COMMUNICATION FROM ARKAY OF KORENDOR
Date of reception: 22 May 1989
Love and light, my Terran friends. Tonight it will be my pleasant task to provide Part One of a brief history of my planet, to complement the travelogue presented in the first series of my messages.
It will of necessity be restricted to the "high points" of our millenia of recorded past. Even so, it will require two sessions to "scratch the surface".
It will not start out with "in the beginning", because it isn't my purpose to go back into the first moments of time. Your scientists already have a firm grasp on those earliest seconds of the universe, and nothing we could add would be surprising.
Let me open with a short discourse on the nature of life and its manifold forms throughout the universe, and on your world and mine. For decades your science and religion have been at odds over the concept of evolution.
On the one hand the "creationist" position insists that everything that exists is the sole handiwork of God. On the other is the pure science view that all life is a result of freak accident. Would that reality could be so simply described.
In fact, life progression is a complex amalgamation of the two. While there is ample proof that life forms evolve from lower to higher levels, there is equally persuasive proof that such an evolutionary path could not possibly derive from random events.
Were one to subscribe to the view posed by your science, one could toss a handful of silicon and copper into a box, wait half a billion years and out will come a computer. The incredible diversity and multiplicity of life can not have been pure chance.
Even if your Earth were the only place where life exists, which it quite obviously is not because I am here to argue the point, the awesome panorama of life on your world absolutely rules out luck as a contributing factor.
From the simplest monocellular forms to the spectacularly efficient machine that is the human being, life demonstrates a forethought and planning that could only have come from a higher power in the universe.
Give some deep thought to the way in which each cell of your body has a precise function to perform, yet all of them are guided by the genetic code in your DNA. Envision the miracle of the developing baby in the womb, starting out with a single cell dividing and becoming a perfect human body.
How does this cell know to become a finger, that one an earlobe, another a toe? Why do the hands appear at the end of the arms instead of on the head or the chest? What tells these cells where any given part is to be located?
These may seem to be rather silly questions, but ignoring their surface frivolity, think about them. How DOES the single cell multiply and specialize to create the thousands of different components of a body, each organ in its own special location, when everything began with one cell of one type?
Does this unfathomable mystery seriously suggest a process that came about by a random sequence of accidents over countless eons? Does the wonderful brain that directs your life seem to be the product of a roll of the dice? Only the most naive or stubbornly unbending could support that absurd notion.
Yet, your world does hold vast evidence of an evolutionary path. How is this apparent contradiction to be resolved?
To us there is no conflict at all, because we have not allowed science and religion to become mutually exclusive realms. We do not have the division, the friction that alienates the two pursuits on Earth.
As I said in my last message, we of Korendor are a religious people, and it is our faith in and love of God that guides our life. That knowledge of Him makes understanding His universe far easier than attempting to determine its nature and its secrets devoid of the guiding hand of the Infinite One.
If your science insists on trying to discover the "rhyme or reason" of the universe without acknowledging the existence and influence of God, then you are in for a long and disappointing and ultimately fruitless quest.
Evolution? Yes. Random? No. It is as easy as that to comprehend, if not in itself simple. The progress of life is under the control of God, and His direction oversees the evolutionary process of all living things.
The patterns that are encoded into the DNA molecule are almost universally the same. Wherever carbon-based life exists, these same patterns are found, and yet the variety of life-forms would tax your very sanity.
Such a wondrous substance as DNA is hardly a creation of accidents of nature. If your scientists can study life in its complexity without seeing in it the delicate work of God, then I offer them my sympathy, because they are missing the most exciting part of living, learning about His greatness.
With that subject sufficiently covered, let me now return to the central topic, the history of my own great world, Korendor. Its origins are no more mystical than those of any other planet, involving matter ejected by stars, or accreted interstellar dust and ice, as systems come into being.
However, being a romantic lot, we are not especially enraptured by that mundane physical explanation. There is a tale told since the dawn of our race, that we enjoy relating in moments of fancy or of particular pride in our planet and its awesome splendor.
I have reworded it using terms familiar to your own lore. May you enjoy it as much as we do.
In the early days of creation, God found that managing the vastness of His universe was beginning to demand much of His time. Because the task of making new worlds was not that difficult, He called on His angels, and assigned them the work of bringing into being the stars and planets that would become His infinite kingdom.
This they did with great zeal, as they were eager to please Him and to assure Him that their abilities were worthy of His trust in them. However, as time passed and their works became more wondrous, they began to think of themselves as the peers of God in their powers of creation.
He was content to allow them this lack of humility, because they were, after all, now very adept at the art of creation. One day, it came to pass that they decided amongst themselves that they were better than God, and in their haughtiness they challenged Him to a test of skill.
With infinite patience, God thus allowed them to perform their finest labors, and they created many systems, worlds of beauty beyond beauty. They pointed to their work and bade Him try to better them.
Without a word, God smiled, waved His mighty hand and from nothingness He created a single world, then returned to His work.
When the sounds of awe and wonder at last stopped echoing throughout the limits of Heaven, the angels approached God, and with voices now low and humble they begged His forgiveness, and then returned to their task, never again to challenge His power.
Finally, when the time arrived to populate these worlds, they came once more to God and asked if He desired to people His special world. He nodded, and with another wave of His hand He brought forth a race such as only He could create.
When they looked about their new world, they longed for a name to befit such glory, and God spoke through their lips, giving voice to a word that only He could utter. And from that day, His finest work was called Korendor.
We are an advanced, scientifically adept race, we Korendians, but we are not too absorbed in progress or future concerns to lose appreciation for the ancient legends (and, to be sure, we not too humbly think that there may be a large portion of truth in that one).
Your race also has many old tales passed on through the generations, but in your quest to be "modern" you have forsaken those old stories. Only in the so-called "primitive" people is this reverence for the past still important.
This is sad, because any society that no longer cherishes its roots will suffer from an emptiness, a desire for continuity that no amount of newness will ever satisfy. Look backward as well as forward. Therein lies the very heart and soul of civilization.
Now, let us return to the topic at hand, the history of Korendor. I will refer to the Nine Eras of Korendor, a term our historians use to segment our past, although the lines that separate them are vague and based on consensus rather than fact.
Despite my previous statement about avoiding "in the beginning", it is necessary to touch briefly on the early days of our world, because they form the "Primary Era".
Our world began about 1.51 billion years ago (the word "year" in this text will refer to Korendor's year, which is about 4.53 Terran years), as the Korena system condensed from a vast cloud of nebular vapors and detritus from many long-dead stars.
I must digress for a moment to point out that there have been several "generations" of stars in our galaxy's long past, and from these earlier stars came the heavier elements, synthesized by their fusion alchemy.
We owe our very existence to the lives and deaths of those billions of ancient stellar forebears. Your noted astronomer, Carl Sagan, said in his television series, "Cosmos", that "we are all star stuff." His analysis is exactly correct.
As our proto-planet cooled, the vast quantities of hydrogen and oxygen in the atmosphere reacted to form water vapor, which over several million years condensed to form our oceans and lakes.
The first traces of Korendian life appeared about 20 million years ago in the "tropical" oceans, in the form of monocellular organisms, both plant and animal.
The water in which they developed was a veritable chemical warehouse of nutrients, and this primitive life was nurtured into progressing into more sophisticated forms (evolution) at a rate that seems almost impossibly short by the usual standards.
Within a million years, plant life had developed sufficiently to allow it to take hold on the land areas, where it propogated at a furious rate. The high radiation levels from Korena, not yet filtered by the early atmosphere, resulted in extraordinary mutations, and a rich profusion of plants ensued. Animal life was making its own "fast lane" plunge into complexity. The early amoebic forms rapidly changed and within two million years the seas were teeming with a dazzling variety of aquatic forms, from the simplest fish to Korendian humanity's earliest actual ancestor.
Unlike man of Earth, our link to the early animal life was a sea-living creature, a small mammalian with scaled skin, webbed hands and feet, and gills, resembling, in your terms, a rather large frog.
A half-million years ago, the Division occured. Until then all land animals were either insects or small mammals. At this time, the First Human branched into two divisions.
One lineage continued to be sea dwellers. The other, perhaps due to some vestigial intelligence, chose to explore the land areas around them. At the onset, the hostile environment was so brutal that they were driven back into the sea, but as the millenia went by they developed pseudo-lungs and the ability to breathe.
Their limbs strengthened as they spent more and more time on dry land, and their eyes became less sensitive to the unattenuated sunlight. The webbing faded away, no longer needed. After perhaps two hundred millenia, the first true land humanoids came into being.
The sea-living division of our ancestry also progressed into a form that was ideal for their fully aquatic existence. Where the lower extremities became our legs, the sea-humans had no need for paired lower limbs, and the webbing that was at first confined to their "feet" expanded to join the legs into a single powerful, streamlined shape. The arms retained their complete separateness, but the webbed fingers remained.
What we call "First Man" appeared on Korendor 400,000 years ago, and the "First Water Man" about 100,000 years after that. These are the points when the two lines displayed recognizable manifestations of true intelligence.
With them began our second period, the "Era of Man".
As is to be expected, early man of Korendor was a crude species, not very different from your own early people, content to dwell in the open or within caves. They were a nomadic lot, living off of small animals and vegetation as they wandered aimlessly about following the seasons.
As a point of interest, Korendor never had large land animals. Except for two that are, in your terms, about six feet tall, our animal species are smaller than us. Our higher gravity is the major factor in this difference between my world and yours.
Because of this, our ancestors had no natural enemies. One would think that this relatively pacific existence would have resulted in a well-mannered and gentle race. Not so.
Whatever our present love of life, our earliest ancestors were not thus inclined, and they did far more to end their brief history than to advance it. For millenia these brutes opted to live solitary existences, with only female companions, typically obtained by force from other men who usually perished in the process.
Despite his wandering nature, the male was highly territorial, and should another man venture into his domain of the moment, whether by accident or by choice, he invariably found himself in a battle to the death.
When not engaged in killing, early man indulged in the natural instincts. His family often numbered ten or more, and although many died (not a few from cannibalism), the net population grew.
The use of simple tools began, first with basic stone weapons (which made dispatching trespassers easier), then with more complex constructions and articulated implements. Fire was common, due to the very high frequency of violent electrical storms in those days, and no doubt quite a few fingers were burned examining this hot, glowing thing. It was probably due to their sampling the taste of an animal killed by a fire that led to cooking their meat.
As might be expected, with the growth of knowledge, the practice of pointing and grunting became wholly inadequate for communicating new bits of information. However, it was not language that developed, but primitive telepathy. As I have said before, telepathic ability is inate in all beings, but in our race it is unusually acute, and it was the first method early Korendians used to communicate intelligently.
One can imagine the surprise that overcame an ancient primitive when he visualized an image of something in his mind, trying to find some way to get his point across, and his children excitedly pointed to it. Repeated tests of this had the same results, and the family discovered quickly that they could all send pictures. The first real interpersonal contact came into being.
As time passed and the population expanded, inevitable meetings ensued, and with his new ability, he discovered that these others had the same thoughts and needs and feelings as his own.
The notion of a community arose as they realized that knowledge could be shared. Tribes banded together, and soon they decided that it wasn't enough to merely think at each other. A way was needed to preserve their knowledge.
The discovery of drawing was a natural outgrowth of idly running one's fingers in the sand or being fascinated by the black mark left on a wall by a chunk of burnt wood. The artistically inclined left fairly detailed pictures of their simple life in the caves that dot the Korendian hills.
It is deeply emotional for us to tour those sites and experience oneness with the minds that committed those artworks to the ageless rock.
We can certainly empathize with the frustration your archaeologists must feel as they watch the unearthed labors of humanity of millenia past forever lost to "progress".
It is good to grow and expand, but not at the expense of your heritage. Whenever a "dig" is destroyed for no better reason than economic expedience, you lose a precious, irreplaceable link with your history and culture.
Getting back to the subject, these drawings grew quite sophisticated over time, resembling your old hieroglyphic languages in some ways, but they were tedious to create, and intelligent man is never content with doing things the "hard way". A better, more efficient method of preserving knowledge was necessary.
Spoken language ensued, as their vocalizations became more refined and expressive, and they learned that a few sounds could represent a long series of thought pictures. It is also assumed that the naming of people arose at this time, primarily to allow identifying members in a large tribal group without needing their version of "hey, you".
One can envision them regularly gathering to invent words to describe each new plant or animal or stone or person, occasionally giggling when one of them playfully suggested an utterly ridiculous word (if this seems to be a bit whimsical, perhaps you might have a more logical explanation for "kangaroo" and "kumquat").
Simultaneously, it was learned that the written language could become simpler, as the detailed pictographs were made more and more abstract to save time in the writing. At that point they began to convert their vocalized language into written form, with each sound converted into an arbitrary but agreed-upon character.
There were about 175 of these "letters" in the first attempt to put into writing their spoken language. It was a complex listing of sounds and combinations, but it served until the urge arose to improve it. They then reduced the total to 44 basic sounds, and each was represented by a single stylized character. The first alphabet had been created, and we witnessed the beginning of recorded history. This was the transition into the "Social Era".
As the centuries passed and the population expanded, it became more and more difficult to locate caves large enough to hold the tribes comfortably. Man decided then to construct artificial caves to supplement their natural caverns, and he immediately realized that these dwellings could be made anywhere that the raw materials were available, or simply taken with them as they travelled.
Man again became nomadic, with his tribes constantly on the move seeking and exploring new territory. Contact between roving tribes was common. In a few instances it resulted in war when one of them, not as advanced as the other, allowed fear of the unknown to be translated into violence. Usually, both tribes were destroyed in these brutal encounters.
Most often, the gathering of a number of tribes in one particularly desirable place prompted the amassed peoples to decide to settle down. The decision was usually justified by the increasingly indefensible logistics of regularly moving dozens of homes.
These early villages grew rapidly, often containing hundreds of dwellings and thousands of people. This expansion brought with it the awareness that some way was needed to coordinate and unite the people. Individuals of greater intelligence or development than the rest were nominated -- or appointed themselves -- to the post of ruler of the village. They established a basic framework of laws to control village life, which the people accepted readily to escape the confusion of anarchy.
With a growing population came the inevitable specialization of skills, since not everyone was equally adept at farming or building or tool-making. One of these fields was science. It was no longer adequate to merely accept that things were so. It became imperative for humanity to know how and why.
Astronomy was an important study, and they learned that the positions of the stars corresponded to the seasons. Experimentation showed how planting at certain times resulted in a good crop. As with all beginning cultures, they created constellations from the star patterns to aid in their research, and to this day most of those ancient sky objects and creatures are still known to Korendians.
Chemistry and physics developed a few millenia later. They learned the use of metals and how to extract them from the soil and rocks. Our "iron age" swept upon us with dazzling speed.
The discovery of the lever was a case of "serendipity". Their records related that while felling trees for a new building, a very large one dropped across a rock. The top half continued downward, and the lower end swung up, catching a previously-cut tree as it rose. The log was tossed into the air and it crashed through the wall of a nearby dwelling under construction, totally demolishing it.
The scientists experimented with this new phenomenon on a small scale, and found that force could be amplified with ease. The laborers, so they wrote, thanked them profusely.
Compound levers were next, then the wedge and the screw. As these new methods flourished, Korendor entered the "Mechanical Era".
As I noted before, my world has no large animals, no beasts of burden, as you call them. Therefore, what work was done was by pure human muscle-power. As the intellect developed, this situation became a source of great ingenuity.
You have a saying that "necessity is the mother of invention". May I add that quite often it is less a matter of need than a desire to minimize effort. Whatever else human beings might be, we are at our most creative when diligently looking for ways to avoid strenuous work. Intelligence and physical labor cannot, it seems, peacefully coexist.
As this era progressed, simple machines eased much of the "back-breaking" toil that took such a heavy toll on the health of the early Korendian people. Oddly enough, it was almost two centuries after this period began before the people invented the most utilitarian machine of all, the wheel, and then, if the records of the time are correct, it came about through idle curiosity rather than scientific thought.
On Korendor we have a plant very like your tumbleweed that abounds in arid regions. Their movements were often watched by the people, but they always missed the significance of what they were seeing until one day a fellow of unusual intellectual acumen decided to catch one and take it home.
He studied it, casually kicking it about his floor a few times, until the dawn of inspiration rose upon him. He outlined the weed on a flat stone, cut it out in a roughly circular shape, and setting it on edge he gave it a push. It rolled through his door and down a slope, shattering on the rocks at the foot of the hill.
Filled with elation, he called the village thinkers to his home and told them of this experiment. They hurriedly made another one and played with it for two days. Then they tried to use it for moving things.
It failed dismally, the axle not having been conceived as yet, but the round shape suggested logs and our genius decided to try using them as rollers. It was the discovery that gave real transportation to Korendor.
Before long the tedium of running back and forth dropping logs in front of the item being moved led to attempts to attach the rollers to it. This at first met with no great success, but in the experiments they discerned that the small rollers moved less distance for each revolution than the large ones.
Why not, they reasoned, attach a big wheel at each end of a small log so that it can move farther before it must be returned to the front. They did so and found out shortly thereafter that with the small log now off the ground, permanent fastening to the object was simple.
Today that principle is ubiquitous and essentially unaltered by time. One does not wonder that on any world where the wheel is discovered, it is always considered an historic advancement.
The wheel initiated a rebirth of travel and exploration. The journeyers roamed far afield, making contact with many other cities, sharing the wheel with those that did not have it. They opened trade routes, and intercity visitation became commonplace.
The concept of tribes vanished as the people, now in the millions, found that they were of a kind. Networks of roads sprang up, and a rudimentary mail service came about to transport written messages.
Scientists created a simple sound communication system using long tubes and reflectors that focused voices into narrow beams that carried for miles between the hilltop stations. Sunlight bounced off polished metal and glass served as a primitive heliograph.
Pure science was in its prime, and the physical sciences divided into many specialized fields. New and exciting discoveries in every branch arrived almost daily.
Manual labor was replaced by power from wind, water and combustion. With the latter energy resource adapted to transportation, the last barrier to world-wide commerce and travel was shattered.
With this creation of a planetary community, it was found advisable to unite every city under one central body of law. The first world government was established, and from that point the leaders were elected by popular vote.
The stage was set for the next major breakthrough. Science discovered electrical energy, and with it Korendor ushered in the "Scientific Era".
With that, I must end this first part of the abridged history of my planet. In the next message, I will relate "the rest of the story".
Va i luce, and peace be yours.
I am ArKay.
© 2008 Robert P. Renaud -- all rights reserved