Meda: a Tale of the Future/Part VII
HAVING now spent a considerable time relating the things of the past, and instructing me in things relating to the present, the Recorder told me to retire to rest, so I lay down on a couch and went to sleep again. The next day I awoke and found that I was quite alone. I lay quietly, thinking and wondering for a long time. At last the Recorder came to me, and said he would again begin to instruct me as soon as I had had my morning meal. Finding this on a tray beside my couch, I got up and refreshed myself. As soon as I had had enough the Recorder began:—
"You are surprised to find that we exist without food, and that we do not live for its sake. How this came about is a long story, and I feel that it is now time you should have an explanation of the reasons and causes of this beneficial change in the nature of mankind. When man was created, the necessity for other food than that supplied through his lungs was essential, because at that period the atmosphere that surrounded the earth had not sufficient sustaining power of itself to maintain the human frame, and to make up for the waste entailed by the exertions of the mind and body. But the Creator never intended that the faculty of drawing sustenance from food should be abused in the way it was. The simple fruits of the earth were sufficient for all man's wants, and even these were only to be used in moderation; but after long generations he became more and more wedded to eating and drinking. He was not content with the simple fruits of the earth, nor was he content with water for his drink. He, indeed, appears to have possessed less wisdom in this respect than the brute creation, that have from the beginning, even down to the present day, been content with that which was provided for them. Man, by misusing his thinking and reasoning power, apparently educated himself to gloat over food, and to devote his intelligence to the production of new foods and drinks. His field of thought seems to have been confined or directed in a large measure to indulging the desires of his appetite. His greatest object in life became a wish for the means of gratifying these tastes. His object in storing up wealth was to make this over-indulgence possible, and the greater his means the more he went in for carousals. The more dishes he could give to his guests, the more he was thought of. Not content with simple nourishment prepared from fruit, or even flesh, he debased that genius of invention, with which he was endowed, by inventing novelties, and educated his palate to the belief that each new dish was more delicious than its predecessor. In his desire to gratify artificial thirst, he became still more debased. He was not content with the purest water. He was not content with the juice of fruits, he must needs have something novel. He invented intoxicating drinks, he found that they exhilarated his spirits for the moment; he found at this stage of partial intoxication that he was elevated above himself. It was a temporary pleasure. He continued to indulge, and gradually became stupefied and debased in the eyes of his own intelligence. Still he could not refrain from this infatuation. He gorged himself again with food, and he again debased himself with drink which never was intended for mankind. Man acted in such an insane way that it became doubtful whether it was an advantage to him to be possessed of reasoning power and intelligence. The animal creation that had neither the one nor the other were possessed of an instinct which so controlled their appetites, that no power could move or cause them to overstep the rules of nature. This state of abuse went on from generation to generation, growing worse and worse until, in your day, no man, even of the meanest habits, could sit down to a meal, if the component parts had not come from all the quarters of the earth. You must well remember that no great meetings, even of the learned societies in those days, took place without being accompanied by monstrous feeding and drinking matches.
"Those who termed themselves abstainers were abstainers only from intoxicants. They reviled those who took wine or spirits in any form, yet these very men would cram themselves with all conceivable kinds of food. They would spare no trouble, or what they called money, to make these great feeding displays. They truly saw the evils of drinking intoxicants, but they overlooked the evils of over-eating, the intemperance in consuming food. The result of this terrible abuse of appetite and intellect had a very baneful influence on the world's inhabitants. No nation was free from it; no class was averse to it; all inclined in the same direction. For want of opportunity and means, some people living in lonely districts were of necessity kept out of the way of temptation, but the credit is not due to their want of inclination, but rather to a want of opportunity. The effects of this abnormal desire for food and drink were not however without some results that eventually did good. The desire for indulging these tastes engendered a desire for the attainment of wealth. This desire gave birth to enterprise; enterprise led to adventure; adventure brought about the discovery of distant lands. Then a great trade arose with all parts of the globe; population increased; people must be fed with dainties. They were not to be satisfied with the products of their own countries, so great fleets were engaged for the object of satisfying this craving. This indulgence, of what we now see were depraved tastes, must be catered for. Good came, because the desires of the appetite created the necessity for improved transport. The medical science was also stimulated. Over-indulgence in food and drink created a host of new and painful diseases. These signs of decay called forth medical and surgical invention, and a closer study of the human frame and its organs, which ultimately worked out an interesting and beneficial result by demonstrating to mankind that if this unwholesome mode of living was persisted in, the human race must come to a disgraceful and untimely end. Terrible in our eyes is the knowledge that such a state of things had ever existed, because we know from the experience of the past its baneful effects on hundreds of generations. Men and women, who ought to have adorned the earth, and been as beautiful in their way as the most lovely of God's works, became a disgrace to humanity. They were a trouble to themselves and to all around them. To fully describe the excesses entered into by the majority of the people that came after your era would be as disgusting as it is unnecessary. You must have seen enough of this abuse in your own day to enable you to judge as to whether our way is the right way or not, my Specimen.
"While there was this immorality, while everything moral and intellectual seemed to be on the road to destruction, there was still some good left in the world. Although the common observer might, if judging from the great preponderance of evil, think that all was hopeless and that all was lost, a germ of good still remained. There still, fortunately, existed many great and good minds that never ceased, morning noon or night, to preach morality, truth, and temperance to the people. Many lost heart and gave up in despair, but still their places were taken by others who continued the good fight from age to age. For a time, the new order of things led our ancestors of this date to think that everything was improving. The people had come through great trials and were inclined to listen to the advice of men of learning. The reduction of population was a great relief to those that were left. In country districts the people began to grow their own food, and rear their own meat. They lived moderately, and became much more happy and contented. In the cities also, the people were better provided for. The great mass went in for education, devoting themselves to it, and the affairs of our nation went on smoothly for many years. It was during this period that the first practical steps were taken to establish the universal language that you have heard spoken. About this date also a new sect was formed, its members consisting of the leading intellects of America, the Colonies, and Great Britain. This sect saw and believed that all the troubles of the earth were due to excessive eating and drinking. They stated, and stated, as we now see truly, that if eating and drinking could be dispensed with, man's intellectual power would increase, and permanent morality would be ensured. What they advocated was—First of all to do away with the use of all luxuries, and then gradually to reduce the amount of ordinary food. This body became very large and powerful, and after being established one hundred years it was found that their numbers comprised one fourth the American and English people. Their compeers were astonished to see the very small amount of food they found sufficient to sustain life. They contended that it was God's will when He created man that He should take just sufficient food for sustenance but no more; and that what food man did take must be of the very simplest kind. These men found themselves, after living in this way, intellectually stronger, and while their physical strength was not at first so great as those that continued to eat largely, still, knowing as they did that mental power was the power that must conquer, the members of this body held firmly to their principles. They had no spare flesh on their bodies, but they were thoroughly healthy, and possessed joyful spirits. They found that they wanted but little money to supply their simple needs, and from their personal experience they saw that one-fourth of the food usually consumed by man was sufficient for their sustenance. They further proved that the cost of their food did not come to one-fourth the sum an ordinary individual required. They demonstrated that by reducing the consumption and using only the simplest kinds, the saving to the country would be something enormous. This doctrine suited the great body of the people very well, but the merchants and middlemen, who lived by barter, began to see that their trade was going. If people could exist, they said, on one-fourth of the food that was ordinarily required, then they could do with less than one-fourth of the merchants and middlemen. Strong opposition was started in the cities to this body that was doing so much good, consequently, in the cities the new sect made but small progress, except amongst the higher and educated classes. But in the country districts of America, Britain, and the Colonies, the teaching of this new order was taking a great hold on the people, and combined with the progress of higher education, greatly improved their social condition. As for the cities, from what I have read, it is evident that they did not advance much. There was something so entirely antagonistic to the purity of nature in the city life of the ancients that it seemed almost impossible to elevate the inhabitants. The herding of so many human beings together in such confined spaces, and in ill-ventilated houses, away from the elevating influences of country life, made the task of reform almost hopeless. Then at this period of the world's history, the besetting sin—a craving for money and gain—lowered the minds of the people who resided in such places to a much greater degree than it did to the minds of those that lived in the country. All these reasons tended to act against the doctrines of this great sect of reformers; still they continued to labour, and after 400 years' continuous work, they numbered fully half the earth's population. One of their great apostles had in the beginning prophesied that theirs would in course of time be the universal belief of the world. This prophecy has come true, though it came about in a manner that was never contemplated. Continual living on short diet, we are told, had a beneficial effect on these people. History informs us that they could endure longer hours of labour; that they had brighter and clearer thinking powers; that they possessed greater determination; and that they took a much wider and far-seeing view of all subjects than the free eaters and drinkers did. Although not physically strong, they were the leaders in every great undertaking. If the country was at war, they were to be found in the van-guard, while in all movements for the advance of science, art, and industry, they were ahead also. That such a large body should exist and adhere to what were in those days considered by many to be strange notions, was a curious phenomenon, and one that afterwards proved to be a design of Providence to gradually prepare a people that might live under an altered condition of things. Now, my Specimen, as I have devoted a long time to your instruction, and as I fear this dry record will tire you if you get too much of it at a time, I will give over for the present. I must visit my private abode to-night, and shall take you with me and introduce you to my wife and daughter as well as to some other ladies of position. You will then have an opportunity of conversing with ladies of our day. It will be a change for you, and a pleasant one. We shall go on our journey to-morrow; as occasion offers, I shall continue my instructive narrative. If I told you the history of our nation fully, as I mentioned before, it would be an endless task; therefore, I must be as brief as possible, and pass over long periods of time with a few words."
The Recorder now went through his department to give further instructions, while I again accompanied him. Everything this man did was done in a quiet, yet thoroughly masterful manner, and I began to hold him almost in awe, so great was my opinion of his power of penetration and command. But in spite of my respect for him, now and then his ideas of what a true Venus should be had the effect of lowering him in my estimation, at least as an artist.
We now went outside the building, and met all the officials and clerks, both men and women. The Recorder remarked:—"It is the closing time; the day's work is over. We will allow them to go first, as, having to take you with me, I can't make as much speed as they do, and the consequence is, we might be run down amid such a crowd." So we waited and saw them all start. There were men and women of all ages in those strange simple white costumes, all with the same great thoughtful faces, great heads and eyes. First they walked for about thirty yards, quite quietly, then all at once they threw out a little ballast, and began to trip away in hundreds in their odd hop, skip and a jump fashion, at a marvellous speed, passing over everything. It was the very funniest sight I had ever seen. The Recorder looked at me saying:—"That flight represents a considerable power," and continuing said, "I think I will couple up your leg weights, my Specimen, and see how you get on generating your own power." On saying this, he secured a small bright wire to each leg weight and passed it over my shoulder down the front of my body to the weight on the opposite leg. When this was done he joined the two wires where they crossed in the front and back of my body by a pair of little clasps like a brooch, about the size of a florin, and twice as thick. When this was completed, I felt the same kind of pleasant glow going through me as that experienced when the Recorder caught hold of me, but in a modified degree. I told the Recorder this, and he said, "That is all right, my Specimen, you are improving. You will soon be able to dispense with food, and then you can do without those disgusting digestive details of yours." I began to think my fate was now sealed, that he would not rest until he had cut my liver and other digestive organs out, but I was reassured when I remembered his promise to me after leaving the medical museum.
"We will now move on, my Specimen," he said. "Those wires should be concealed by your garments, but they will do as they are for a first trial. I will have to guide you until you get accustomed to your new mode of travel." He took me gently by the arm, and off we started. Had it not been that he held me I should most certainly have gone heads over heels for all time. I seemed to be alive all over. My legs would spring one way, while my hands and arms would go another. I felt that I could have done anything—my body was all vitality and power—but the annoyance was that I had no control over this power, yet it was most enjoyable. The sense of vigour and energy within me as realized during the trip that followed these preparations was something far beyond description. There is no illustration that I could give you, Reader, which would make you realize what I felt during those moments. The Recorder said:—"The instruments that you have christened leg weights, and that we in a measure use as leg weights, are generators—they collect power from the atmosphere. We place them on our ancles to make the lower extremities of our bodies heavy. When so placed they act as ballast to keep us erect.
"I caused you to wear them first without being connected and made active, to accustom you to their weight. I see that you feel them rather powerful, but when your mind is educated and your will is strong enough to control them, you will have no difficulty. Besides I am giving off some of my power to you through holding your arm; but here we are." At this moment we came to a stand in front of a beautiful simple little villa, surrounded by a flower garden laid out in exquisite taste.