“I want to thank you all for coming to this special Overseer’s Coven. I have some very special news,” the speaker smiled at the announcement.
“What is it, Cecelia?” one of the overseers gathered asked.
“Director Joshua informs me that the Primate will be coming here to Schauungtown as part of his annual pilgrimage this year.
The overseers in the circle all smiled.
“That is good news, Sibling Cecelia."
“Yes, Schauungtown is being honored for its efforts in implementing the Covenant of Universal Community. As part of the celebration, the Primate will be coming before our branch of the Toleration Fellowship.”
“Will Director Joshua be accompanying the Primate?”
“Probably not.” However, Sibling Cecelia assured her fellow Overseers, “Having the Primate visit our branch of the Toleration Fellowship will be quite an occasion to remember and no doubt be an herstoric day for our Community.”
The other Overseers gathered in the coven had to agree. Though they would have been more thrilled to be paid a visit by Director Joshua, each of them was aware of what an honor it would be for the Primate to visit their Residential Association. For as the holder of the holder of the highest office in the Toleration Fellowship, apart from Director Joshua, the Primate was seen as the foremost embodiment of the principles expressed in the Covenant of Universal Community.
Though the Primate symbolized everything the Toleration Fellowship stood for, he was somewhat idiosyncratic and only left his sanctum several times a year to grace with his presence a number of select Residential Associations. The Overseers wanted everything to meet the regulations promulgated for the visit of a dignitary of the Primate’s status.
Sibling Cecelia basked in the power that flowed to her as the one charged with the responsibility of arranging the accommodations of a dignitary more powerful still. “I want things to go smoothly and to impress the Primate that this Community and those in it know their place in the All.”
One of the other Overseers spoke up. “What about the incident a while back when subversive literature was found on one of the pews. A Bible or something the other I think it was called.”
Another Overseer clarified, “The Bible Peddler incident, you mean?”
The piercing above Cecelia’s eyebrow began to jingle as she recalled her outburst upon finding the text in question defiling the tranquility of her sanctuary. Though her response was understandable in light of what she knew that seemingly innocent publication represented, her little fit betrayed to those gathered how far she really was deep down from achieving the detached neutrality of contemplative nondifferentiation available to those embracing the unity of All. It seemed the Sibling’s appearance blurring the distinctions between male and female was about as far as Cecelia had gotten along the path to cosmic harmony.
Cecelia centered her energies by momentarily mediating on the Paradoxical Nothingness of the All, of how the All was Everything yet how to even classify it as such was to also diminish it since the All was so much more than the term used to describe what feeble minds could comprehend of the concept yet infinitely less tangible and ephemeral.
Cecelia replied, “Despite the divisive incident undermining Community unity, no more subversive literature was been found within the walls of the Toleration Fellowship; and the individual though responsible, though we have not yet identified him, has not returned since his initial visit.”
Catherine interjected, “But I have seen him sauntering about the Community at least twice since then.”
Cecelia bit her tongue. It would not have been in the interest of Community harmony for her to quarrel in the Overseer’s Coven with her own domestic partner.
Sometimes Cecelia wished Catherine was not so involved with the activities of the Toleration Fellowship. For even though she was attracted to Catherine as her life companion, there was just too much competition between them, as use to be said in Before when such connubial arrangements were gender based in their foundation, for any one of them to “wear the pants” in their domestic collective.
Things would be so much more pleasant between them, Cecelia thought, if Catherine just let Cecelia run the Schauungtown branch of the Toleration Fellowship and Catherine confine herself to the affairs of the Community Association as one of its highest ranking officials. But as the highest ranking member of the Social Cohesion Office of the residential board, as stipulated by the Covenant of Universal Community, Catherine was granted a seat on the Overseer’s Coven as the Toleration Fellowship’s liaison with the residential association’s governing committee.
“Where did you see this ’peddler’ character?” asked one of the few males permitted a seat on the coven. Cecilia thought it was wise their number had been limited. She has read that in Before it had been the tendency of many of them to assert leadership and control beyond their number, often with the price being an individuality that undermined the process of consensus so essential to the smooth administration of the Community. Thus the Unity Covenant stipulated that females or others of a nonmasculine biological configuration or perceptual awareness were to constitute the majority of any coven charged with overseeing the affairs of a branch the Toleration Fellowship.
Cecelia didn’t really have anything against men. It was just that the Sibling didn’t really have much use for them either. Sure, they still had a few uses if properly conditioned and kept in line such as providing the genetic material necessary to engineer the next generation of human stock to take its place in the Community in predetermined numbers. But even then men were not as absolutely necessary to the replication of the species as they once were in the Before.
Eventually, Cecelia was sure, the All through the wisdom of the Cosmic Mother would mercifully bring about an end to the male division of the species as life in all its forms drew ever onward to its ultimate unification. At some point along the actualization of the All, those existing in human form would be neither male nor female but rather a glorious blending of each as an expression of universal balance and harmony. Beyond that, only the cognitively limited could see no reason why the human form could not merge with its fellow organisms and sentient intellects in an ontological amalgamation; and at some point there would be no need for the limitations of a material body.
Cecelia longed to be free from the burdens of individuality. That was one of the primary reasons why Cecelia had taken the Androgynyte Vow Of The Order Of The Monistic Sibling within the Toleration Fellowship whereby Cecilia would strive to configure her perceptions as if fundamental gender classifications did not enter into her personal identity. Even if Cecilia’s body was female, such trivialities did not matter. The Toleration Fellowship held that since the All created it’s own reality, the first step in making something so was to visualize it in the mind.
Catherine answered the inquiry, which to Cecilia seemed to have been asked in ages past as the Sibling’s thoughts dwelt in the infinitudes between seconds. “The diverseophobe was spotted perambulating down Paradigm Lane after I completed a domicile inspection for a preliminary parental license renewal. The second time was outside the Food Distribution Center when on routine call to that location.”
“Oh, yes.” a womyn with graying hair (a sign that she would soon have to relinquish her seat on the coven because, despite the fact that she was female, as with males of influence, womyn of advancing chronology had to be guarded against to protect the Community from unprogressive notions carried over from Before) interjected. “Jeremy, my son...”
Cecilia cringed at the word, thinking that someone with the privilege of having a seat on the Overseer’s Coven should not be so possessive of those having emerged from their loins. The young belonged to the entire Community and were only allowed to remain with progenitors of good standing as a matter of efficiency.
“...who works at the Food Distribution Center told me that the Individualist he contacted the Social Cohesion Office ceased cellular respiration right there on the spot.” Cecilia was surprised that someone using a questionable term such as “son” didn’t end up blurting out the word “died”.
One of the few males on the coven questioned, “If this Bible Peddler and the deceased Individualist were seen in the same vicinity, is there the possibility that there was some kind of acquaintanceship between them?”
Catherine tried to assuage any concerns of the Coven about the potential threat of counter-community that might be festering at the heart of the residential association. “There is always a slight possibility, but it is not very likely. So far, little can be confirmed about the ’Peddler’.
Catherine left the name at that, not wanting to utter the vile qualifier any more than was necessary. For some reason, though she just couldn’t put her finger on it, the word she did not want to utter in front of the ’Peddler’ designation caused her energies to feel out of tune with cosmic oneness and affirmation. “As to the senectitudian individualist, since his holdings are in the process of reallocation, further investigation indicates that he and his domestic partner were not noted for a high degree of social interaction or any tendencies of giving back to the Community. They were rated as satisfactorily communicative on their last evaluation by their neighbors but it was also noted they had a marked tendency of staying to themselves.”
A round of gasps cascaded across the Overseer’s Coven. “Congenital recluses?” Scandalous. Those were the worst kind as they not only failed in their most sacred obligation of concealing nothing from the Community but they also seldom exhibited any of the external clues as to what was percolating in their likely subversive minds focused too much on individual concerns rather than meditating on the priorities of the group.
Sibling Cecilia altered the focus of the discussion. “Thank you for that update. However, the focus of this convocation of the Overseer’s Coven is to make preparations for the Primate’s visit.”
“Of course, dear,” Catherine relented to her domestic partner. This branch of the Toleration Fellowship was her’s to administer after all.
“Now,’ Cecilia intoned as she reasserted control over the coven’s agenda. “Let’s return to the arrangements pertaining to the Primate’s visit....”
.......The day finally arrived. Cecelia and a number of Schauungtown’s foremost residents gathered in anticipation at the local skyport. The Primate’s craft slowly descended onto the tarmac.
More of a floating airship than one of those jetliners popular in Before when the insufficiently communal went to and fro irrespective as to whether or not such excursions were deemed in accord with social necessity or authorized by those qualified to make such determinations, such vehicles were capable of staying aloft months on end as befitting a dignitary of the Primate’s status. The aerial citadel made its way slowly overhead reminding all catching a glimpse of it of their place as determined by the All (and confirmed of course by one’s residential association in compliance with the Covenant of Universal Community).
Giant metal columns extended upward from underneath the tarmac to greet the floating cathedral, guiding it safely to the ground.
Cecelia, Catherine, and several of Schauungtown’s most equal of residents eagerly waited as the antigravity vessel finished the docking procedure. The hatch on the side opened and a retractable staircase extended to the ground.
The party gathered at the bottom looked on with anticipation as the three dignitaries emerged and proceeded towards them.
“Welcome to Schauungtown. I’m Catherine from the residential oversight committee. This is my domestic partner Cecelia , the Sibling in charge of the local Toleration Fellowship.
Cecelia was mildly irritated at Catherine’s presumption of making the introductions. This visit was, after all, under the auspices and sponsorship of the Toleration Fellowship.
One of the dignitaries caught Cecelia’s eye. “Minister Joshua?”
“No, I am not. I am Seer Jeremiah. But the Minister send his regards,”
Cecelia was taken aback. Both the Seer and the Primate gracing Schauungtown with their presence was quite an honor. Cecelia continued, “We are humbled by your presence, Seer. My apologies for confusing you with Minister Joshua.”
“Think nothing of it, Sibling. When you see me, you see him.”
Catherine interrupted. “The resemblance between the two of you is remarkable. Are you and the Minister related?”
The Seer responded, “We are, yet we are not. It is the desire of Minister Joshua that each of us would move beyond the relational limitations of Before to embrace the commonality of All."
Cecelia was content to bask in the words of the Seer for in them was found what those beneath his status were deemed worthy of knowing. Catherine, on the other hand, wanted to press the issue. "So, are you and the Minister related?"
The Seer responded, "We are, but not as you understand such limitations."
As unease difficult to describe settled over Catherine that for some reason she knew to say no more about the matter.
The Seer turned to the second party of his entourage. "I'd like to introduce Nathaniel Prescott, special assistant to Minister Joshua for Residential Association Affairs."
Both Catherine and Cecelia nodded politely towards Special Assistant Prescott. From what Catherine had read of Prescott, he was one Minister Joshua's closest advisors but one whose role was not quite as public as the Seer's. It was believed Prescott's primary concern was overseeing the overall compliance of the residential associations with the Covenant of Universal Community and persuading, with all that would entail, the remaining unincorporated free areas into ratifying the covenant.
Cecelia gestured toward the lengthy hoverzine. "Shall we head towards the Toleration Hall?"
The dignitaries headed towards the hoverzine, with the Primate following closely behind the Seer. Even Cecelia felt uncomfortable riding in the hoverzine. As with their wheeled counterparts in the Before, these lengthy modes of transport were an energy-intensive mode of conveyance.
Certainly, the Unity Covenant stipulated that those assigned to fulfilling the needs of the Community were entitled to the use of resources and technologies to which average residents were not authorized to utilize. But, in light of the incident in the food distribution center, would those still acculturated to the paradigms of Before and more individiocentric in their orientation put up with having their movements restricted indefinitely?
The hoverzine lifted several feet off the ground and proceeded beyond the outskirts of the airstation. The Seer gazed out the window as the primate sat contentedly.
The Seer observed, “I see the airstation is surrounded by the Laborer Sector.”
“Yes, Seer. The Residential Committee thought it would be best to locate the facility in the Laborer Sector since that would preserve existing green space. The only thing here previously were single family homes, “ the words rolled off Cecelia’s tongue in disgust, “built during Before. Cooperative residents were transferred to barrack units. Those thinking they had a say in the matter beyond agreeing to the propriety of the decision made for their well-being were dealt with appropriately.”
The Seer nodded. “A most efficient operation.”
The hoverzine floated past the barracks where the common laborers of limited community loyalty and social utility were assigned until the Residential Committee was satisfied they had been sufficiently communalized. At least that was the incentive held out to those warehoused there.
Of course, some within that particular patch of human capital would be reallocated to different domiciles as there remained a vested interest in maintaining a veneer of compliance that would earn reward. For despite all the efforts to move beyond the mindsets of Before, it seemed that either not enough time had elapsed or that somethings just couldn’t be engineered out of the human psyche, even despite tampering on the molecular-genetic level.
It had already been predetermined by the foremost community planners that the vast majority of those residing in the barracks would never be granted permission to abide elsewhere. They were exactly where the Community needed them to be and they could at least derive a sense of satisfaction knowing they had fulfilled their role in the all. And if that was not enough, they could keep it to themselves or...Well, there was no need to dwell on that as there were other matters to attend to as the Primate and his entourage proceeded towards the Schauungtown Toleration Fellowship.
The vehicle floated past the laborer barracks into what looked more like what had been a traditional configuration of domiciles in Before known as a “neighborhood”. Utter confusion was what both Cecelia and Catherine thought it was.
Unlike the laborers that could be conditioned by manipulating instinctual appetites and contrived incentives that went largely unfulfilled, those assigned to the Intermediary Sector were overall an unpredictable lot. A number gladly accepted their place in the All as part of the Community and embraced their obligations to comply with the directive promulgated for them by those recognized by the various levels of the system of residential associations established under the provisions of the Unity Covenant for their superior evolutionary attainments in approaching cosmic oneness. Another element residing in the Intermediary Sector were more puzzling,
Unlike those that exhibited a proper sense of gratitude for the place they had been assigned and did not ask for too much, those insisting upon retaining their individuality in the Intermediary Sector possessed the kind of discontent that could disrupt everything the Covenant of Universal Community stood for and could plunge the habitated regimes back into the ways of Before. The oddest thing was, and perhaps what made them most dangerous was that, even though many of the independently inclined residing in the Intermediary Sector did not approve of the power of the residential associations, the Unity Covenant and high level confederation matters, they knew nearly as much about such things (including the most arcane matters regarding Seer Jeremiah and Minister Joshua) as the most advanced level of administrators, most never did all that much with what they did know.
It was this knowledge of power with an aversion to using it that unsettled the Social Cohesion Office the most. For if those with such knowledge had intentions of using it, they could be properly directed like any other group. But the thing was, they did not think of themselves as members of a group first and foremost.
In all likelihood, the old fool that merged with the All right there in the Food Distribution Center and the Bible Peddler could be ranked among such subversives, Catherine thought. The Social Cohesion Office was making headway on the Food Distribution Center incident and it would only be a matter of time before all remnants of the perpetrator could be removed from the Community. Sure, the whiny coot might no longer be a corporeal entity on this plane of reality, but from his own confession, he had a domestic partner and she could not be permitted remain in the Residential Association. Catherine did not care how old the hag might be.
What was it about the chronologically advanced that it was not enough for them to gratefully accept the privilege of continued existence but compeled them to spout all that nonsense about Before, how much better things were back then, and how such reactionary conditions should be allowed to prevail once more. Fortunately for the most part, they could be controlled within reason or removed entirely as a last resort without creating too much of a scene.
The Bible Peddler, on the other hand, was a whole other matter. Thus far, there was very little known about him.
Unlike the expired coot, almost no headway was being made on the Bible Peddler file. Thus far, there had only been a number of sightings and most of those only in passing.
Strangely, no one knew who the Bible Peddler was, and it was the duty of the Social Cohesion Office to know who everyone was on behalf of the Residential Association. Attitudinal Assessment Technicians would need to more thoroughly infiltrate the various spiritual and metaphysical centers located around the periphery of the Community not part of the Toleration Fellowship that had been permitted to remain open slightly after the ending of Before. These experts could determine just how far this contamination might have spread and recommend what steps would be necessary to correct the situation.
The retinue finally arrived at the Schauungtown Toleration Fellowship. Both the Primate and Seer glanced out the window at the structure dedicated to oneness and equality. Throngs of those not deemed essential enough to be allowed inside the hall gathered around the perimeter in hopes of catching a glimpse of the dignitaries.
Cecelia and Catherine were the first to disembark from the vehicle to minor applause. As the Seer and Primate got out, the crowds became more jubilant. Surrounded by the burliest Social Cohesion Officers, they party made their way into the Toleration Hall.....
.....Sibling Cecelia ascended the lectern shaped like a round peace sign. Cecelia began her remarks.
“Assembled sentients.” Cecelia was careful to address all beings (seen and unseen, biological, fabricated, and all combinations thereof) that had gathered for the auspicious occasion. “This is certainly a day of foremost equalitude. For among all the signatory residential associations to the Covenant on Universal Community, it has been decided that the Primate of the Toleration Fellowship would grace Mother World with his presence this year in our gathering of inclusion. I present, to this assembly, the Primate."
Possessed of below average stature, the Primate held the Seer's hand as he ascended the podium. With a contemplative expression, the Primate looked out over the gathered.
Cecelia intoned towards the congregation, "Let us now render homage to the Primate." Cecelia bowed slightly, hands folded. Sometimes even gestures held over from Before were still useful if they elicited the desired cognitive response in a group context.
“O Primate. We come before you now. We beseech you as the symbol of the We from which We came that We might look within Ourselves to reembrace the unreflective All of both the Cosmos and the Community. May We look to We so that We might diminish the I. In the name of the Community, Minister Joshua, and Seer Jeremiah, Ahumyn.”
Cecelia gazed up at the primate. As she did, something dark, gooey, and smelly struck the exalted Sibling in her androgynous countenance.
The Primate looked down at her and began to clap his hands, grinned with considerable satisfaction, and started to jump in place. The congregation looked on with considerable curiosity.
Most merely sat there nervously, twiddling their fingers. A number mumbled among themselves. One broke out laughing hysterically.
“THAT PRIMATE OF YOURS IS NOTHING BUT A MONKEY!” One by one, others assembled there in the Schauungtown Toleration Fellowship joined in the laughter as well.