On a brisk February morning Jason hurries to the Faculty Session at the School. For the first time since being accepted by the Faculty last fall Jason truly feels the weight of responsibility on his shoulders, to a small degree this is an issue of the honor he felt upon acceptance losing its novelty, but mostly it is because he bares the weight of a dangerous issue to the meeting hall.
Rounding the corner of Hawberry Street near the School he sees an armed man, in the morning light still as an owl, and Jason has the distinctive feeling that he might seem like a field moue to the watchful Freedom Man. But after a brief glance the Freedom Man continues scanning the horizon. Though Jason was never enthusiastic about the Natural Freedom Party, or their Civic Liberties Act, this morning is the first time he has made note of the uncomfortable sensation of evil eyes on the back of his neck while walking up the drive to the School's old cinder block building. Generally confident, a successful and upstanding citizen who gives generously to his community, it hadn't occurred to him that he could one day face review under the Civic Liberties Act's until his apprentice threatened him with such a review for religious intolerance.
“What a spoiled brat.” Jason thinks to himself as he descends a short concrete stair case to a thick wooden door only recently installed on the building. He knocks once and waits, a moment latter a reply knock comes from inside the door, then Jason knocks twice. A voice comes from inside “Teach by learning.” and Jason replies “Learn by doing.”
The door opens to show the Troll, Tony. “Well hey guy, I am glad to see you. We are starting a couple minutes late, Jane is still a little bit out, her bike tire is flat so she had to jog to Maggie and Mark's first thing when curfew lifted to borrow their ride.”
Closing the door behind Jason as he puts his coat in the entry way Tony, his eyes a bit wide leans close. “I cleaned the room very throughly for this session... figuring we haven't really cleaned all the nooks recently, lots of dust, but I am glad to say their's no trace of vermin in this whole place, even the artifacts all checked out.” turning to the main room “The windows are all insulated too, Casey said he 'wouldn't mind the fuel savings, if you do the work' when I asked him if he minded the place being a little more shadowy during this session.”
Jason, trying the appreciate Tony's well intended if concerning gesture, embraces Tony and then walks into the main room of the basement, immaculately clean, and decorated with School projects, prototypes, failed experiments, and design schematics. hung on the walls or resting on urbanite podiums. “Tony, is anyone else here yet?” Jason calls back.
“Yeah, Casey is up stairs attending to some mold he found in the green house, and Katie is, you know, making compost.” Tony replies from his stool by the door.
Jason walks to the middle of the basement's inner wall, where a tea pot sets on a masonry stove. Opposite this wall is Casey's laboratory and sleeping chamber. Just then Katie steps out of the bucket room and comes over to get tea as well. Jason's heart flutters as she approaches, yet maybe he still manages to seem relaxed as he holds up the tea pot and pours tea into the clay mug she holds out at his gesture. Speaking softly Katie says “Its good to see you, I heard about the confrontation between you and Casandra about the class she proposed.” pausing as if to gather courage “Will she truly invoke the CLA against the School?”
Jason knew Katie had been active in supporting the Global Green Party during her early teen years, and was more than a little nervous about a confrontation with the N.F.P. of the current administration. Her deep brown eyes were wrapped with the fear that her youthful political idealism would one day be used against her should she even be accused of impeding on civil liberties. Jason was completely tongue tied, fear, bravado, affection, and any number of nameless emotions wrestled for control of his heart, but before a favorite was clear another knock at the door expanded the focus beyond Katie's beautiful eyes. “I don't know.” he said glancing at the door.
Tony whispered “Teach by Learning” his good ear pressed to the mail slot, and satisfied with what he heard opened the door to Session Master Jane, who had Mark and Maggie in tow.
“Hellooo everybody! Looks like we are about at a quorum, Angus and Holly are just behind us.” Jane called out waving to Katie and Jason, as behind them Casey walked down the interior stair case, silently bolting the door behind himself.
Katie walked over to hug Jane, Mark, and Maggie as they put up their coats and then followed her back to the still steaming tea pot. Jason chided himself for not doing more to comfort Katie's fears, and then pulls away from that emotional abyss by casually inspecting the old School projects Casey keeps displayed around the room. Jason smiles at one of his early projects, a sterling engine he made from the remains of scrap butane containers, a pump, and a lawn mower. Though it wasn't judged sturdy enough for practical work, it was impressive enough to get him advanced to apprentice after only a year of volunteering for the School.
Casey walks up behind him “Laughed my butt off the first time that thing turned over, never though you would be able to maintain a seal in it, but I was sure proud to be wrong about that one.” Casey was the founder of the School, ten or maybe fifteen years ago, depending on what you count as a starting point. These days he was the live in custodian and defacto guard in the former post office turned former church where the School hosts gatherings and keeps their more important projects. Though he didn't hold an official roll in the School this term, it didn't mean he wasn't about the most influential janitor in the county, which maybe saying a lot.
Jason smiled, he was proud of his craft, it takes a truly creative mind to turn the limitless diversity of junk from the industrializing era into usable tools and equipment. There is no mass production when your building materials are whatever Angus hauls over in his big wheel cart, begged, bartered, or bought from the slums. But there is no higher feeling than turning that select junk into a tool that will make an ecology better for life just by working beautifully. It ain't bad at keeping staples in the pantry too, though faculty members don't get to keep much earnings. A big cut of the gleanings from any work they do with School skills, tools, or support is thrown back to the School in dues and fees. Of course compared to about any other work out there its good, only a few jobs do much better and they certainly aren't taking applications, and the majority of people are effectively unemployed or worse, if they have any convictions, assigned to a government crew.
Maybe there is one higher feeling than composting junk, seeing your own student come up with something you never thought could work, seeing the opportunity of know how opening up in another. Casey yawned and moseyed over to his seat in the circle, patting Jason on the shoulder as he turned to walk on.
Casting his eyes over this room of artifacts, crafted by students of the School, Jason took in the room before the meeting would start, knowing he would need all the courage he could find. First some framed plans for tools not present: the notes where Casey designed his first analogue solar heat pump controller, Katie's original plan for a Fibonacci spiral quilt, colored in and mounted on a wall with the theorem the design demonstrated writ over head; sheet music to Holly's first funk opera from when she was still 13 years old. Remains from tools which are retired: Mark's first kiln fired masonry stove tiles, that stove was destroyed when the building it was in collapsed, but Casey was quick to save the tiles for the collection; then the 3 foot high wheel of Angus' first cart, on display because since he became full grown he's pulled a 4 foot diameter wheel, and is saving his first mono-wheel for an orphan apprentice when he meets one which he finds worthy; Rita's silk loom which Tony retired when she died on a Wild-land Reclamation Crew in '27. And then tools which are still used in place like Jane's still which makes the alcohol for her tinctures; and Maggie's hand made ham radio, she even made one of the vacuum tubes herself. Beyond these most sentimental pieces were dozens more. How could the Natural Freedom Party object to a school that produces such wonders of artisanship, and works so hard to better what's little still functions in this community? Is a review even a danger for such an upstanding organization?
Catching an impatient glance from Jane, Jason double steps to his seat in the circle just before she plays the three notes that start the session on the Session Master's wheel-hub lyre. Session Master Jane announces “Fellow Students of Life, the work of coordinating the School is before us. Let us start this secession. Door Troll, lock the entry.”
Door Troll Tony turns a metal latch down and calls back in a falsely deep tone “This discussion room is closed milady.” returning to the circle and plopping down in his chair.
Session Master Jane plays a five note series and continues. “Let's all give our name and roll in this group. My name is Jane Hill, and I play the roll of Session Master, the first to speak in ordering each phase of the session, I lead us through the agenda, and serve the group in making sure all voices are heard fairly.” hitting the low note on the Master lyre she looks to her left at Maggie.
Dawning her character's hand made dream catcher sunglasses “I am Maggie Dean, I play the Session Sage, I assist the Session Master in arranging each meeting. I consult references, arrange contests, hold elections, and cast divinations to settle disputes according to their nature. And I fill in as Session Master if needed.”
“My name is Mark Curtis, I play the Historian, I write down happenings that affect the school, firstly these meetings.” Jason catches a smiled shared between Mark and Tony. The records of this meeting may be incomplete on the Historian's wax tablet, and thereby the clay record tile molded by it.
“Katie Vasquez, I am playing the Squirrel, I cache, protect, and account for the School's things and stuff.” she seemed withdrawn, not acting out the Squirrel's characteristic jitteriness and excitability the way she usually does.
“Holly Miyazaki, singer, I lead meditations, chants, and songs.” Holly sits in her perfect composure, she truly loves performance, which shows in every roll the 20 year old takes on.
“I'm Angus, I am a guardian, I work to make these meetings secure.” maybe younger than Holly, but newer to the School Angus has resisted taking and official roll. Raised in a NFP youth program he would rather be defending Northern Mexico from the Brazilians, but even the army don't want to bother with a one handed soldier that can't hold a rifle. So he pulls his cart and hones his eye for good junk. Well armed with an old revolver, a N.F.P. bandanna, respect from the streets, and a sharp piece of metal where you would expect a hand Angus serves a martial function of his own creation home side.
“Casey Duncan, I play a custodian.” He sits enraptured, adoring the performances of his friends, as the introductions go round.
“Name's Jason Sorenson, I play a Librarian. I maintain, preserve, and copy the archives of our research and references.” Jason's nerves begin to relax holding the Library Catalogue close he feels patient, calm, and collected like the way he imagines all librarians must have been before the screens got to them.
“Tony Emmons, Door Troll. I control the door, who enters, and who don't.”
Jane plucks another chord on her lyre. “Holly, lead us in the opening meditation.”
Holly stands up, followed by the rest of the group, and leads an opening meditation of the Faculty Session.
“We need all the help we can get!
That we can store up the knowing that's ol'
and rework it for new time until its fit.
Help following beauty so we are never lost
and saying with right timing 'I don't know'
May we push ourselves, but mind the cost.
Help in bettering our tragic ecologies.
Even in wretched slums may beauty grow
and orphans find wondrous philosophies.
Help us just surviving, close to the root
That the gems of knowing can lay low.
No matter the danger, know how bares fruit!”
A minute of silence follows the meditation, and Jane ends the silence with her stringed hubcap. Having been told last night of Jason's situation with his apprentice, Jane is eager to get to his report on the matter, but to the consternation of Tony and Mark she is unwilling to skip over the reading of the minutes, communications, tending to costs, and maintenance of the school's community works. Jane is not one to let some political nerves prevent a productive morning.
Jason keeps stealing glances at Katie, as she sits there though the various business accounts, breathing deeply, eyes closed. A cocked brow and a knowing look from Holly makes him suddenly self aware and he tried to focus back on Tony rushing through his requisition for study sessions in the School Nursery to restart the mulberry trees, and experiment with a new hardy chestnut tree.
Its Jason's turn to speak, his mouth goes dry, and the courage he has gathered threatens to leave him, but finally he opens his mouth “Last fall when you accepted me as a teacher I took an apprentice to help me set up my work shop, Casandra. Now she has been a good worker, and has helped me assemble a fine shop, more than earning her keep. But on Friday she asked for me to accredit a public program she wanted to lead on her experiences in Lomism, politely as I could I turned down the request. She took to the opinion I was discriminating against her religion, and threatened to charge the school with obstructing religious freedom. I told her that was ridiculous, but she fired back that if she didn't get to teach the class she would file for review under the Civil Liberties Act the start of March.”
The feelings around the circle were varied, but in unison everyone sat silently for a moment trying to weigh the consequences. Katie was the first to speak, receiving the nod from Jane, “I don't think we have any choice, I'm not the only one here with a GGP history.” eyes shift between Maggie, Mark, and Tony. “If you think she is serious we have to give her the class charter. Too many of my friends from the old movement are gone, and Tony can tell you about the Wild-land Restoration Crews.”
Tony takes the nod from Katie and says “Well, it was very unpleasant, that's for sure. In '25 with the Civil Liberties Act passage Rita and I were called before the very same review board. We had both been GGP members in our early Thirties, but she held an county office in '21. So we were charged with conspiring to obstruct civil liberties.
“The 'review' was horrid, they pulled up every stupid thing we had ever said, and painted it up so we looked like complete traitors against Freedom to the The Eurasian Federation, by proxy of their GGP offices. That insidious review made me feel guilty. I still feel guilty for working under that foreign corporate entity. They made me regret what I had done, helping the GGP strip mine our Country, I will give them that. So, I was convicted of obstructing Freedom of Assembly, because I was in a black block in '21, sentenced to 6 months on a Wildland Restoration Crew; Rita got charged with Advertising contrary to Freedom of Speech and aiding a Corporate Conspiracy, sentenced to 2 years.
“The WRC was back breaking work digging swales to battle the drought in California. The guards herded us around to projects, some of them working us straight through the midday heat. I was lucky, to get a 6 month sentence. '26, when I served, was a good harvest year and I made it through losing only 33 pounds, hah the first 8 pounds were probably good for me.” Jason tried not to wince at the pain in the callous of a joke Tony had used so often before. “While I was there Rita faired better that I did, but she had a 2 year sentence and the following summer, after I was back home and I got a letter which was 'sorry to inform me' that she died in the heat wave of '27, along with about a third of the Fresno program participants from what I gather.” Tony blinks back some tears “I took a lot of the pain from that, I've tried to turn it into strength, but it's hard. I don't care what your politics are, the fact is you don't want to face a review. The review haunts my nightmares more than any day on the crews. They will air things you didn't even know you said. Often the acquitted are worse off, the audience have beat some people into an early grave or a hospital debt, as they walk off stage, on the reckoning the judge was too soft.”
Jason got the nod again “That was '25 things were more desperate then, having lost the Brazilian War. It's different now, we've done good business with some of the board members, they know us. Jane had review duty last fall for crying out loud. Look at the work we do here, how could the review board judge against the School? We haven't impeded on her freedom of religion, or censored her free speech.”
Angus, NFP bandanna still in place, lifted his iron claw and got the nod. “Jason, Casandra's Mom is a board investigator. We're doing good work, but we are also in the way of a lot of powerful people who don't like the competition, its complicated. And the Brazilian's, with their Eurasian allies, are not done yet, if North Mexico falls, things could get more desperate than '25 was.
“Never anybody forget, I'm a proud party member, but with loving respect to my friends in this circle who have their own Freedom of opinion about the NFP and CLA, I say that it's a fight we don't want to pick. Tony's charge was the product of a dishonest board member with some ax to grind - against party regulations I add - but we are facing a local board still as crooked as that one was. We have to give her the class.”
Tony's eyes lit up, and he took the nod back from Angus “What, no way! We can't bend to fear like that. We cannot go before a review, but we also cannot be bullied around into legitimizing Lomism by some spoiled Freedom brat. Making her sermon on it an accredited part of our public programs. Have you heard her spiel? Preaching like Lomists are all lights of spiritual perfection in a dark world. Their 'ascension' is a fracked well, as though they're all on a path to being more spiritually evolved than all esle.”
“Yeah I have heard it old man, and it occurs to me that some people are more ascendant than others! And get right, the Lomist ascension is about spiritual development not evolution. We don't conflate the eternal and temporal like the GGP's Holons...” Angus' blistering response was cut off by a dissonant chord from Session Master Jane's lyre.
“Speak with respect Angus! This is not the time for a metaphysics lecture.” Jane spoke trying to hold her anger at the young fellow party member's comments in check. “Before they were stopped by the Freedom Men the GGP was supported by preachers just as subtle, and when the masses got hold of the teachings, same as always, they just heard 'We are more progressed', just like the crowds that are now gathering around Lomism.”
Jaw clenched Angus considers a reply, but Holly intervenes for him “But what if Angus or I wanted to teach a program about Lomism? We go to Lomist programs, and I can say for both of us that we have grown a lot from their practices. Would that 'legitimize Lomism'?”
Jane weighed her words carefully “Historically we have refrained from any classes about particular named Spiritual Movements. That applies to my own Shinto practice in the exact same way it applies to your Lomist practice. Our President's recent interest in Lomism should not break that equilibrium. Our curriculum is very carefully balanced to avoid involvement in such matters. We are to focus on the maintenance of the Great Conversation, not squabbles on crowd religion.”
Holly asked “Doesn't Lomism have a place in that conversation? Isn't the work of spiritual developmen and refinment at the very heart of your 'Great Conversation'?”
Before anyone could reply to Holly's question an red cheeked Angus interjected “Don't get me wrong, I love you guys, and that comes first... and you guys know I don't suffer a snitch right?” a fearful expression on Tony's brow softens “I respect what Tony and all the elders have been through. I am just saying... I should have said... that a religion class could be a good thing, I mean that its a valid path of study, handled well.”
“It pertains to a different sphere than is our proper domain for public programs.” Maggie says to clarify the precedent on such matters. “I know old people seem hopelessly more tied to the sins of our heritage, but you have to understand what we have seen in our days done by people preaching spiritual ascension. Lomism respects that spiritual ascension cannot escape the limits of the material plane, unlike some of the GGP's blue propaganda, but it still places people on ideologically differentiated levels of worth. How do you think the treatment of Tony and Rita was justified? Because they were less ascended. The School must hold on this.” Pausing before adding another wrinkle in the issue “In fact, by the School's Source Book she should be expelled for truing to coerce the School, but I would say we have let our hands be tied on that one, for the time being.”
Looking at his wife Mark replies to her “Yeah, she should be expelled, but no chance of avoiding a review under that situation! I must admit to having problems with Lomism too, especially the way some folks let it affect their political loyalties. Truth be told that fact about me wouldn't look good under a review. Though I think the issue of separate spheres of religion and education is important to maintain, we may be in the corner on this one. Maybe that makes us complicit in all the stupidity this country seems unwilling to let go of, but our higher priority is to preserve these crafts we practice and develop together, and we cannot do that suffering heat stroke in a desert reclamation project on some crew.”
The lyre sounds again as Jane tries to put a little more order into the conversation. “This is a hot issue, before we draw any more battle lines in our own family of educators I want to hear Jason's appraisal of Casandra's teaching credentials. But lets drop the talk of expulsion for the time being, let's at least leave one sleeping dog to lie for now.” the last remark is punctuated with a dissonant chord on the lyre.
Jason gulped. “Well, she is intelligent, highly literate, and remarkably skillful in deduction. But she tends to talk past people and she is still too vain to effectively lead a class. Personally I would support Holly or Angus teaching a Lomist class if my opinion were asked, even if I personally am uncomfortable with some of its popular expressions, because I know you guys are more subtle in your understandings of its teachings... unless you're mad.” Jason looks at Angus to show him respect after the little jab. “Casandra is more of an ideologue though, if it weren't for the sword she has over us I wouldn't consider recommending her teach any class in under a year.”
Katie wanted to say something, and seeing this Jason nodded to her “Jason, I wouldn't have a problem with the school expanding to include religious perspectives either. But even granting how unprepared Casandra is to teach a class I don't think we can risk losing everything because her family is well connected with the party.”
After a brief pause the nod passed back to Jane, she took a deep breath before speaking, “I think that this worry about the Civic Liberties Act is over blown. It's function is to protect our rights, not impose on them, while our country struggles with the harsh realities of unindustrializing. Also, with respect to Tony, Mark, Maggie, and Katie and all our friends who have known the severity of the laws implementation, the severity is not from malice, but necessity. Truly we are over populated, and the government cannot be expected to ignore that in criminal matters. Those projects have saved countless mile of agricultural land from the expanding dunes...” Jane hesitated, painful feelings show through her eyes. “I hate that this young girl's religious fever has brought politics into this precious gathering place, and if I felt the votes were there I would throw it out and invite the Civil Liberties Act review to show the party what we have achieved in this community, because I believe our work is second in quality and value to none!”
As Jane finished her comment the room filled with a suffocating silence. The hesitation in Jane's voice killed any courage remaining in her audience to face a review and stand up to Casandra's threat. As the silence dragged on the nod was open for anyone to speak.
“Would Angus want to teach a Lomist class?” Casey wondered out loud.
The feeling in the room transformed in a blink, as everyone looked to him, and then followed his gaze back to Angus, who sat there coming to terms with the possibility. “Me teach a religion class? I mean I like some of the Loma in Old Town. Truth be told I may someday want to be a Loma, to beget a spirit which can live on in new incarnations after this body is wore out like they are. But wouldn't me teaching still irk Casandra?”
Jane said with pained effort “It would be a major concession to adjust our public programs thus.”
Casey shrugged “When Ian - who lies under our fields - Mark, and I were writing some of the original guide lines we were afraid of provoking the spiritual unrest of these times, and the original idea was to check our own power more than anything. I don't know if this is a concession at all, but that's just based on my original intentions, of course this School means differ things to each of us. I just really think Angus would lead a whiz-bang program, and if Casandra were your assistant for the class her vanity would be satisfied. Oh, Holly dear, I only said Angus over you because he is more intimidating, and a party member, both of which are useful.”
Jason had seen Holly's jaw clench at the mention of Casandra working with Angus, and then relax nearly into a smile as Casey said 'intimidating'.
Tony stewed at the idea of Lomism, so popular with the high and mighty guards that ran those projects like sacrifices to the vengeful Earth, but seeing the fear lighten on Katie's face he swallowed his rage without choking. “Angus, I think you could teach a fine class, even if I don't like some of the teaching of Lomism I would rather its fans be hearing from a good hearted young man whose known life working up from the hard streets to being a successful, generous, working man. But don't let your temper into your lessons”
With the unexpected addition of Tony's support everyone in the room knew that a motion to accredit Angus' class needed only the young man's acceptance. Angus shifted in he chair and laughed “You guys all know Casandra might just end up running the class, because I don't have so much to say about that stuff as she seems to. But I like the idea of watching her get a chance to act the fool.” eye's shrink wrapped in loving tears “The only people that have been better to me than the NFP programs that got me off the streets is you guys. If it helps protect the School I will teach a class on anything .”
Maggie visibly uncomfortable at the idea of Lomism being taught in the school asked “How would you... compose the class?”
Angus had the answer to that “Probably just walking together getting scraps from the slum, talking about what we have learned as a class. Pretty much like all my programs. Mostly how to be a good scrapper, but a few pow wows added in on anybodies spiritual experiences.”
Jane rang the Lyre again to call for a vote, after passing the ballot box Maggie tallied the beads, and announced that the accreditation of 'Angus' Lomism Discussion Group' passed 7 to 2. Jane announced “Well, its a class. But I am not certain it solves our problem, and having shown that we respond to threats of review, I think we have invited more pressure onto ourselves, and perhaps even suspicion. I just fear our own distrust will sow more danger than anything tangible.” she rang the lyre to close the topic.
The cloud of the conversation broke over the already tired group of educators, but not completely. Each person in the room shared an ineffable feeling that this was only the beginning. Their work meant more to most of them than their very lives. The older member especially who had seen so much change since the two party system they grew up berating finally died of a million failures, and endured the chaos and violence of insurgencies, crushing poverty, and threat of internment by the unfeeling policies of an over populated country's revolutionary government.
Jane rang the notes of closing “Let us join to close this meeting.”
Standing together the group, holding hands with deep gratitude for each other they began their closing meditation.
“Compost Failure to fertilize Wisdom, Pain to fertilize Strength, Loss to fertilize Freedom. Grow wisdom to displace cynicism, grow strength to displace hate, grow freedom to displace resentment. Question not the measure in which the World gives us these things to labor on, simply preserver to KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK, IT WORKS!”
In only a few minutes more than a dozen apprentices, students, and volunteer candidates would start showing up. Today there were seeds to start, metal to clean and sort, a public meal to cook, scrap to gather, and bottles to clean and relabel and many more tasks and chores for the schools many programs small and large. The group disbanded quickly, leaving the tea cups to Casey for washing, and rushing to work.
Jason walked outside, to see Angus pitching the class idea to his elated new assistant, and pondering Holly's frustration as she huffed away to tend to the School's trout tanks. “Casandra is well-meaning, she's just been denied any chance to learn from failure. If she tries to push Angus around I bet she could learn a lot.” Jason thinks to himself with a smile.
Jason was surprised by a hand on him shoulder “Jason, can we talk.” it was Casey “These kind of threats have come up before since the CLA was passed, but we have generally managed to sort it out privately. Jason, you're a good teacher, but you need to get savvy, this should have never come this far. We live in dangerous times, and you saw the tension in this meeting, well it breaks my heart. If we are not always diligent and mindful these times can destroy this school without one of us ever being brought before a review.” Casey hugged Jason “But its hard, so we all do the best we can.”
Jason looked back at Casey, still worried about something. “Casey? What if she tries to become a faculty member?”
Casey played with his beard “That's why the compost piles are Faculty only. As long as Faculty dues include 20 hours of shoveling, hauling, and turning shit I think we need not fear that prospect from the well connected.”
Walking away Casey looked back at Justin was still mourning his little reprimand. “Speaking of which, maybe you should get those hours in now... I am sure Kate could use the company.”