Companion to novel Pouring the Cup, published October 2013
The Covenants of the People of Bona Dea
Everyone shall have the Free Will to believe as they wish to believe.
Humans shall not kill humans.
Everyone shall live in Harmony with the World.
Everyone shall be fed, clothed and housed.
Everyone shall receive medical care as necessary.
Everyone is expected to perform service for the good of the community.
These are the overarching guidelines of a society that has eliminated poverty, homelessness, and starvation. They view each other and themselves as integral parts of reality, and that without each of them, there would be no future for their race. They enter into these covenants with each other as a promise to strengthen their society through supporting each other. Their communities are small and tight-knit, and open and welcoming to visitors. They volunteer to plant fields, mend shingles, build homes, and process recycling. They give their children and their elders respect in equal measure. They acknowledge that the wilderness surrounding them existed long before their ancestors took to the stars, and they give it the respect it deserves, living by simple, mindful means.
Growing up on Bona Dea, you learn the names of your neighbors and spend time with them, cook them dinner, help them in their gardens, and play games with their children. You are taught music and dancing, reading and storytelling, and you learn the ancient history of Old Earth and why you cannot lay waste to the planet you live on. When you are seventeen, you volunteer to travel across the continent repairing roads, fishing on boats, digging foundations, running documents, printing books, and cleaning up after natural disasters. For two years, you sample the occupations that are necessary and vital to maintaining your way of life. When you find your motivation, you enter an internship and learn the art. You may fall in love with whomever you wish without discrimination. If a woman wants to have children, she is given every opportunity to raise that child at home. If you become feebled by age or accident, you are cared for without question by someone you know as a friend.
WHY DID I WRITE THESE COVENANTS?
Most of all, I wanted to experiment with letting human beings learn to be as good to one another as they can possibly be, and that they all agree to do so for each others’ benefit. When I started writing the stories for Pouring the Cup, I looked into the distant future hopeful that we would not fall into any of the dystopic realities that dominate the fictional landscape. Each of the covenants arose from a short story that explored a relevant topic, whether set on my fictional world or on Earth. My experiences with people have shown me that we can divert the seemingly unwinding path towards our ultimate destruction. We are not destined for complete extinction.
Everyday that I live in this reality, I watch people ignore each other. We all live in our own bubbles now, hesitant to offer assistance to a roadside emergency for fear of our lives since every news station every day reports a crime of one human against another. We are afraid of each other and what we’re capable of. We are also extremely competitive, motivated by money or the lack thereof and trying to get ahead in life. Even in the grocery store, the mentality is everyone for themselves. Excuse me is a forgotten term, or one that has been corrupted by sarcasm, and means little these days. No one smiles, and even I fall into expecting the worst from those around me rather than the best.
We are addicts of convenience. We waste resources by the ton, throwing away spent products of plastic, metal, and chemicals. So many items are made so cheaply and poorly now that we expect them to break and run off to buy another.
And at the same time, I know we are capable of taking care of each other. People every where demonstrate this everyday as well. You see them everyday without realizing it, the ones who live within there means and try to make the life of a few people better without a desire for attention, whether they share the vegetables from their garden with a friend or they pass on a selection of baby clothes to a stranger or offer to help an elder cultivate her flower bed.
In my own life, I try to do as much as I can within my budget and means. We recycle every possible scrap the recyclers will take curbside, and what doesn’t go curbside gets a special trip to a drop off every few months. I reuse containers. I practice consideration and polite language, with please and thank you and pardon me issuing forth as much as possible. I offer my place in line to an elderly couple in a quick service restaurant. When I see an accident, I stop, call the authorities, and if possible to do so safely, check on the victims. I wish I could do more and have less to get by from day-to-day. Our fast-paced lives are stressful and harmful.
I often struggle conceptually with the mixed bag of socially-structured institutions and free-market economy that makes up the American society. Fire and Police services are available for everyone and anyone in need. We pay taxes to support these services. Schools are supported by taxes as well, but there is a constant battle for schools to receive adequate funds to educate our children to the fullest. Sometimes the argument arises that, if one does not have children, why should they pay taxes for schools? Consider the fact that one day, those students will be your nurses, doctors, plumbers, lawyers, firemen, and fill the thousands of services you rely on everyday. I overheard a woman speaking to another about her “lucrative position” with a test preparation company where, and I quote her words “we charge a great deal for our services and they are very important because they help these students get into college.” Why aren’t we putting enough money into our schools to ensure that children get the teaching assistance they need? We are leaving many to fall behind. If we provided more money to education, wouldn’t we spend less on services for the working poor?
Human beings are not perfect creatures by any means. Not a single one of us. We each have our selfish moments, and I believe we need to have one once in a while or we’ll never succeed at surviving. A little consideration goes a great distance in allowing others to feel useful and not discarded.
WHAT I LEARNED ABOUT MYSELF WRITING THIS STORY
Writing fiction is an opportunity to experiment not only with the world outside of yourself, but also with the emotions, thoughts, and principles that you hold within yourself. Each of us moves throughout our lives shaped by the words and actions of others, especially in our digital world where politicians, celebrities, and other public figures have become the focus of reality. We are easily swept up into the mainline thinking of the day, willing to allow someone else to do the thinking for us if it enables us to avoid effort and pain.
Living in the Midwestern Bible Belt, I was raised under the guise of Christian values, attending Sunday School and church services, singing in the church choir, and participating in the annual pageants of the holidays. Yet, my parents were not overtly religious. These weekly rituals were more of a social necessity, rather than a religious one. Eventually, I fell out of believing in any of it, making way for logic and experience to lead my conscience. What I learned through writing this story is that I’m a humanist at heart, a person who believes in reason, curiosity in science, and that the natural world provides human fulfillment. Human beings are in control of themselves and are not under predestination as declared by any being in the sky or below the earth.*
Some of what I describe in this society could be categorized as socialist, in that the community as a whole is vested in all of that which is man-made and that they have the ultimate say in how resources are distributed and who lives where. However, the truth is that the people of Bona Dea understand that they don’t own any of the land, sky, or sea. The planet owns all of this and has the option to take it all back at any time. The people do not control the planet, but live in Harmony with the World to the best of their abilities. They create those things which make life more comfortable, such as houses, solar vehicles, crop fields, and the like. They also create those things which allow for expression, such as fiction, music, art, and performances. They share their creations willingly with each other for the betterment of the whole.
It was not until after I wrote and published Pouring the Cup that I was exposed to a piece of literature entitled Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. While Gilman’s work focuses on a version of feminism by creating a country inhabited entirely by women and comparing it to the male-centric attitudes of the English culture in the early 1900s, the most interesting part of the story for me was that fact that the women believed that education was the highest institution. Teachers are held in the highest veneration. They came to understand over the centuries that if they did not teach their daughters, there would be no future and certainly no progress.
Can we, as a singular race of human beings, shift our social structure to lift up our brothers and sisters instead of tearing them down? Can we learn to provide for everyone equally, teach everyone equally, and appreciate the differences that provide a wealth of diversity?
*NOTE: Thank you for reading this article. I appreciate your feedback. However, if your sole purpose for posting a comment is to belittle me for my beliefs or attack me purely out of spite, I ask that you keep it to yourself.