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MUIR ON MARS

Dreamed 1994/5/14 by Wayan, (a year before I read Kim Stanley Robinson's RED MARS)


I'm John Muir, reborn on Mars. I'm fighting development of the fragile Martian forests--aspens and pines, like high mountain woods on Earth. I've joined Mars First. We're powerful--but the human immigrants are deeply split between technocrats and ecologists. The native Martians are also split--into a traditional group, deeply religious, with something like an ecological Catholic hierarchy, slowly accepting human Mars Firsters into their church, and a rival philosophy, also thousands of years old, based on a sort of solipsist libertarianism, which believes Earth technology means power, and supports a Japan-like modernization program. I find them cynical.

I'm in a spiritual crisis. When I've been defeated in my life, I've just moved on, as if there'll always be somewhere to move on to. Now I'm changing. The spirit of Mars wants me to refuse to accept ANY defeat--to stay and fight to the death. Never give up any land, NEVER.

A friend of mine, Zooop, is stricken ill. Ambulance is summoned, doctors. She may have been poisoned! She is politically important: the first human to reach the rank of K'boomch in the native Martian religious hierarchy. A high regional office, a bit like a bishop. Even the pro-tech humans respect her. Who would do this? Maybe it was accidental.

I must go into the woods--a poor time for it, when my friend's ill. But I must confront the Martian solipsists. Long journey in the wilderness... along forking numinous paths whose choices mean spiritual decisions that can shape a life.

The solipsists are eager to talk to me--considering I don't exist! They want a feature of English explained: they don't get this business of one word changing pronunciation slightly and then being a different part of speech or a subtly different word, like "cloze" and "cloce". But at least the IDEA of closing in, closing a gate or switch, the closed element then being close... these are familiar to them. But USE, uce, bewilders them. They understand the verb "uze" just fine. They're good at that, good at uzing. But "uce", or to be "of uce"... that, they just don't get. I try to explain nouns and adjectives... the idea that objects outside one could have inherent values... for everyone, not just the ego. That a forest could be "of use": valued for its use to others and even to itself, not just BE USED. I don't think they get it, but they do listen. At least I've confirmed there's something here to learn, it's not just a grammatical oddity of Earth tongues but a philosophical principle.

They are courteous, for them. They ask me, mocking yet serious (showing a rare curiosity about something low-tech) why I'm heading for an old estate near us, in the deep woods. Seldom visited. They'd USE the land, of course. I explain I plan to walk up its driveway at least--to renew the public right-of-way. I say "I'm maintaining this path by using it--walking on a path knocks back the undergrowth burying it. That is one USE of walking! But I'm also there to maintain my right of way. I maintain my right to use it, by USING my right."

Return at last from the trip, spiritually refreshed by wandering in the woods, but still wondering why I feel so tired and shaky... to find an ambulance taking Zooop away. The driver's a government official I know slightly, who waves casually and cheerfully; it can't be too bad. I ask her housemates, who say she'll recover fully--but it WAS poisoning. And we BOTH ate or drank it! That's why I've been feeling off. But they knew I got less of it because I was able to hike, so they weren't even worried about me enough to track me down and warn me. "You'll feel fine in a couple of days."

I'm a bit annoyed with their casual attitude--after all, someone's out to POISON us! Things are getting nasty. I visit Zooop in the hospital. She's doesn't care who poisoned us either; she's just angry, because her investiture is next Tuesday, only five days away, and she doesn't want to miss it. That may have been the point of the attack.

One of her friends hands me a huge old ring with a dark ruby the size of my thumbnail, heavy with history--you can feel time crusted around it. Who's it from? "Your Martian friends. Zooop is NOT the only human the Martians have accepted--the ring means you've been elected Gekko." A sort of Cardinal, one step from the top. I'm the first human to rise to such a position of trust.

But it made me a target, too. Whoever attacked me knew before I did!

NOTES IN THE MORNING



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