=1 "The silent answer"

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The silent answer

by Space Traveller

When we entered the atmosphere of P33-34.9, the outside gauges showed a very high oxygen pressure, and the life which we found confirmed our expectations. On earth, because the oxygen pressure is relatively low, the insects, who possessed earth first, could never develop bodies bigger than a mouse. And because of their small size their brains also were small and limited to a few stereotyped ways of thinking. They had no freedom of behaviour. This on the other hand made possible the evolution of the mammals, and that is why the most highly-developed brains on earth are not insect but mammal brains.

But here on P33-34.9 the mammals never had a chance. The insects were as large as men and as resplendent as angels. You should have seen the beauty of the culture they have developed, the cities they have built. The museums we were invited to visit were richer and larger and much more complicated than those of earth.

On arrival we easily made contact, and in a short time could speak their language, which was a communication by touching with the feelers. One day, sitting rather self-consciously by myself, I was approached by a beautiful being in shimmering silver armour, with huge opalescent eyes like enormous jewels of many colours, with magnificent diaphanous wings, and delicate silken feelers. He asked me what we human beings had discovered about the supreme reality, the meaning of the universe, the aim of evolution. Since I had been brought up as a Christian, and since, during my life as a scientist, I had never had the time or inclination to talk about such things, I was somewhat taken aback.

On a previous visit to a planet where the highest forms of life were sweet and beautiful and extremely intelligent orangutans, I could stretch my Christian imagery far enough to conceive of God and Christ and the saints in the form of orangutans, just as, long ago, the official church had to accept Negro Christs and Polynesian Virgin Marys. But now, looking into those big, luminous, iridescent, intelligent eyes just a metre or two from my face, I wondered what meaning there could be to the stories of my childhood – of a Son of Man, of our Father in Heaven – on a planet where there were no fathers and no sons, where bread and wine were unknown and the only food was nectar from giant flowers. Was there a single parable in the Gospels about the Kingdom of God which had a meaning here? How could I admit that we human beings had murdered our God? With all my formulas and my figures of speech utterly inadequate, what to say about ultimate reality?

Then I remembered the flower sermon of the Buddha. So I took a flower, beautiful blue and shaped like a giant chalice, full of the sweetest of nectar, and silently I lifted that as an answer. Immediately I could see by the play of lights in the splendour of the eyes around me, in the soft movements of the diaphanous wings and the caressing touch of the feathery feelers on my arm, that I had been understood. We had discovered that we were more than neighbours: we were one.