Seen from Above

Falia was resigned to her mission. The thankless task of checking out possible new worlds traditionally fell to the most junior member of the Interplanetary Relationship Bureau. It was probably a false alarm anyway, and even if it wasn’t there was nothing she could do beyond data gathering, worse luck. To remove temptation, scout vessels simply weren’t equipped for landing.

After the autopilot had maneuvered her ship into orbit, Falia set to work. Satellites made tapping into data sources seem like child’s play. She was excited to get her first glimpse of a new species, have the ship’s computer navigate through the jumble of languages, and dip into it’s strange culture. But her excitement soon turned to dismay at what she found.

Morality. The planet was infested with it. Preachers of morality raped children; others murdered in the name of family values. Those whose very existence offended the reigning moral code were despised and persecuted; those unwilling to accept it reviled. Where two moralities clashed, hatred and violence inevitably followed: the slaughter of innocents on the way was defended by moral leaders.

On the way back Falia tried to shake off her feeling of revulsion. How could anyone value rules over sentient beings’ feelings and needs? Her report would go through the usual channels, though the outcome was clear.  After the Bureau had slipped up with Silema-β, only narrowly avoiding the first interplanetary war, the ruling on a morality-ridden planet was inevitable.

Quarantine.

***

T.Mastgrave’s weekly Philosophical Story Challenge: how do conflicting moralities come to terms with one another?

And the Weekly Photo Challenge: From Above, another look at last week’s flower.

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Perfection

“It  will be fine, It will be fine.” Edith repeated her mantra. She was on the way to the medical center with her mate John, to receive their baby’s test results. It was their third attempt, the first two hadn’t passed the eugenics review. Maybe their genes just weren’t good enough.

The tube coasted to a stop. A woman and a child were waiting on the platform. Edith flinched as they got into the car. Clearly there was something wrong with the child: it’s awkward walk was painful to watch. She saw the mother looking at it with fierce protectiveness as other passengers turned away and some got up and moved away.

As the tube surged forward again, Edith instinctively put her hand on her belly. Suddenly she wanted her baby, whether or not it measured up to some arbitrary standard of perfection. It was hers, theirs. Even if it didn’t, there was no reason to be ashamed, no reason to hide.

To hide…

Maybe the reason you rarely saw disabled people anymore wasn’t the huge success of mandatory genetic screening. Maybe they were simply pushed out of sight by the contempt and disgust they were met with.

She gave the child’s mother an awkward smile.

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T. Mastgrave’s philosophical story challenge: If natural selection (survival of the fittest) is the means by which the process of evolution unfolds, is eugenics wrong?

Sugar on Top

Cavern put the phone down slowly. After thirty years on the job, he didn’t need telling a summons to the White House wasn’t good news. When crisis after crisis hit, protecting the quality of drinking water suddenly became an important job.

More than an hour into the meeting, the cards were finally on the table. The president was instructing him to introduce antidepressants into the water-supply.

Cavern looked down. “It won’t work.” he said quietly.
“How do you know that?” the President asked. “You haven’t tried it.”
Cavern could hear his voice from a distance.  “They did. Nearly thirty years ago.”

There was a stunned silence. The Defence Secretary was the first to recover: “So what was their solution?”

Cavern swallowed. “Soda,” he said weakly, “they put it in the soda.”

* * *

T. Mastgrave’s Philosophical Story Challenge: Is greatest happiness the greatest good?  

A Fresh Start

When he woke up, his mind was a blank.

He would learn later that he was in a hospital and an accident with the wiring had erased his memory. In the beginning the doctors were hopeful his memory would return, but in the meantime he needed to start from scratch.

He was a quick learner. Walking, eating with a knife and fork, and brushing his teeth were a breeze. He loved mathematical puzzles, and once he had mastered  “See Spot run”, he quickly became an avid reader.

When the doctors pronounced him as good as new, he went home to his family and his job. He did his best to settle in, to do the things he was told to do. But as often as not, he didn’t see the point. He hated the noise, and was puzzled by the empty conversations.

One day he took a boat, and sailed for the horizon.

Nobody had told him he couldn’t.

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T.Mastgrave’s philosophical story challenge: Do our memories make us who we are?

Lighting Candles

Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle,

and the life of the candle will not be shortened.

Happiness never decreases by being shared.

Buddha 

It all started with a science project. Angela Goodfellow set up a website, and crowd sourced her experiment. People registered, volunteered for a group, and returned to answer questions. There was the “Friends and Neighbours” group, the “Strangers only”, “Secret”, “Wear a Badge”, and various others.

Officially the project ended, but the test subjects stayed on. New volunteers showed up every day, and similar sites started popping up. The results were overwhelming. All of the volunteers – except the control group – reported they smiled more, felt less stress, and their relationships were better. After three to six months even their health improved. It did turn out to be addictive, but nobody really minded.

It seems obvious to us nowadays, but back then people really didn’t know: even if you do them in secret and for strangers, random acts of kindness make you happier.

* * *

This week’s philosophical story challenge by T.Mastgrave:  Is altruism possible?

Related post: Why Hate Hurts – or love heals.

Still Waters

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Jeremy yawned. Camping was bad enough; if only his Dad didn’t insist on having these pointless conversations. Did he exist? Well, obviously! Yes, like a drop of water joins the sea, he would die one day – who wanted to be old, anyway? But unlike a drop of water, he would enjoy life along the way.

Could he prove he existed? Sometimes Dad was like little Louey, really! Told the knight couldn’t move in a straight line, Louey had gone berserk: Prove it! he had shouted. Those are the rules, dummy. You don’t prove them, they’re just there. If you don’t like them, don’t play chess.

Family was really the limit. After lunch he’d find a way to slope off.

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T. Mastgrave’s philosophical story challenge: Can you be sure you exist?

The End Is Nigh

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The End is Nigh! the man shouted.

Is there still time for hot chocolate? Riley asked.

The-End-is-Nigh guy blinked. Ah, maybe, I don’t know.

― Jana Oliver, Forbidden

Why, thank-you, dearie. I never say no to a biscuit. And what’s your name, young lady? Louise? The old face cracked in a smile.

Do I believe what? That the dragon is coming and the world will end tomorrow?

Now, when I was your age, the world was always coming to an end. Left and right people were predicting disasters. I think it’s because they want the world to change. And right they are! But no, I don’t think the world will end tomorrow.

The dragon, now, that’s a whole other story. The old eyes twinkled. I’ve seen it myself, you know…

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T.Mastgrave’s story challenge: the End of Time.