Councils elected since the Great Rebirth.
But we loved the Science of Things. We wished
to know. We wished to know about all the
things which make the earth around us.
We asked so many questions that
the Teachers forbade it.
We think that there are mysteries in the
sky and under the water and in the plants
which grow. But the Council of Scholars
has said that there are no mysteries,
and the Council of Scholars knows all things.
And we learned much from our Teachers.
We learned that the earth is flat and that
the sun revolves around it, which causes the
day and the night. We learned the names
of all the winds which blow over the seas
and push the sails of our great ships.
We learned how to bleed men to cure them
of all ailments.
We loved the Science of Things. And in
the darkness, in the secret hour, when we
awoke in the night and there were no
brothers around us, but only their shapes
in the beds and their snores, we closed our
eyes, and we held our lips shut, and we
stopped our breath, that no shudder might
let our brothers see or hear or guess,
and we thought that we wished to be sent
to the Home of the Scholars when our time
All the great modern inventions come
from the Home of the Scholars, such as
the newest one, which was found only a
hundred years ago, of how to make candles
from wax and string; also, how to make glass,
which is put in our windows to protect
us from the rain. To find these things,
the Scholars must study the earth and learn
from the rivers, from the sands, from the
winds and the rocks. And if we went to the
Home of the Scholars, we could learn from
these also. We could ask questions of these,
for they do not forbid questions.
And questions give us no rest. We know not
why our curse makes us seek we know not what,
ever and ever. But we cannot resist it.
It whispers to us that there are great things
on this earth of ours, and that we can know them
if we try, and that we must know them. We ask,
why must we know, but it has no answer to give us.
We must know that we may know.
So we wished to be sent to the Home of
the Scholars. We wished it so much that
our hands trembled under the blankets in
the night, and we bit our arm to stop that
other pain which we could not endure.
It was evil and we dared not face our brothers
in the morning. For men may wish nothing
for themselves. And we were punished
when the Council of Vocations came to
give us our life Mandates which tell those
who reach their fifteenth year what their
work is to be for the rest of their days.
The Council of Vocations came on the first day
of spring, and they sat in the great hall.
And we who were fifteen and all the
Teachers came into the great hall.
And the Council of Vocations sat on a high dais,
and they had but two words to speak to each
of the Students. They called the Students’ names,
and when the Students stepped before them,
one after another, the Council said:
“Carpenter” or “Doctor” or “Cook” or “Leader.”
Then each Student raised their right arm and said:
“The will of our brothers be done.”
Now if the Council has said “Carpenter” or “Cook,”
the Students so assigned go to work and they do not
study any further. But if the Council has said “Leader,”
then those Students go into the Home of the Leaders,
which is the greatest house in the City, for it has
three stories. And there they study for many years,
so that they may become candidates and be elected
to the City Council and the State Council and
the World Council–by a free and general vote
of all men. But we wished not to be a Leader,
even though it is a great honor. We wished to be a Scholar.
So we awaited our turn in the great hall
and then we heard the Council of Vocations
call our name: “Equality 7-2521.” We walked
to the dais, and our legs did not tremble,
and we looked up at the Council. There were
five members of the Council, three of
the male gender and two of the female.
Their hair was white and their faces were
cracked as the clay of a dry river bed.
They were old. They seemed older than
the marble of the Temple of the World Council.
They sat before us and they did not move.
And we saw no breath to stir the folds
of their white togas. But we knew that
they were alive, for a finger of the hand
of the oldest rose, pointed to us, and fell down again.
This was the only thing which moved, for the lips of
the oldest did not move as they said: “Street Sweeper.”
We felt the cords of our neck grow tight
as our head rose higher to look upon the
faces of the Council, and we were happy.
We knew we had been guilty, but now we
had a way to atone for it. We would accept
our Life Mandate, and we would work for
our brothers, gladly and willingly,
and we would erase our sin against them,
which they did not know, but we knew.
So we were happy, and proud of ourselves
and of our victory over ourselves.
We raised our right arm and we spoke,
and our voice was the clearest, the steadiest
voice in the hall that day, and we said:
“The will of our brothers be done.”
And we looked straight into the eyes of the Council,
but their eyes were as cold blue glass buttons.
So we went into the Home of the Street Sweepers.
It is a grey house on a narrow street.
There is a sundial in its courtyard,
by which the Council of the Home can
tell the hours of the day and when to ring
the bell. When the bell rings, we all arise
from our beds. The sky is green and cold
in our windows to the east. The shadow on
the sundial marks off a half-hour while we
dress and eat our breakfast in the dining hall,
where there are five long tables with
twenty clay plates and twenty clay cups
on each table. Then we go to work in the
streets of the City, with our brooms and our
rakes. In five hours, when the sun is high,
we return to the Home and we eat our midday meal,
for which one-half hour is allowed. Then we go
to work again. In five hours, the shadows
are blue on the pavements, and the sky is blue
with a deep brightness which is not bright.
We come back to have our dinner, which lasts
one hour. Then the bell rings and we walk in
a straight column to one of the City Halls,
for the Social Meeting. Other columns of
men arrive from the Homes of the different
Trades. The candles are lit, and the Councils
of the different Homes stand in a pulpit,
and they speak to us of our duties and
of our brother men. Then visiting Leaders
mount the pulpit and they read to us the
speeches which were made in the City
Council that day, for the City Council
represents all men and all men must know.
Then we sing hymns, the Hymn of Brotherhood,
and the Hymn of Equality, and the Hymn
of the Collective Spirit. The sky is
a soggy purple when we return to the Home.
Then the bell rings and we walk in a
straight column to the City Theatre
for three hours of Social Recreation.
There a play is shown upon the stage,
with two great choruses from the Home of
the Actors, which speak and answer all together,
in two great voices. The plays are about
toil and how good it is. Then we walk
back to the Home in a straight column.
The sky is like a black sieve pierced
by silver drops that tremble, ready to
burst through. The moths beat against
the street lanterns. We go to our beds
and we sleep, till the bell rings again.
The sleeping halls are white and clean and
bare of all things save one hundred beds.
Thus have we lived each day of four
years, until two springs ago when our
crime happened. Thus must all men live
until they are forty. At forty, they are
worn out. At forty, they are sent to the
Home of the Useless, where the Old Ones
live. The Old Ones do not work, for the
State takes care of them. They sit in the