The amazingly colorful hues of the horizon shone through the porthole as we descended through the atmosphere of the planet. The barren desertlooking earth rushed towards us as we descended. Automatically, the counter thrust of the engines ignited to slow our descent. The touchdown proceeded smoothly as we gently landed. Thus far our mission to reaquire contact with the settlers of this far-flung planet had gone well. It had been nearly two centuries since anyone had last heard from the settlers, so the Captain and I had no idea what to expect. Were they alive? We prepared to find out as the Captain quickly shut down all systems. Our landing coordinates had been well chosen: the last known location where the settlers and equipment had been set down. After climbing into the Land Hoverer and checking its systems and all other necessary equipment, we debarked from our ship. The Captain was humming one of his favorite tunes as he left the driving and navigating to me. As the ship’s navigator it was my duty to choose our route and search patterns. With no signs of life, no outbuildings, no old equipment-nothing, our search could last for months. We had already been months away from our home planet, Artaru, and with a growing family at home I did not want to prolong my absence. The Captain, more a freewheeling type, did not seem to mind being away from family and friends and lived in his own little musical world, lost in some pleasant reverie. Thankfully, the Land Hoverer moved quickly over the uneven terrain. The high winds howled outside but failed to touch us inside. The best sensors produced on Artaru had yet to pinpoint any anomalies and the hours and eventually the days of searching dragged by. Almost a week after we arrived, though, a heat signature was located and we headed towards it. Stopping nearby we put on our pressurized suits, grabbed our packs stuffed with supplies and left the Land Hoverer. The vent we came upon was huge and had a constant influx and outflow of air depending on which side you were near. Eventually, we located an airlock which allowed us easy access to huge ladders that led downward. With a little trepidation we descended rung by rung. We stopped climbing down at the first entryway even though the ladder continued to descend. When we entered what appeared to be a maze of small apartment complexes, we came across people occupied in a variety of pursuits but who gave us just a passing nod of acknowledgement. Asking to

meet someone in charge did us little good because individuals would not or possibly could not give us a straight answer. Their personal pursuits took precedent over all else. Not being able to break through and find any political structure or leader we eventually gave up trying to find a ruler. However, we did discover a clue when we asked about the glowing stones that seem to supply the light and heat throughout. When pressed to answer about the source of the glowing stones, the person would always point downward, so resigned ourselves to another trek. Rung by rung we lowered ourselves for a considerable length of time until coming to what appeared to be the next level. Again, we found apartment complexes and meeting rooms and though drab were designed much more orderly and again filled with people. Most of them were caught up in intellectual pursuits pondering some philosophical problem or reading or writing or teaching. When we asked to be taken to a leader the individual would invariably ask which area of expertise we needed. Was it astronomical, societal, historical, biological or some other field of study. Confused, I remained silent, but the Captain finally stated, “We want the historical field.” When we arrived at the historical meeting room, the Captain asked for the record of the settlers’ history since they landed on the planet. For the next few hours I sat quietly nearby while the Captain read the tome of what had happened since the settlers had arrived. He kept shaking his head in disbelief and amazement. Nearly at the end, he slammed the book closed and emphatically stated, “We must visit the third and last level.” As we left, we again noticed the glowing stones but never once saw anyone involved in mining. Again our descent was strangely quiet while we juxtaposed the two wildly different communities of Levels’ One and Two in our minds. The Captain did not hesitate to enter Level Three and strode into the first rooms as the commander he was. The pleasant greeting that met us shocked him and we stopped. “My name is Daoud,” the man stated. “I am the greeter on duty today. May I be of service?” “Yes, I am the captain of a ship that has just arrived from Artaru. Please take us to whoever is in charge.” “Certainly. Please follow me,” our greeter responded. After walking a short distance through beautifully designed and decorated corridors, he entreated us, “Please be so kind as to wait here while the elders are called to the Assembly Hall.”

About a half an hour later the two of us were led into a palatial hall which stunned us with its size and beauty. The elders sat before us and we were beckoned to sit in seats carved out of what appeared to be limestone. The Chief Elder began, “We understand you have arrived from Artaru. We knew this day would come, but it took many more decades than we imagined. I am sure you have many questions, and we will do what we can to answer them.” Deferring to the Captain, I let him initiate the conversation. Very seriously the Captain asked, “What has caused the split and the different levels here?” The Chief Elder replied, “Your question goes to the heart of our dilemma. We believe every person should be able to choose where and how they want to live. We do not force our will on anyone unless they are a menace to society. We were created with free will and we respect that right.” The Captain responded, “Do you mean people have chosen to live in the frivolity of Level One and dull intellectualism of Level Two?” “Unfortunately, that is exactly what they have done, the Chief Elder answered. We supply them with the energy stones they need to survive(mined in deeper regions) and send our own among them as we feel led.” “But what has caused this rift?” the Captain asked perplexed. “The divide is one of worldview. Level One focuses on the body and sees little else. Level Two stays locked on the mind and has a myopic view in that direction. Our level attempts to include body, mind and, most importantly, spirit in our society. Exercise, sports and games help us stay healthy and strong but are only a small part of our total wellbeing. Teaching, training and intellectual pursuits are likewise worthwhile endeavors and very necessary but can never satisfy the deepest longings of the human heart. The human spirit only blossoms into full bloom once it recognizes its need for faith in Jesus Christ who died on a cross to take away our sins. That initial step into the spiritual realm along with Bible study, prayer and being part of a Christian community are what begin to create a whole person and a whole society.” Our trip back to Artaru was also strangely quiet as we pondered what we had learned.

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful