Maps in a mirror, p.41

Maps in a Mirror, page 41

 

Maps in a Mirror
 



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  Even before this, she had been slipping away into the community of women in the library. She would drift away even faster now, not even noticing it as Leyel became less and less important to her. No need for anything as dramatic as divorce. Just a little gap between them, an empty space that might as well be a chasm, might as well be the abyss. My fortune was a part of me, and now that it’s gone, I’m no longer the same man she loved. She won’t even know that she doesn’t love me any more. She’ll just get busier and busier in her work, and in five or ten years when I die of old age, she’ll grieve—and then suddenly she’ll realize that she isn’t half as devastated as she thought she’d be. In fact, she won’t be devastated at all. And she’ll get on with her life and won’t even remember what it was like to be married to me. I’ll disappear from all human memory then, except perhaps for a few scientific papers and the libraries.

  I’m like the information that was lost in all those neglected archives. Disappearing bit by bit, unnoticed, until all that’s left is just a little bit of noise in people’s memories. Then, finally, nothing. Blank.

  Self-pitying fool. That’s what happens to everyone, in the long run. Even Hari Seldon—someday he’ll be forgotten, sooner rather than later, if Chen has his way. We all die. We’re all lost in the passage of time. The only thing that lives on after us is the new shape we’ve given to the communities we lived in. There are things that are known because I said them, and even though people have forgotten who said it, they’ll go on knowing. Like the story Rinjy was telling—she had forgotten, if she ever knew it, that Deet was the librarian in the original tale. But still she remembered the tale. The community of librarians was different because Deet had been among them. They would be a little different, a little braver, a little stronger, because of Deet. She had left traces of herself in the world.

  And then, again, there came that flash of insight, that sudden understanding of the answer to a question that had long been troubling him.

  But in the moment that Leyel realized that he held the answer, the answer slipped away. He couldn’t remember it. You’re asleep, he said silently. You only dreamed that you understood the origin of humanity. That’s the way it is in dreams—the truth is always so beautiful, but you can never hold on to it.

  “How is he taking it, Deet?”

  “Hard to say. Well, I think. He was never much of a wanderer anyway.”

  “Come now, it can’t be that simple.”

  “No. No, it isn’t.”

  “Tell me.”

  “The social things—those were easy. We rarely went anyway, but now people don’t invite us. We’re politically dangerous. And the few things we had scheduled got canceled or, um, postponed. You know—we’ll call you as soon as we have a new date.”

  “He doesn’t mind this?”

  “He likes that part. He always hated those things. But they’ve canceled his speeches. And the lecture series on human ecology.”

  “A blow.”

  “He pretends not to mind. But he’s brooding.”

  “Tell me.”

  “Works all day, but he doesn’t read it to me any more, doesn’t make me sit down at the lector the minute I get home. I think he isn’t writing anything.”

  “Doing nothing?”

  “No. Reading. That’s all.”

  “Maybe he just needs to do research.”

  “You don’t know Leyel. He thinks by writing. Or talking. He isn’t doing either.”

  “Doesn’t talk to you?”

  “He answers. I try to talk about things here at the library, his answers are—what? Glum. Sullen.”

  “He resents your work?”

  “That’s not possible. Leyel has always been as enthusiastic about my work as about his own. And he won’t talk about his own work, either. I ask him, and he says nothing.”

  “Not surprising.”

  “So it’s all right?”

  “No. It’s just not surprising.”

  “What is it? Can’t you tell me?”

  “What good is telling you? It’s what we call ILS—Identity Loss Syndrome. It’s identical to the passive strategy for dealing with loss of body parts.”

  “ILS. What happens in ILS?”

  “Deet, come on, you’re a scientist. What do you expect? You’ve just described Leyel’s behavior, I tell you that it’s called ILS, you want to know what ILS is, and what am I going to do?”

  “Describe Leyel’s behavior back to me. What an idiot I am.”

  “Good, at least you can laugh.”

  “Can’t you tell me what to expect?”

  “Complete withdrawal from you, from everybody. Eventually he becomes completely antisocial and starts to strike out. Does something self-destructive—like making public statements against Chen, that’d do it.”

  “No!”

  “Or else he severs his old connections, gets away from you, and reconstructs himself in a different set of communities.”

  “This would make him happy?”

  “Sure. Useless to the Second Foundation, but happy. It would also turn you into a nasty-tempered old crone, not that you aren’t one already, mind you.”

  “Oh, you think Leyel’s the only thing keeping me human?”

  “Pretty much, yes. He’s your safety valve.”

  “Not lately.”

  “I know.”

  “Have I been so awful?”

  “Nothing that we can’t bear. Deet, if we’re going to be fit to govern the human race someday, shouldn’t we first learn to be good to each other?”

  “Well, I’m glad to provide you all with an opportunity to test your patience.”

  “You should be glad. We’re doing a fine job so far, wouldn’t you say?”

  “Please. You were teasing me about the prognosis, weren’t you?”

  “Partly. Everything I said was true, but you know as well as I do that there are as many different ways out of a B-B syndrome as there are people who have them.”

  “Behavioral cause, behavioral effect. No little hormone shot, then?”

  “Deet. He doesn’t know who he is.”

  “Can’t I help him?”

  “Yes.”

  “What? What can I do?”

  “This is only a guess, since I haven’t talked to him.”

  “Of course.”

  “You aren’t home much.”

  “I can’t stand it there, with him brooding all the time.”

  “Fine. Get him out with you.”

  “He won’t go.”

  “Push him.”

  “We barely talk. I don’t know if I even have any leverage over him.”

  “Deet. You’re the one who wrote, ‘Communities that make few or no demands on their members cannot command allegiance. All else being equal, members who feel most needed have the strongest allegiance.’ ”

  “You memorized that?”

  “Psychohistory is the psychology of populations, but populations can only be quantified as communities. Seldon’s work on statistical probabilities only worked to predict the future within a generation or two until you first published your community theories. That’s because statistics can’t deal with cause and effect. Stats tell you what’s happening, never why, never the result. Within a generation or two, the present statistics evaporate, they’re meaningless, you have whole new populations with new configurations. Your community theory gave us a way of predicting which communities would survive, which would grow, which would fade. A way of looking across long stretches of time and space.”

  “Hari never told me he was using community theory in any important way.”

  “How could he tell you that? He had to walk a tightrope—publishing enough to get psychohistory taken seriously, but not so much that anybody outside the Second Foundation could ever duplicate or continue his work. Your work was a key—but he couldn’t say so.”

  “Are you just saying this to make me feel better?”

  “Sure. That’s why I’m saying it. But it’s also t
rue—since lying to you wouldn’t make you feel better, would it? Statistics are like taking cross sections of the trunk of a tree. It can tell you a lot about its history. You can figure how healthy it is, how much volume the whole tree has, how much is root and how much is branch. But what it can’t tell you is where the tree will branch, and which branches will become major, which minor, and which will rot and fall off and die.”

  “But you can’t quantify communities, can you? They’re just stories and rituals that bind people together—”

  “You’d be surprised what we can quantify. We’re very good at what we do, Deet. Just as you are. Just as Leyel is.”

  “Is his work important? After all, human origin is only a historical question.”

  “Nonsense, and you know it. Leyel has stripped away the historical issues and he’s searching for the scientific ones. The principles by which human life, as we understand it, is differentiated from nonhuman. If he finds that—don’t you see, Deet? The human race is re-creating itself all the time, on every world, in every family, in every individual. We’re born animals, and we teach each other how to be human. Somehow. It matters that we find out how. It matters to psychohistory. It matters to the Second Foundation. It matters to the human race.”

  “So—you aren’t just being kind to Leyel.”

  “Yes, we are. You are, too. Good people are kind.”

  “Is that all? Leyel is just one man who’s having trouble?”

  “We need him. He isn’t important just to you. He’s important to us.”

  “Oh. Oh.”

  “Why are you crying?”

  “I was so afraid—that I was being selfish—being so worried about him. Taking up your time like this.”

  “Well, if that doesn’t—I thought you were beyond surprising me.”

  “Our problems were just—our problems. But now they’re not.”

  “Is that so important to you? Tell me, Deet—do you really value this community so much?”

  “Yes.”

  “More than Leyel?”

  “No! But enough—that I felt guilty for caring so much about him.”

  “Go home, Deet. Just go home.”

  “What?”

  “That’s where you’d rather be. It’s been showing up in your behavior for two months, ever since Hari’s death. You’ve been nasty and snappish, and now I know why. You resent us for keeping you away from Leyel.”

  “No, it was my choice, I—”

  “Of course’ it was your choice! It was your sacrifice for the good of the Second Foundation. So now I’m telling you—healing Leyel is more important to Hari’s plan than keeping up with your day-to-day responsibilities here.”

  “You’re not removing me from my position, are you?”

  “No. I’m just telling you to ease up. And get Leyel out of the apartment. Do you understand me? Demand it! Reengage him with you, or we’ve all lost him.”

  “Take him where?”

  “I don’t know. Theater. Athletic events. Dancing.”

  “We don’t do those things.”

  “Well, what do you do?”

  “Research. And then talk about it.”

  “Fine. Bring him here to the library. Do research with him. Talk about it.”

  “But he’ll meet people here. He’d certainly meet you.”

  “Good. Good. I like that. Yes, let him come here.”

  “But I thought we had to keep the Second Foundation a secret from him until he’s ready to take part.”

  “I didn’t say you should introduce me as First Speaker.”

  “No, no, of course you didn’t. What am I thinking of? Of course he can meet you, he can meet everybody.”

  “Deet, listen to me.”

  “Yes, I’m listening.”

  “It’s all right to love him, Deet.”

  “I know that.”

  “I mean, it’s all right to love him more than you love us. More than you love any of us. More than you love all of us. There you are, crying again.”

  “I’m so—”

  “Relieved.”

  “How do you understand me so well?”

  “I only know what you show me and what you tell me. It’s all we ever know about each other. The only thing that helps is that nobody can ever lie for long about who they really are. Not even to themselves.”

  For two months Leyel followed up on Magolissian’s paper by trying to find some connection between language studies and human origins. Of course this meant weeks of wading through old, useless point-of-origin studies, which kept indicating that Trantor was the focal point of language throughout the history of the Empire, even though nobody seriously put forth Trantor as the planet of origin. Once again, though, Leyel rejected the search for a particular planet; he wanted to find out regularities, not unique events.

  Leyel hoped for a clue in the fairly recent work—only two thousand years old—of Dagawell Kispitorian. Kispitorian came from the most isolated area of a planet called Artashat, where there were traditions that the original settlers came from an earlier world named Armenia, now uncharted. Kispitorian grew up among mountain people who claimed that long ago, they spoke a completely different language. In fact, the title of Kispitorian’s most interesting book was No Man Understood Us; many of the folk tales of these people began with the formula “Back in the days when no man understood us . . .”

  Kispitorian had never been able to shake off this tradition of his upbringing, and as he pursued the field of dialect formation and evolution, he kept coming across evidence that at one time the human species spoke not one but many languages. It had always been taken for granted that Galactic Standard was the up-to-date version of the language of the planet of origin—that while a few human groups might have developed dialects, civilization was impossible without mutually intelligible speech. But Kispitorian had begun to suspect that Galactic Standard did, not become the universal human language until after the formation of the Empire—that, in fact, one of the first labors of the Imperium was to stamp out all other competing languages. The mountain people of Artashat believed that their language had been stolen from them. Kispitorian eventually devoted his life to proving they were right.

  He worked first with names, long recognized as the most conservative aspect of language. He found that there were many separate naming traditions, and it was not until about the year 6000 GE that all were finally amalgamated into one Empire-wide stream. What was interesting was that the farther back he went, the more complexity he found.

  Because certain worlds tended to have unified traditions, and so the simplest explanation of this was the one he first put forth—that humans left their home world with a unified language, but the normal forces of language separation caused each new planet to develop its own offshoot, until many dialects became mutually unintelligible. Thus, different languages would not have developed until humanity moved out into space; this was one of the reasons why the Galactic Empire was necessary to restore the primeval unity of the species.

  Kispitorian called his first and most influential book Tower of Confusion, using the widespread legend of the Tower of Babble as an illustration. He supposed that this story might have originated in that pre-Empire period, probably among the rootless traders roaming from planet to planet, who had to deal on a practical level with the fact that no two worlds spoke the same language. These traders had preserved a tradition that when humanity lived on one planet, they all spoke the same language. They explained the linguistic confusion of their own time by recounting the tale of a great leader who built the first “tower,” or starship, to raise mankind up into heaven. According to the story, “God” punished these upstart people by confusing their tongues, which forced them to disperse among the different worlds. The story presented the confusion of tongues as the cause of the dispersal instead of its result, but cause-reversal was a commonly recognized feature of myth. Clearly this legend preserved a historical fact.

  So far, Kispitorian’s work was per
fectly acceptable to most scientists. But in his forties he began to go off on wild tangents. Using controversial algorithms—on calculators with a suspiciously high level of processing power—he began to tear apart Galactic Standard itself, showing that many words revealed completely separate phonetic traditions, incompatible with the mainstream of the language. They could not comfortably have evolved within a population that regularly spoke either Standard or its primary ancestor language. Furthermore, there were many words with clearly related meanings that showed they had once diverged according to standard linguistic patterns and then were brought together later, with different meanings or implications. But the time scale implied by the degree of change was far too great to be accounted for in the period between humanity’s first settlement of space and the formation of the Empire. Obviously, claimed Kispitorian, there had been many different languages on the planet of origin; Galactic Standard was the first universal human language. Throughout all human history, separation of language had been a fact of life; only the Empire had had the pervasive power to unify speech.

  After that, Kispitorian was written off as a fool, of course—his own Tower of Babble interpretation was now used against him as if an interesting illustration had now become a central argument. He very narrowly escaped execution as a separatist, in fact, since there was an unmistakable tone of regret in his writing about the loss of linguistic diversity. The Imperium did succeed in cutting off all his funding and jailing him for a while because he had been using a calculator with an illegal level of memory and processing power. Leyel suspected that Kispitorian got off easy at that—working with language as he did, getting the results he got, he might well have developed a calculator so intelligent that it could understand and produce human speech, which, if discovered, would have meant either the death penalty or a lynching.

 

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