City of Glass

© Charles E. Corry - 1962, 1999


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for Robert Graettinger

I. Entrance Into the City

Come my lady, for I've a place to show you where our dreams can be real and freedom has meaning.

Come my lady, for I haven't dared take you here before because I, and others of this City, are here only in peace. We, here, must fear the world as you know it. For in its greed and young race hatred it could destroy us.

Enough of talk and explanation for now... let us go on and I will tell you of our City as we walk.

The forest is so beautiful this dawn and its floor so like a deep carpet. Those sudden granite outcrops make me want to climb them, jumping and running.

Come lets run! You laugh so prettily. Wait! You can see the first of the City from here. There, see the crystal glitter in among the forest from the sun's first light.

No, I'm not cold; it was just the thrill that passed through me when you took my hand, and you are so lovely to look on. The cathedral forest is only background to your beauty, yet it compliments you so well.

Lets hurry! I want to be there before the sun is well up, for the dawn and our City become each other as your blown hair becomes the wind.


II. The Structures


See, there before you is the first structure of the City.

Are you surprised you could hardly see it until you were upon it? Don't be, for our first code is that all structures must fit and compliment their setting. In building we try not disturb the ecological balance of our surroundings.

There, see the three deer and a fawn who seem so brave? We do not make pets of them, but they are very friendly. They often come and watch us work, with their chipmunk companions. That buck with the odd star on his forehead; often in the past we have run and leaped together, playing, when he was a fawn. I understand that Amon, in his high mountain structure, walks among the shy mountain sheep as one of them.

Yes, we hunt them in the fall for food, but they know it is the Way, and are wary then. We, they and us, make almost a game of it. They know they have nothing to fear at other times, so we exist in close harmony.

No, it is not cruel, for everyone must eat. If we, and their other predators, did not kill the weak and the unwary then truly cruel starvation would. But I stray, for I want to tell you more of our City; though a story of our structures must include the way we inhabit them. All our lives here are led as simply and directly as possible. Each person and factory must account for their own waste, and provide for their own water and food, whether it be by trade or production.

Why? This encourages individual development in many fields, which indirectly leads to a greater knowledge of one's chosen field, since all nature is related and interacts. Also, it goes in keeping with our second code, which is this: No family, that we limit to five for reasons I'll explain, may occupy less than one hectare, and usually they have more. As I said before, each structure must blend in with the surrounding. In order to accomplish that, any factory that employs up to one hundred people must be located on at least five hectares. A factory employing more than one hundred, but less than a thousand must be located on at least twenty hectares. Any factory employing more than a thousand people requires at least one hundred hectares. Since, for energy efficiency as well as esthetics, our buildings are built into the earth or rock as far as practical, our industry is almost invisible. Oh, we require iron and steel and other minerals, as well as energy to mine and smelt them, and to heat and light our homes. But it is surprising how well such usually noisy and dirty industries can be designed to fit into the natural environment. Even where the environment must be disturbed, for example when mining, it is astounding how fast the land recovers with a little help and foresight.

We don't have very large industries here, partly because of our code of doing for ourselves as much as possible, and partly because our independence leads us naturally towards research and experimentation. The larger companies have difficulty holding their people because the real research opportunities are among the smaller companies, which the entrepreneurs among us are continually starting.

Of course, to exist, we have to occasionally make exceptions to our code, but the violators agree to certain compensation. Rock quarries are converted to amphitheaters or covered to make underground factories. Sand and gravel pits make lovely lakes.

What about other wastes? We let the individuals it offends take whatever retaliatory action they deem appropriate. The strong meeting the strong on equal terms most often come up with a fair agreement.

Idealistic! Yes, we are, but purposefully. We are able to maintain it by realizing that men are predators, and by limiting our population to our available land and food supplies. That is why no person may bear or sire more than three children, and we encourage less in order to be able to absorb newcomers without undue stress.

Actually, our economy is extremely complicated, as any trading economy must necessarily be, but it is based on personal honesty, and enforced only by personal strength. No, I don't mean strength in the limited physical sense, but in the broadest scope of the power of an intelligent individual.

See, there on the cliff side, that is Amon's home glittering in the sunlight like a diamond on velvet. The corner posts are silver-plated steel, dark recessed, and glass is used in all the available openings. It does make an interesting pattern but it is better seen from the inside. The house is cut into a granite outcropping on the top of the cliff and goes down for three levels.

Yes, the view of the valley is beautiful, and Amon has done a wondrous job of building here. But come, the day goes by so fast, and I want to spend the afternoon alone with you at my home.

Where is it? Come to the window again and I'll show you. See the waterfall there and the small canyon below it. No, you can't see the house itself, do you forget that all buildings here must blend in? It is at the head of the canyon there and the ferny jungle created by the waterfall makes an enjoyable front terrace view. Though it is less dramatic than Amon's, I enjoy it as much. But enough of words, let us bid Amon adieu and go there.


III. Dance Before the Mirrors


If you stay, you'll surely have to learn to walk much more. Of course we are all accustomed to it but I would often swear that everyone here was born a mountain goat. The children often scramble over places where I would not go without being roped and using pitons. Yet we have very few cases of them falling with any serious injuries. Perhaps it is the result of our practice of never forbidding the children the right to attempt anything, though they are severely punished if their actions injure anyone else, or others property.

We all take turns teaching at school for three months, so their views are not bogged down by a single ideology. We also try to arrange the classes so that we teach subjects we are comparatively unfamiliar with, so that both the instructor and students learn. Also, that way we do not impose our personal biases on the students in our pet subjects.

No, it is not wasteful of our talents, though it might seem so, because all students who become interested in a field are invited to join in the research going on in that subject. Believe me, if you want to take a rough course, try jumping into a research lab cold. But you learn, and faster than any other method. Of course the students are required to complete certain basic courses before they can join the research labs. Oh, another thing, everyone is encouraged to work at some time in three or more labs on widely different subjects, though we expect each student to spend at least six months in each lab, and to give at least a months notice before leaving so as not to interrupt the work.

This is such a lovely trail through this tiny canyon. The spray from the waterfall supports the ferns and lush foliage and makes a beautiful perpetual rainbow at the head of the valley. The wind usually keeps any fog from accumulating, so it is enjoyable here. Mildew and fungus could be a problem but our labs have found methods of controlling that.

But stop... from here you can see my home. There, beneath the ledge beside the waterfall. See, the mirror glitter of the glass. Yes, it is beautiful, but its beauty pales beside your radiance, or the way you turned and suddenly kissed me then.

Come, my excited, light-footed fawn, let us go up to it now. I have much for you to see and hear.

Go in, we have no locks on doors here.

Why have I so many mirrors and glass? Because of the sense of freedom and spaciousness they give. I don't like small, closed buildings.

Here, shed your clothing and let us shower beneath the fall. I'll put some music on.

I thought you'd enjoy this. Strange, the sound of drums, the first music, and yet its poly-timbered harmonies remain as exciting as ever.

No, I am not embarrassed by your dancing. You are so gently beautiful when you have shed your civilized masks. Can you see the magic images of yourself whirling in the mirrors? The sun flashes in your wet hair so becomingly.

Ha — you are so beautiful in your desire...

Lay quietly and let me kiss you for a moment. Your body is so soft to caress and your trembling excites me so. Your hands passing over me are so gentle, yet so demanding. My whimpering, and yours, is not from pain. Making love to you is like creating the universe.

Let us lie quiet. The afternoon is so drowsy, and so am I with your head on my shoulder, your breast against mine... our thighs intertwined.

Come, wake my darling. Your shoulder, ear, and lips are as sweet as honey, and as soft to kiss as you sleep, but twilight steals upon us. Though it rents the fabric of my being, we must leave.


IV. Reflections


Would that it were possible to walk slowly forever through the hushed twilight forest holding your hand, as now.

Yes, my darling, our City is beautiful, but it is not perfect. I hope it never becomes so, for life without challenge would be terribly dull.

What problems do we have? Well probably our biggest problem is finding a means of non-disruptive transportation. We're experimenting with antigravity but mobile power in a usably small package is holding the project up. On a world scale, we face eradication by overpopulation and its accompanying wars and resource depletion. These world problems are the reason many of us live on the outside. Our problems here require much time and work, but it is a labor done with love, and we will undoubtedly seek the stars and alien races even before we have brought overall literacy to this planet.

Let me be silent though, to enjoy you and the twilight. Words express so little after love.

Look back there. This is where we first saw the City this morning, and will be for now, our last. Few lights mark it or mar the immensity of the sky. It is not surprising that even in winter we sleep out often under a blanket of stars.

Why do I go back? What can I accomplish in the outside world? I feel, and others of our City agree with me, that poets are probably the best sociologists and psychologists if their ideas can be tempered and the excessive idealism filtered. Poets have a deep and compassionate insight into human problems and frailties. So the people of the City use me, and need me, in this capacity, even as I use the products of their technological developments in other fields in the same manner.

But let us turn and leave, for it is difficult to make a long delayed move, and I must spend some years still apart from this life of my desire.

You are more than welcome to come and stay here for short visits, or even live here, if you wish. Oh, and I must warn you, you have been hypnotized and a block inserted so that you may not tell any 'outsider' of our City without permission. Hypno-gas injected under high pressure. Just one of our defense mechanisms. You must forgive us, but it is a necessity.

So farewell, City of Glass. Until we may meet again, live in continued peace and gentleness.

Here, take my hand, there is the car ahead of us.



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