought, but it took place in front of his eyes. He saw everything on the monitors. The communications connection interrupted not long before the horrible last moments. The tragedy was not an accident, but the inevitable result of a series of mistakes, no, not just mistakes, rather it was the negligence of “experts” and managers. . . .

First of all, the ship was old and belonged in a museum. Second, the bracing of the launch tower was allowed to touch the ship. Third, the thermo-insulation cover was not designed to withstand the strike of the debris. If they had used my composite, everybody would have come to their families safe and alive . . . Fourth, the threats were not taken seriously resulting in the destruction. And fifth, the measures to save the crew in such a catastrophe were not worked out.

Nightmare! Nightmare! And one more time, nightmare!

But what is it? Just a human factor? Or is it the whole system called “mankind”, organized so that you can only count on luck, chance, or the mercy of Heaven?

What conclusion could the Commission on Columbia make? Announce that something incredible took place? Or recognize that the managers were heartless egoists, people unfit to do their duties . . . ?

But don't heartless egoists manage people in other positions up to the highest ones?

You can only think that the tragedy was an accident.

Looks like I am coming back to the beginning—no I don't want to think about it. . . .

But perhaps the meaning is in it? Maybe I have to understand it before I can understand the meaning of life?

Is it really that the threat of severe punishment, of professional death, can force a man to take care of other people? And not just take care but worry, be afraid, fear as if for his own life or life of his children—and most importantly be responsible, take responsibility not just formally, professionally, but feel deeply the responsibility for what may happen with those whose lives are in his power and whose lives he dares to risk. . . .

But can you force a man to be responsible? Can you force somebody to be kind, responsive, compassionate, altruistic, if he does not naturally possess these qualities?

But nobody demands it. Nobody from nobody—not in personal life, not even in intimate relationships. Sexual needs frequently take priority over spiritual values in intimate relationships. A man should be smart and wealthy, and a woman, young and beautiful. Later, under some other circumstances, their true spiritual values may be revealed. But can you change an adult by telling him what you think about him? Besides, he swears that he is not what he seems to be, that this is a mistake, or a misunderstanding, or promises to change—but he is not going to change. So, what is happening? He either lies or sincerely thinks that he is different. And at least for one of them it becomes clear that their union is a mistake.

But why is it so? Is it possible to avoid it? Can you somehow measure the spiritual values of any soul? You can measure the reaction, logical thinking, communicability, level of excitement—

And one more. Why do people expect love and loyalty from others, but are very little interested in the basic spiritual values of kindness, responsiveness, charity, mercy, generosity, graciousness, honesty, truthfulness, fairness, diligence, and the desire to accept personal responsibility? Why does society not set a limit to greediness, heartlessness, indifference, lie, cruelty, which people would not be allowed to exceed? Is it really less important than, for example, quick reactions and logical thinking?

Of course, it is important. Then why do they not require them from the managers of space projects, from educated, decisive, logical, communicative people with strong willpower, like Jeff?

If an astronaut knew about the spiritual values of the department manager, or of the project manager, he would probably start thinking about it. One is an indifferent career minded individual, the other is a liar, the guys who are assembling the fuel system are nice, but are they honest enough . . . ? I have a family—why should I trust them? And what if they forgot something or did not think about it? I do not play the lottery, I'm not a kamikaze, I am not a guinea pig, sold for experiments.

Nobody calls you a guinea pig. You will be in the memories of descendents as a hero. . . . But for those who breed guinea pigs, you are a guinea pig—because they need them, because they are paid for courage and self-denial, for the trust of the guinea pigs, who risk their lives.

How about a pilot who dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima in August of 1945, who was he? A hero? Did he act on behalf of America, which thought that it was necessary to wipe the cities of the enemy from the surface of Earth? Or did he do it on behalf of the president—the best of the best? Is he a hero or a guinea pig? Guinea-hero?

Before Jeff was appointed a head of the department, Shai could not imagine that people like him could be managers. When it happened Jeff did not hide his intentions from Shai, his career plans or methods, which he was going to use in order to achieve his goal. From a private conversation Shai understood that Jeff appreciated him and he would play an important role in Jeff's scheme. And if he did not agree, then, like his grandmother used to say: “farewell”.

Shai worried very deeply about what he learned. He remembered that he had similar feelings, when, as a child, he saw a cruel street cat fight. For some reason he thought that these were not cats, but people acting like animals, who fought with each other for their place under the sun. And this thought scared him so much as he remembered this accident. Jeff looked like a street cat, and Shai would have to find a way out of this extremely unpleasant and at the same time strangely animalistic situation, for which he happened to be completely unprepared.

Shai started trembling.

What would happen if Jeff was elected President?

Perhaps, there should be a law, which would allow voters to know about the true spiritual values of candidates. So that people like him would never be appointed to high positions or elected President.

What does the passport data tell anyone? Or diplomas and certificates? Even recommendations? Will your boss or coworker refuse to give you a wonderful letters of reference when they lay you off? Are there letters of reference which say that this is a knowledgeable expert, but a sly, untrustworthy and cowardly person? And what if he has the soul of a Ben Laden? Is it impossible?

Society is organized in a hypocritical way and it counts on the trust of simpletons. It is not appropriate to recognize malicious actions as evil, except in a court order . . . or the Nuremberg tribunal. You are either a criminal, imprisoned for your crimes, or a free person with equal rights, or a mentally unstable one. There are no transition stages between a free citizen with equal rights and a criminal, even though it is clear to everybody that there are potential criminals and crooks, from which you can expect anything.

It seemed to Shai that there is no concept in sociology which would place a person in society based on his or her spiritual values, and not on the bank account, knowledge or experience, social skills or diligence—but spiritual qualities. He had never heard of anything like this.

As a result, they send people to space as to war. An astronaut has to believe in the honesty of all the participants of the project, a lucky chance, or a miracle, just like a soldier. The difference is that a helmet and a bullet proof vest would not help in space.

If you don't believe in success, do not go to casino! But here you bet your life—

Shai suddenly remembered what he read some time ago about the Soviet space program, which was developed under the fear of not only layoff, but exile to Gulag camps or even execution. A fear of severe punishment this is probably a powerful instrument of management, and, if not honesty, then responsibility. Their chief designer Korolev was bearing all the weight of it. Based on the stories of those who knew him, he was extremely knowledgeable and was a high-level expert who understood practically every aspect of each project and was interested in the minor details and facts. He did not consider them minor and required the leading experts to take complete responsibility for the results of their activity, consider all possible situation, and consider any accident as a real possibility and actual threat. . . .

Maybe the managers, those who people's lives depend on, should possess special personal qualities? But what kind of qualities?

In his imagination Shai again saw Jeff’s self-satisfied smile. Shai’s imagination added whiskers and fur standing up on the back of his head. Now he looked like a true fighting cat. . . .

With his willpower Shai started to move this smile from his internal screen, and gradually it disappeared with the whiskers and fur, like a smile of the Cheshire cat.

But perfect people, probably, exist only in fairy tales, and only because their story usually ends happily. A kind young man wins his struggle against the evil king, marries his daughter and becomes the new king. Nobody will know if the newly appointed ruler is kind and fair until much later, or if he will raise a worthy successor. Or will he turn into a heartless and dishonest evil person similar to the previous one. Shai was very interested in it when he was a child.

Is it really about the space program? There are accidents such as this with planes too. By the way, when they adopted laws which oblige the airline companies to pay multimillion compensations to the relatives of the deceased, the number of air disasters quickly started to diminish.

But if you can buy hard work and attention, was it possible to avoid the tragedy with Columbia? A cruel question: did they just not pay enough?

God, why lately, if I'm not busy with some urgent task, and my head is free, am I always anxious?

Anxiety . . . anxiety. . . .

Suddenly Shai remembered that during his last medical checkup his mental calmness was in the red. This is probably true.

The Medical Machine is a computer program, which talks to the tested people about different things and besides other things controls the focus level on each topic. Random, wandering thoughts are being registered and the tested person gets negative points. The program asks clarifying questions and tries to determine the dominant thought, which in essence is the cause of anxiety. During the repeated tests the dominants are being compared, and if there is a correlation, in other words—the same troubling thoughts, a person is said to be in the red sector and is placed into the hands of a psychiatrist. And God forbid this happens, because psychiatrist can decommission you.

Of course Shai was not an astronaut, and the requirements for him were less stringent, but still . . . By the way, they did not give him the results of the latest test although it was almost two weeks ago. Everything multiplies this anxiety. . . .

And the fact that it happened exactly like this, caused new anxiety for Shai.

Please, no psychiatrist, no, no, no. Those are know-it-alls with tests for every occasion in life. They claim that they understand any person, every person. Their co-workers train candidates for the presidency, tell them what to say, how to smile, how to mislead the majority of the electorate, how to change their opinion to the politician's advantage. Who would have known the name of the head of the White House, if not for them? Every verdict of our psychiatrists is basically final, because other members of the medical commission are orthopedic surgeons or gynecologists. . . .

Hmmm . . . why didn't they include in the commission, “the jury”, simply normal, rational people with real life experience?

Also the jury were giving a death verdict to the innocent. It is known.

What if they gave the candidate for President into the hands of the psychiatrists without telling who they are. How would they diagnose them . . . ? They would find out that some of them are capable, no, liable to lie and dissemble, somebody deep at heart is a racist, somebody is an alcoholic, adulterer, pedophile, rapist, or an imbecile. . . .

What about Jeff? Before he was appointed to the manager position in our department I did not have any problems with the Medical Machine. Maybe they would have time to introduce my composite material, if not for him. . . .

Shai heard an explosion.

He shuddered and discovered that he was sitting on a tussock under the pine. A supersonic fighter flew above his head, shaking the woods with its sonic boom.

Why are people born on Earth? And who specifically is being born?

Do people randomly come out from the fertilized egg cell . . . ?

Some lost sperm cell collided “head to head” with the egg cell, ready to fall in love with anybody, and a person is born, inherited all of the genetic codes. . . .

Or was it the fastest sperm cell, which reached the egg and gave me life?

Maybe the egg would've liked the other one better . . . ?

What difference does it make?

What do you mean, what difference? If the egg cell fell in love with the other sperm cell, then someone else would have been born, probably. . . .

“Probably not me” or “exactly not me”?

“Most likely not me.”

What does it mean to say, “I would have never been born at all”?

If there is a precisely defined genetic code, then the probability of anyone's combination is so close to zero that he or she would probably not born in a million of years, that's for sure!

But I was born.

Randomly or not randomly? If not randomly, then who am I?

For what reason, for what purpose was I born? In order to design spaceships?

But what for? For the astronauts to fly them?

Why do they need to fly? In order to explore space?

And why do they need to explore it? Well . . . in order to mine minerals on the Moon and other planets. Or in order to watch the movements of enemies and shoot rockets with nuclear warheads. It’s absolutely imperative that our rockets land precisely!

But what for?

What do you mean, what for? The power of the army, military potential, the newest weapons and means of defense—this is not only the pride of our state. . . . If our potential enemies have more powerful weapons, we will die!

Isn't it all nonsense . . . on a large scale?

The leaders of the terrorists are proud of the number of volunteers who are ready to sacrifice their lives in order to take the lives of many people, and of the number of civilians which could be killed by one suicide bomber. Isn't it nonsense?

But even if they irritate our democratic government to the extreme, I do not understand how we are going to kill individual criminals spread among the population with nuclear warheads from space. In a few years terrorists will most likely possess nuclear weapons. . . .

The situation with security is crazy. It reflects the insanity of the Presidents elected by mistake, who do not recognize that the presidents of other countries possess a similar insanity.

Then why should I fuss? For some crazy reason I get up early in the morning five times a week, have a quick breakfast as I hurry off to work, make an effort to focus on some invention, come back home in the evening, frequently very late, have a quick supper and go to bed, so that the next day I can be fresh. And this is every day until my body wears out and gets old. Is this true? Absolutely! But what for?

And what if I do not understand it or do not like it? I'm a free person in a free world. This is how the world is organized, buddy. Leave it if you don't like it . . . or try to change it.

You find it funny? No, strange.

But if I really quit all this futility and leave the game . . . ? Then I will not have money to pay for breakfast, let alone the apartment. Most likely my wife will leave me and I will not be able to have children and raise them.

Or maybe she won't leave me?

No. I studied for a long time, got a good education. I have unique experience, and thank God, a well-paid job. I should not think about it— Not think—this is a good solution.

Are you sure?

What difference does it make to me what they tell me to do and for what? Am I capable of changing anything in this world? I can refuse to work with Jeff, just as somebody would refuse to play the role of a hired killer. But there will be others, and they will do what the customers order—

Than what am I? Am I a creature? A creature without rights? A slave?

But I have rights. What can I do with my rights? They can ultimately silence me. How will my rights help me to avoid it?

‘They can't,’—the trivial thought agreed, ‘but justice will triumph and those who are guilty of your death will be punished!’

‘And I should be happy about it?’ its opponent was surprised. ‘For some reason it doesn't make me happy.’

Maybe I should be happy because I have a right to drop a ballot in a voting booth and influence things this way? This is really funny—

I think that terrorism is also funny. They are doing a bad job, really bad, but they influence things. They capture some hostage, and the whole democratic world goes crazy out of compassion, and rush to discuss the price for his release. So they influenced the outcome of the elections in Spain. We have a huge army and they are thousands. Their expenses are hundreds of thousands of dollars, maybe in part from the millions of our humanitarian aid, and the losses to our economy on September Eleventh by a tiny group of terrorists is hundreds of billions of dollars, depending on how you calculate it.

And how can we fight it? Launch the bombers? Put the nuclear submarines at full alert? Launch an unplanned shuttle. . . . Or with the help of all of the above—export democracy?

But it’s totally inadequate to their unpredictable plans.

If the scale of terrorists’ activity increases, our state will not be able to withstand it. What happens if you throw a large stone in the anthill or pour something poisonous or use some powder into it. . . .

Maybe we should take fingerprints of everyone on the planet.

How would it help? Definitely this is some kind of collective insanity!

Is there really a wise solution, truly wise, which would put this to an end and open an era of peaceful coexistence for everybody?

Is the world fatally insane and all the scenarios of the future are insane?

Where am I? What is the name of this planet? Madhouse? What are you saying? Are you proud of your democracy . . . ? Congratulations! Go on!

‘Don't you think that Earth management is heartless?’ The question came from his depths. ‘Maybe because of a lack of spirituality, or selfishness and a lack of consciousness of people the world looks wild and crazy?’

Oh, God! I think, I am doing the second circle . . . maybe not even a second. . . .

But why am I asking myself these questions? Most people, as far as I understand, do not ask similar questions— Maybe the problem is me? Perhaps, something is really wrong with my head? Hmmm . . . ?

‘Normal people, simply go to work during the week, and rest in the evenings and on weekends,’ the trivial thought reacted cynically. ‘If you admit that Charles Darwin was right, if the world was created by an accident, and everything living in Earth was not intentional . . . that is, you are incidental. Then what do you care about it? You should just enjoy life, every moment, and selfishly attempt to receive maximum pleasure from everything, based on your energy and possibilities, of course—’

Really, if I am a particle of dust, lost in creation, if I am a random case, if I am a moth . . . then, what is the meaning of my life, in my existence full of frustration and danger, which brings traumas, diseases and death? And what about Columbia? What about Columbia . . . there was the Holocaust, and nothing happened. Perhaps, there'll be the end of the world too—

And how about the moral criteria?

What morality can you require from a random person in the incidental world? If everything works by an incident, then nobody owes anything to anybody. This is just a game. That playing teenager will become a president in thirty years . . . and the Third world war will be his last game—

And why did people still not kill each other all off?

This is simple. From ancient times a killer knew that he'll suffer horrible revenge. Why make your life miserable waiting for guaranteed frustrations? And now people live by those ideas, now they are written on paper and called “the laws”. To prove it, the majority cannot survive without police, court, or army . . . who at the same time guard the presidents from the anger of crazy people, those who, for example, do not want to go to war.

Maybe the reason is in man himself?

On a large scale, only fear of death, fear of hunger and disease, and fear of losing accumulated wealth and power, forces people to make laws. This, in turn, limits the rights of the randomly born in this incidental world, and teaches policemen and soldiers to chase people, catch them, torture and kill if they resist. . . .

However, something inside me completely refuses to believe in all this randomness. For example, there are people in the world, who voluntarily take moral obligations. So do they act by accident or by some naive misunderstanding? And is their coming to this world also random? How many people in this world are incapable to harm others because of their own moral principles? How many of them are decent, responsive, kind and merciful? How many people feel harmony in their souls?

My internal voice tells me that harmony cannot exist without a reason. And if so, then my life has a purpose! However, what is it?

To create spaceships? But what for?

Oh, I already asked myself this question—

And if I was born by accident, and there is no higher meaning in my existence . . . then what? I have asked this question many times also. Then you just have to be patient, because in a few dozens years or maybe earlier I will disappear from this world forever— Do I have any doubts about this?

No, I will definitely disappear! But where? Into nowhere?

I don't know, but I will know then. Hmmm. . . .

At the same time my internal voice consoles me. It tells me not about some “elixir of longevity”, which scientists will invent one day to prolong the years of Alzheimer diseases. No, it is about sensing the eternity of existence—the feeling that I am eternal.

This premonition is very short and quick, and every time when I'm trying to take it out and analyze it, it disappears. What is it? A mystery!

A pine cone fell on Shai’s shoulder. He winced and looked at his watch. He hadn't noticed that an hour had passed while he thought about these distressing subjects one after another.

‘You cannot continue like this; you should straighten up. Look at the things in a more simple way—with irony, with humor, otherwise you'll go crazy,’—Prima helped.

At this moment Shai noticed that relaxation, which he achieved by being Shai-Ramon on the orbit, evaporated as if he didn't feel it. He tried to relax with his usual method. It did not work. Then he tried to smile. But the smile would not stay on his face.

Maybe I forgot how to meditate?

‘Oh, Adonai, Creator of all living, Who discovered Abraham one day believing in You—show me mercy and solve my problems, teach and direct me!’ Shai recited the words from his grandmother's prayer.

At the same time Shai sensed a flash of light and was struck: it's the old man!

That strange old man who he met two weeks ago accidentally in this very park. The old man had understood his condition immediately. . . .

That Friday, when he was turning into the unknown alleys, he and Leda moved along for two or three miles and became slightly lost. The benches placed a hundred or two hundred yards apart made the landscape look inhabited. The disk of the sun was quite high. So Shai walked forward and analyzed the thoughts bothering him one after another.

After the next turn Leda rushed forward, and Shai noticed in a distance the outline of a man sitting on a bench in the shade of the huge pine.

Shai continued to walk slowly until he discovered the old man sitting on the edge of the bench. He was small with straight back leaning on the handle of his cane, which was between his knees, with gray hair, a small moustache and goatee. It seemed to Shai that the old man was looking somewhere in front of him and above with absent look. This is how he remembered him.

During his years in the Space Research Center, Shai had met all of the employees, and, due to his incredible visual memory, could quickly recognize newcomers. Shai decided that he was seeing this old man for the first time. He greeted him and wanted to pass by, but an unknown force stopped him. To his own surprise Shai sat down on the other end of the bench. Leda then made a circle and laid down in front of the old man, friendlily wagging her tail.

Shai was looking at the stranger with curiosity. How strange! Leda would never even sit next to a stranger, especially if I am nearby. . . .

It looked like the old man did not hear the greeting. But in a few moments he slowly turned his head and discovered Shai sitting next to him. He slowly nodded to Shai as if bowing and then distractedly looked at his forehead, somewhere between his brows and said: “You are in a condition of anxiety, young man.”

Shai looked at the old man with surprise—“How do you know this? Is this written on my forehead?” he said teasingly, and then was ashamed because he used intonation not typical for him. The straight-forward remark of a stranger subconsciously irritated him, and Prima took advantage of it right away.

The old man slowly nodded as if he bowed and lightly hit the ground with his cane.

“I read a lot about people with supernatural abilities,” this time Shai said in a polite tone. “If you are one of those, maybe you can tell me something else about myself?”

The old half turned to Shai. “If you like . . . your are thirty-three, you've been happily married for three years. You've lived here for almost five years. You have problems at work. You damaged your right leg as a child, landing clumsily while jumping from a cliff. This is your fourth life on Earth. You have a small lipoma on your back, which needs attention. Lately you have . . . wandering anxiety. Should I continue?”

“No, please don't,” Shai was shocked. With a mixed feeling of surprise and distress he examined the old man. How does a stranger know all this? “Do you know what is the subject of my anxiety?”

The old man looked at Shai distractedly from head to waist. “In this case your question does not make sense: anxiety of this kind has a cause, but it doesn't have a subject. Any object or event can become a subject. People frequently confuse the cause and the subject of anxiety—love, anger. . . .”

“So what is the true cause in my case?”

The old man returned to his initial pose. The hair on his head slightly moving in the breeze.

“The cause?” the old man repeated the question. “It is frequently not there, where you are looking for it. Fears, worries and troubles are a part of life for the majority of physically healthy people. When a person does not worry about anything his soul is sleeping as if he does not live.”

“But—” Shai was going to contradict, but Prima flashed in his mind for a moment and disappeared.

“Of course, the anxiety can become extreme,” the old man continued. “But when a person is completely calm and has not a single doubt or worry, isn't he a zombie? This is a different extreme.”

Shai nodded evasively. That means he, Shai, is not a zombie. But the old man looked like he was not in a hurry to answer Shai’s question.

The old man sighed deeply and straightened up leaning on his cane. “The state of mind similar to yours comes from the unknown, from lack of confidence in yourself, in your future, from misunderstanding people around you.”

“Hmmm . . . this is a little vague, not specific—”

“The reasons are always specific, for example, dissatisfaction with your work or family life, fear of becoming unemployed, constant stresses . . .”

Shai looked at the old man with surprise. He was shaking his head. “You want to define it further? Some people do not have peace of mind or a feeling of accomplishment in life because of envy, jealousy, disease, boredom, emptiness and evil actions. Someone strives to own something extremely valuable to him, and loses peace of mind because of it. Everybody has their own problems, young man.”

Shai smiled and disagreed by shaking his head. “I can assure you, that I”m not tortured by jealousy, evilness, or emptiness. I am not a treasure hunter of any kind.”

The old man lowered his cane, which was between his knees and slowly and convincingly opened his arms. “Many things can cause anxiety, which does not have any particular object, just as in your case, when it is difficult to keep your mind in balance for long periods of time, and it wanders by itself. The state of anxiety, sometimes even replaced by fear, will continue until you understand what the problem is.”

“But you can probably sort out and understand any problem—”

“Most people cannot understand the true meaning of what is happening to them and the world, because they look at themselves and the world through the prism of distorted ideas. They misunderstand the world and the events in it, and sometimes do not see light, even at the end of their earthly life. This causes anxiety.”

“Does it mean that there is hope at the end of life? Can it be done earlier?”

The old man smiled.

“So you think that somebody should help me to avoid distorted ideas of the world and sort out my problems?” Shai asked.

The old man disagreed by slowly shaking his head. “In reality all your problems are secondary, young man. And who can sort them out except for yourself, since they are inseparable from your personality, your character and worldview.”

Shai had a surprised look on his face. “So you think that the reason for my anxiety is my worldview?”

“How can you rely on a worldview if it is distorted? How can you try to understand something when you don't have clear idea of the true nature of the world and man?”

Shai thought that this is a good question, and shrugged his shoulders.

“Tell me, do you know what man is?” the old man lightly hit the ground with his cane. “And do you know why people come into this world?”

“You should ask their parents. Science gives clarity and knowledge to people,” Shai smiled timidly, when he remembered his own doubts regarding this question. “And actually medicine and psychology are dealing with knowledge about people.”

The old man looked at Shai with surprise, and Shai immediately remembered about medical machines and psychologists. I need somehow to keep Prima quiet. . . .

“Only not in cases like this,” the old man smiled. “Modern medicine can only determine that you have this or that problem, and it's based on your own words. The doctors will find a name for your mental disease, which is closest to the one described in their reference book. And if you want, they will prescribe you some standard pills from the small assortment, which would dull your perception and lower the most important capabilities of your brain, which is still not understood by science. But is this what you really need?”

Shai, shrugged his shoulders and his face showed his doubts. “So, how can you avoid such conditions?”

“Oh, people find different ways of dealing with similar conditions. There are different ways out of similar life situations. And it depends on the worldview and the criteria people use, and whether a person recognizes what specifically bothers him and causes fear, or avoids thinking about it.”

“And so what are those ways?”

“If you are interested . . . ,” the old man turned his head to Shai.

Shai nodded.

“These are the main ones . . . ,” the old man drew a short line with the tip of his cane. “Way one—the way of being obedient to people and circumstances that create fears.”

Shai looked at the old man with a confused expression.

“A person denies the problem and suppresses the worries caused by it. This is a pagan way, the way for whom there is only this material world, with its material values and treasures, sensual pleasures and a lot of gods. Everybody, who has power over a person plays this role. Unfortunately,” the old man shook his head, “frequently this way is full of evil actions and human sacrifice.”

‘Obey Jeff?’—Shai thought. ‘He wants exactly this. And then I will turn into a slave, an intellectual robot, and he will become a successful scientists and inventor, idol or god, who I am supposed to worship and pray to, and constantly sacrifice myself to.’

The old man drew another line. “The second way is the way of being lost—lost in inactivity, self criticism, despair and depression. Some people, who recognize only the material world, end up on this way. But they do not want to persuade ‘gods’ to side with them . . . or they are unable to.”

The old man focused his eyes on Shai’s forehead between his eyes. “Most of them become patients of certain clinics.”

‘This looks like the path that I have already walked down’—Shai thought anxiously.

“Both—the first and the second paths are varieties of escape from problems, denial of yourself and your predestination in this world,” the old man continued.

‘I do not want to escape,’—Shai thought, ‘I should find a solution. After all, solving problems is my profession . . . ,’ Shai loved this thought.

The old man drew another line. “The third way is cherished by the Creator. This is the way of knowledge,” he said slowly.

“Scientific knowledge?”

The old man smiled. “This is a way of knowledge about two worlds—the lower world, the material, and the higher world, the spiritual.”

‘Sounds interesting,’ Shai thought.

“This way removes all fears,” the old man continued, “because by walking it a man receives the answers to the main questions: ‘Who he is?’ ‘Why does he live on Earth?’ and ‘What is the purpose of his existence?’ Someone who steps on this way actively tries to accomplish his mission. And the higher he puts his destiny and spiritual values, the less he suffers from worries, fears, and anxiety about possible failures.”

“I think I did not deny myself or my destiny,” Shai thought. “Actually, what is it about?”

“This is interesting,” Shai said. “But worries and troubles are part of reality, which touches almost all people on the planet. Millions of psychologists are helping people in connection with similar problems.”

The old man disagreed, shaking his head in denial. “There is no anxiety in the world from the Creator because harmony reigns there. Anxiety was started by the descendents of Adam, who set unnatural and wrong goals in life. By ignoring the harmony of creation and committing sins and crimes they generate fear in themselves and others. They try to prove with misfortunes and troubles that it is indeed scary to live in this world. Although all the horror and fear comes from themselves, and is caused by their actions.”

“Hmmm . . . ?” the subject of the conversation was moving in a direction that Shai liked.

“You should only be afraid of sin, young man. A person, who feels the Creator in his soul, follows His commandments and supports harmony in himself and in the world as much as he can, has nothing to fear.”

“How about natural disasters, hunger, disease, unemployment, theft, rape, terrorism? This is reality—”

“This became a reality because people arrogantly ignore the harmony of the creation. In a society which is poorly organized, fear became not only a reality but one of the driving forces of progress. It is purposely cultivated and sold at market price.”

“Sell fear . . . at market price?” Shai was shocked.

“The price is quite high, because demand is high” the old man nodded.

“You must be joking. . . .”

The old man, slowly spread his arms, said, “see for yourself. A man is surrounded by advertisements for everything. Things he needs, things he doesn't need, harmful things, you can say that he is submerged in them. Their skillful and contradictory statements irritate, but in the end they convince you that you are incapable of deciding what is good for you and what is bad. You gradually lose confidence and this causes anxiety. When you have to make a choice, even one not very serious, you are lost and look around for advice. An army of advisers rush to your aid. They all attempt to push each other aside while they tell you what is good for your health, what clothes and hairstyle is in fashion, what medicine you need to treat your diseases, including anxiety, what music you have to listen, who to vote for in the approaching elections, and so on.”

Shai got a bewildered expression on his face. “Actually I decide myself . . . what and how to do things and what to buy.”

“You are deeply mistaken by thinking that you decided yourself what to become, how to live and what to buy. For the majority of entrepreneurs you are nothing but slightly opened wallets without minds of their own, wallets whose content replenish themselves at a certain speed. Purposeful manipulation of your consciousness is a key to your wallet, and not only it. By purchasing goods and service that you do not need or by choosing a wrong person to be President, which happens in most cases, you are paying exclusively for your lack of self-confidence and fear. In other words, you are redeeming your fear. Yourself.”

“I myself redeem my fear?” Shai asked uncertainly.

“There is nothing new in this statement; this is how the society is organized! This is a paid service, and every year you pay more for your fear. This is why, in spite of technological progress many vital problems of mankind go without a solution and get worse, threatening its existence.”

“So, I redeem my fear from the police, which protect me?”

“Of course, the police sell you your own anxiety and fear, and you obediently pay taxes and fines, and then you expect it to put everything in order. The police could have sold their problems and eliminate crime, just like you solve your problems, if the level of moral consciousness of citizens was taken into account in the organization of society. But then there would be no need for the police. In order for this not to happen, the laws make corrections, giving unconscious citizens new democratic opportunities to commit crimes. The judicial structures are given rights and the technical means to make personal lives of citizens more transparent for those who are interested. As a result, criminals are still around, and the police are busy. And you obediently pay with your indifference without thinking that at any moment you could end up in court persecuted and punished. And this also should make you anxious.”

“But the laws of society are formulated by authorities, power . . . ,” Shai shrugged his shoulders.

“Power, of course, has a broader view than the police. Out of strong fears for their own future and trying to hide their incompetence, the authorities constantly scare citizens with new powerful external enemies, and force you to spend huge amounts of money to fight them. You pay for the fear created by the authorities with taxes, again under the fear of punishment, and then turn around and entrust the lives of your children to these same fear mongers. The children, as young adults, will be sent somewhere to kill somebody because of the anxious thoughtlessness of the whole system, which is a direct result of misunderstanding the world and true causes of harmony and disharmony in it.”

Shai looked at the old man distrustfully. “This is a very gloomy picture. You probably should fear diseases and death. . . .”

“The Vatican supports your fear of death and of demons in hell, along with many other workers of different confessions, who breed a lack of confidence and purposely focus you on worries, in exchange for temporary peace after a session of confession.”

“But this is a personal thing of the believers. Somebody for example, believes the news reporters—”

The old man shook his head. “Yes, mass media supports your fears, and creates new ones too. Your personality, which worries and is suppressed by fears, tries to survive and chooses to conform, which suits those who are above you and your wallet. By paying this high price for fears you also deprive many others who live on this planet, because money spent on unnecessary goods and services, including weapons and salaries of those who create them, and also army, police, priests of temples of different gods and you name it . . . could have been turned into something really useful for people.”

“But how?” Shai's eyes opened widely.

“Oh!” the old man suddenly laughed, “that's another story, and a long one too.”

The old man laughed quietly, his chuckling spilled around like beads. It was amusing, sincere, and contagious, so Shai could hardly keep himself from laughing. However, the old man calmed down as unexpectedly as he had started laughing.

Shai remembered the association of the planet of people with asylum.

“If you analyze the history of mankind from the viewpoint of the spiritual values of their main players, it may look like a collection of stories of their psychiatric diseases and the bloody complications caused by them. You will probably ask: 'why so?'”, the old man looked straight at Shai’s eyes. “But in order to give an answer to this question, first, you should understand what a man is and why he is here!”

Shai thought for a moment and asked: “So what does a person who chooses the third way do in a poorly organized society?”

The old man circled the first two lines and crossed them. “Those who know about the Creator and the higher purpose of existence do not set unrealistic goals for themselves. For example, such a man would not attempt to ensure for himself or for others success, health and wealth at any price—this generally causes anxiety and worries. He does not spend this life trying to identify the mistakes and find faults in the actions of others. He knows people will always make mistakes—and he does not idealize them. He does not have jealousy, or take offense easily, or despair in his soul. He is not making greedy and aggressive plans. Instead he focuses on concrete actions, which he considers important and which do not harm other people, and also on kind charitable actions and donations to those who need them, and, of course, on spiritual development. He learns his entire life. His higher goals are always achievable, and this gives him satisfaction and peace”, the old man smiled. “Such a man is open to the world, shares his plans and problems with those around him, and does not feel bad about asking for an advice. But when he makes a decision himself, he accepts full responsibility for that decision. He does not postpone actions, repentance or apologies for later, because life goes, and opportunities may be lost. Positive thinking dominates his mind: he thinks about good, relies on the Creator's help and knows that everything will be all right. And as I see, you are troubled by thoughts about something bad. . . .”

“This is true,” Shai smiled sadly. “But can simple physical discomfort or, for example, hormonal changes which influence the center of fear in the brain, be a reason of such a state? Or perhaps a plug in one of the energy channels in the body?”

The old man laughed quietly again. “Now you're looking for a way to shift responsibility, so you will not have to change your own thoughts and actions.”

Intimidated, Shai shrugged his shoulders.

“Let me ask you then, anxious sir, where were you thirty-five years ago?”

“Truly, I don't know,” Shai smiled.

“And where will you be for example in one hundred twenty years?”

Shai shrugged his shoulders and pointed to the earth.

The old man disagreed by shaking his head. “But if you do not know where and why you came in this world and where you are going, then there is a natural question: 'what are you worrying about?'”

Shai looked lost.

“Do not feel intimidated, your attitude is quite typical for a man of the fourth life,” the old man shook his head. “What can you say about the people of first lives . . . about mankind?”

“People of first lives . . . ?”

The old man nodded slowly. “Do you realize what the history of mankind is?”

Shai looked uncertainly at the old man and said: “Historical science describes most important events in lives of people inhabited Earth in a chronological order.”

“I ask you not about science, which does not exist, and not about any area of knowledge which has questionable value, but what was and what is history of mankind in reality?”

Shai shrugged his shoulders, although he did not consider history a science as well.

The face of the old man showed surprise at Shai’s misunderstanding and he made a convincing gesture with his arms. “The history of mankind is a sad record of overcoming anxiety about unimportant things—completely not what has true value or poses danger to a man, and overcoming by lie, deception, threatening and killing.”

Shai did not understand what the old man meant, and shook his head. “I just assumed that I have a plug in one of the channels. . . .”

“Look,” the old man smiled, “everything in a man is interconnected, and plugs which violate harmony in the body can appear from disharmony of thoughts or actions, or at somebody's evil will. You can also affect the fear center in the brain physically or chemically, as well as other centers. But this is a totally different topic, different aspect of our existence in one of the two worlds—the earthly, material, which is full of unfairness, indifference and cruelty, the kingdom which lacks spirituality and interwoven with thinnest threads of the Heavenly world.”

The old man stopped talking for a moment and focused his eyes on Shai's chest. “By the way, young man, you really have a plug”, and the old man mumbled the name of the channel and a point where he sees a plug.”

“See!” Shai was pleased. Several years ago he was interested in Eastern healing methods, learned something about energy channels and plugs in them, as well as chakras and thin bodies. So he could even discuss this topic competently. However he did not think that you can simply see it, and never met a person who had such capabilities, “In this case, what can you tell about the state of my chakras?”

The old man turned his head, smiled and looked Shai from head to toe in a distracted way. “Your chakras are surprisingly good, young man. Although . . . over here,” the old man pointed with his finger, “not everything is in harmony. And this is an additional proof of your condition. But not a cause—”

“The surgeons offer to cut things off that you don't need. Therapists offer pills. If you listen to neurologists, everything is caused by nerves,” Shai smiled. “But Eastern medicine states that the primary reason of all is imbalance which takes place in chakras and channels, and this prevents normal circulation of energy in the body. Reflex therapy—this is the medicine of the future! I think so.”

The old man slowly moved his open palm against the place which he pointed at and nodded. “Due to his imperfection a man gets nervous for different reasons. He worries and gets irritated, angry, jealous . . . the harmony in his nervous system loses its balance, the internal organs get insufficient or excessive energy, health deteriorates, immunity weakens, and he gets diseases which have medical names. However, what doctors find that is wrong with you is not a cause but a consequence.”

“But surgeons, and therapist, and reflex therapists help somebody—”

The old man slowly nodded. “A surgeon will gladly cut you, open and take something out of you or put in you something taken from a corpse, but he would not look for a true reason—this is not part of his functions. A therapist based on the tests will make several clever guesses about a cause—wrong nutrition, sedentary lifestyle or too much movement . . . and will try to change the biochemistry of blood, urine or mucus with pills or injections. Reflex therapists who you rely on as panaceas find a cause in the imbalance of energy distribution in the channels and attempt to affect the points they know and it improves the condition. . . .”

The old man has repeated the movement with his palm and continued talking, “But since this picture is a result, imbalance will occur again—”

Shai felt how his body got relaxed and remembered the psychologists. “So do you think, only a psychiatrist or psychoanalyst can help me?”

“Psychiatrists will confidently diagnose you, and will try to calm you down by verbal suggestion, with pills or shots, which weaken your will and your mind. Just like a priest he will tell you a legend about how with your ambitions and desire to win or on the contrary fears you should take reality, in order to survive in this cruel world, where the majority of people want the same. Psychoanalyst will ask you many detailed questions, trying to pull old events and feelings out of your memory, hoping to find a problem there. But these are just consequences— All of them can get by without understanding what a man actually is, since the soul is not discovered by science. They consider the ego a product of the brain activity, just like the entire psychic sphere. They do not mention such fundamental realities of human life as unfairness, lies, deception, criminal intentions and the desires to commit them. And even more so, they never remember about the Commandments. They do not say a word about sin. They do not appeal to the spiritual world, where the roots are.”

“Hmmm . . . so you think that medicine is helpless?”

“Medicine is helpless against most diseases except for consequences of some of them, which are called infectious or surgical. Diseases are not predestined to man from above. They are the natural result of man's evil thoughts, actions and sinful way of life.”

Shai smiled thoughtfully. “So who or what will help an anxious person . . . ?”

“Only knowledge will help people to heal—knowledge of what a man actually is. A person, who parted with illusions and learned about eternal life and the purpose of earthly ways, who has no reasons for anxiety, for jealousy or anger, he will not get sick, when others are, he will continue living eternal life, filled with meaning. The Light of Truth is capable to heal most people on the planet and make them happy, without depriving them of the freedom of will or mind, because the Creator Almighty will be with them!” the old man pointed his cane at the sky, then put it down and stopped talking.

Shai first looked at the sky, then at the old man. He did not discover any new associations in his thoughts but suddenly remembered that the old man does not know him and he sees the old man for the first time. However he gave him his age accurately—thirty-three years. And really in a month it will be five years since he worked in the Center. And he's been married for three years. . . . And only he and his wife, Iris, knew about the lipoma on his back.

‘And my fourth life on Earth . . . what did he mean?’ Shai thought.

Loud barking returned Shai to reality, and he discovered that he was sitting on a tussock under the pine.

Leda, who was napping by his feet just recently, was standing across from him, stretching her nose towards him, and impatiently stepping from one foot to another. Sticky saliva was hanging from her chin, almost dripping on Shai's pants.

Shai took a napkin from his pocket and wiped the dog’s muzzle.

This old man! And he remembered how the old man got up, bowed and introduced himself—his name sounded like “Nun”, and said that he could be found on this bench. And then he slowly walked towards the forest swaying from side to side.

At the time Shai felt as if he was under hypnosis and felt deep relaxation. When he returned to his usual state and looked in the direction where the old man went, he was already gone. And Shai thought that he didn't even introduce himself to the old man.

I need to meet him—the sooner the better!

That means in a week, next Friday. . . .

But I would like to do it today, now!

Shai looked at the watch. It was about two and a half hours before dark. Besides, Iris should stay late at work. So, he had at least three hours. Shai quickly got up, massaged his lower back with his hands and energetically started walking, limping slightly. Leda was making high jumps or was pressing herself to the ground. This is how she was showing her joy. But why is she so happy? What are you happy about, Leda?

* * *

Shai lived an ordinary life of a wealthy person, a young intellectual, the citizen of a powerful country. He could not foresee the consequences of each of his steps or actions, even more so such an ordinary thing as the accidental meeting with a stranger. However, he was driven by a mysterious force and was quickly walking towards the strange old man without doubts and hesitation, even though the meeting wasn't set. Shai could hardly imagine that these new steps could be the beginning of a long journey, which would completely change his life and influence the lives of many people on the planet.

 

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