"Are you saying that there is no grace left in the world?" Anton interjected.
I nodded reluctantly. "Even in America the concept of grace is dying out fast. The word, grace, has been largely stricken from the American vocabulary, except for Thanksgiving Day when a few religious people ceremoniously say grace at the dinner table for their privileges, the few privileges that still remain to those few that have them. But even those ceremonial speeches have become hollow, Anton. They've become narrow, and shallow. People look at their feast and give thanks to God, as if our civilization was a divine handout, and there was no human responsibility involved in living by the principles of the Universe that the principles of our humanity are a part of."
"Isn't civilization a divine gift?" Antonovna interjected.
"No, Anton, civilization isn't a divine gift, only the principles for our creating a civilization can be so regarded. The view that all good is a divine handout is a perversion of religion. We have been given life and the principles for living it, just as the Universe has been given its principle by which it exists."
"What came first, the principle of universal gravity or the Universe in which the principle is reflected?" said Anton.
"I would say that the Universe and its principles are one. The 'Spirit' of the Universe is reflected by all of its aspects, and it is impossible to perceive one without the other. The Sun reflects certain universal principles, or else there would be no sun enabling life in the world. But at the level of humanity, another element is added, the element of creativity."
"Then our humanity, not civilization, is the divine gift," Anton interjected. "The principles of our humanity enable us to create our civilization."
"The belief that civilization is a divine gift makes any society hollow," I said to her quietly. "The belief that mankind isn't a part of the creative process, negates our humanity and its creative principles. We should say grace at our dinner tables with a kind of celebration that celebrates our humanity instead of our privileges. Isn't any meal, especially the kind of lavish dinner that people lay out on festive occasions, the direct outcome of our humanity, a humanity that has achieved marvels in the world? An incredibly long development of culture and scientific and technological progress stands behind even the simplest meal. Isn't that true, Anton? The vast dimension of our humanity is reflected in far-flung processes of growing the food we eat, of making it available universally through transportation and distribution infrastructures, and in the preparing the food with centuries of fine traditions in cooking and adding spices, and so forth. A meal is a remarkable cultural miracle, Anton. It's a totally human thing. The food that is served is the product of a rich human culture and technological development that took mankind millennia to create, possibly even spanning several Ice Ages. To deny all of that creative development, by thanking God for the food we eat as if it were a gift from heaven, denies the riches that we have in our humanity in which God comes to light. By thanking God, and leaving our humanity out of the picture, people perpetrate a denial of God and of themselves. This denial makes our humanity appear hollow. We should celebrate our humanity in which God is reflected. We should celebrate the grace that we find in our humanity, as you are evidently aiming to do. But that's not easy, is it, in a barren world?"
Anton blushed. "You are right, it is amazing what stands behind the word, grace," she said quietly.
I nodded. "I have once looked up the word, grace, in a dictionary," I said to her moments later. "The definition for the word, grace, covers an entire column set in fine print on a foot-long page. Grace, is the only world that I know that has such a large dimension that it takes an entire column in extremely fine print to describe the concept."
When our dinner was served Anton put me to the test. "Here is your chance to say, grace, in the way it should be done," said Anton and smiled at me. "Let me hear it in the truly American way."
"You gave me two choices, Anton? Do you want to hear it the American way, or the way it should be done? Which one should I choose?"
"The right one of course, Peter."
"In this case you better start eating, Anton. I'll tell you about it while we eat, and I tell it to you in the way it happened a few months ago during the local hearing for our nudist beach project back home in North Carolina.
I paused and waited for her reaction, her protest. But there was none.
"Here it goes," I said. "We had bought a stretch of an isolated private beachfront with the idea to give the people of America a chance to have a holiday away from the world of lying to themselves, and covering things up; away from the world of being divided and isolated from their humanity. Our invitation was designed to take people back to the days before the proverbial tree of knowledge was invented that causes people to look at themselves and one-another with shame. A nudist beach counters the built-up artificial isolation and brings out a gentle kind of honesty with oneself and one-another, the kind that one doesn't find in other places anymore. That's also the environment in which I met Ursula. I met her at one of those beaches in Leipzig. She had arranged it that way. I suppose Ursula told you about it."
"Anyway, at our hearing for getting permission to do the same in America, a member of the old priesthood had a few nasty words to say about our project, and also about us as being the scum of mankind descending onto a God fearing community with a rage that would drive the living faith out of their soul. I told the man of The Cloth that the people that I had seen at these beaches in other lands were indeed not God-fearing people. I had said they were more inclined to honor God by honoring one another as the brightest stars of creation. At this point an old farmer stood up and addressed the man of The Cloth. He pointed out to him that he had become a God-fearing man by bitter experience as a bomber pilot during World War II. He told us how the chaplain always said to him in a reassuring and authoritative tone of voice, 'my son, God is on our side, God is your copilot.'
"Then the farmer told us how he in an armada of a thousand bombers had dropped three quarters of a million firebombs onto a defenseless city and burned half a million people to death in a single night. He said that he indeed feared God with a sense of horror in his heart, because the God that he had loved as a child had become a murderer.
"Then another man stood up during the hearing and suggested that we Americans owed a great debt to humanity for all the horrible things we had done and were still doing, and that the time had come for us to begin to repay this debt. He suggested for starters that our nation should commit itself to eradicate homelessness and slum living by building a million new houses in America and giving them away for free. He said that with the proper infrastructures in place we would be able to build the million new houses for the same amount that we were currently spending to build only three of the latest bomber aircraft that are costing us more than $2 billion a piece. He said that the technologies exist to produce those million new houses inexpensively from the best building material on the planet and produce them in automated industrial production facilities, together with what is required for the service infrastructures. The man said, that if we did this great thing for the homeless and the poor, and also for one another, we would not only uplift America with a bright new human face, but would be uplifting the whole world in the process, by inspiring other nations to do the same and by helping them in the process. We would turn away from spending our resources on killing people, to uplifting people. The man said, that by doing this single thing we would revolutionize the world and virtually every aspect of civilization, from construction to clothing, from farming to transportation, including finance, politics, science, culture, health care and education. He told us that the technologies to do all of this already exist. Even the energy resources exist, and the materials that are needed exist in near infinite abundance. All we needed to do, he said, would be to utilize what we've already got in ourselves as human beings, beginning with utilizing our technology of grace, which is the real light of our humanity and our grace. He said in essence that the light of our humanity can only be manifest by the Principle of Universal Love being lived in everyday life."
"You are dreaming, Peter," said Antonovna and began to laugh.
"Maybe I am dreaming," I said, "but everything that I said is possible. Our humanity as human beings gives us that capability. All we need to do is to develop the technology of grace. That's all we need to do. The humanist energy to carry the project forward will unfold from that grace. The implementation falls into place as a secondary effect. Can you imagine how America would change once we stopped wasting our human potential that we throw away with homelessness, slum living, unemployment, and waging war all over the world? We are throwing away our humanity. I am saying we need to rebuild what we have already lost. I would say that that the first step would have to be to build those millions of quality houses for the whole of society so that the human potential can become developed, which we now throw away."
"You want America to be a welfare state?" said Anton. "We tried it in Russia. It doesn't work."
"I'm not talking about the kind of welfare state where the poor remain poor and are being fed with crumbs. I am talking about the well being of society as a whole. I am talking about developing our humanity as a key foundation for civilization. I'm not dreaming, Anton. Those who think that we can survive without that, are the ones who are dreaming. So, why shouldn't we do what needs to be done? We have the physical resources in abundance. We can build those top-quality houses by the millions - not tarpaper shacks - and we can give them away. I am talking about houses that can be set up in Siberia as readily as they would fit into Equatorial Africa. The world probably needs several hundred million of these new houses immediately. China probably needs a hundred million all by itself, and India too. That's how we can upgrade our humanity and establish peace. To sing that song, and to do it, is saying grace."
"Still, I think you are dreaming," Anton interrupted. "There aren't enough trees left in America to build a million new houses, let alone the hundreds of millions that you say India needs, and China, and Africa."
"I'm not proposing to build wood shacks," I interrupted Anton. "Building with wood is archaic. I'm proposing that we build with basalt. Basalt is a finely grained stone that is extremely dense and strong, that melts at 1,200 degrees Celsius, and once melted can be processed like glass. It can be cast into molds of any shape, reinforced with fiberglass if need be. Basalt can be foamed for insulation, or be extruded into anything you can think of, even into micro fibers that can be woven into fabric. Basalt fibers are a three-times-better insulator than asbestos. Basalt bars are also a far stronger reinforcement agent for concrete, than steel is. A ton of basalt reinforcement can provide the equivalent strength of nine tons of steel. And there is plenty of basalt in the world. Nor does it have to be dug out of the ground. The USA has 170,000 cubic kilometers sitting on the surface, enough to cover the entire country with it deeper than a man stands tall. India has almost four times as much. This high-grade building material lays around unused at the moment, because we haven't bothered to develop the process heat yet to melt it. For this task we can utilize nuclear power, such as the High Temperature Gas Cooled Reactor. We can utilize the high temperature gases from these reactors and pump up their heat to the needed 1,400 degrees, or utilize nuclear-made hydrogen fuel. The point is, the realization of what we need to do to build a bright human world, is only a technical step away. It's a matter of utilizing our inner resources, our grace as human beings. If we utilize our grace, we can build anything that we can imagine, and do the building in largely automated processes. It appears that basalt micro-fibers might even be usable for weaving textiles. We can revolutionize the planet with this one single technology. That's only the beginning of our reflecting what I call grace. And we mustn't just say it only at the dinner table on special occasions, but live it and make it a daily occasion. In fact, we have to develop these kinds of potentials in a hurry, because the return of the Ice Age might hit us within the next hundred years. We have to have indoor agriculture established by then. Our present agriculture is totally dependent on the warm climate of the current Holocene interglacial period that will end soon. The very existence of mankind literally depends on the development of the technology of our grace that unlocks mankind's humanist power to transform the world. That's what creating indoor agriculture means. This means that grace is the key element of what our civilization already reflects, so far as we still have a civilization."
I stopped and laughed. "Did I say enough about grace?" I asked.
"It's all but a dream, even if it is possible," said Anton and smiled.
"And it will remain a dream for as long as we bury the technology of grace under Adam Smith's heavy blanket of greed, and the blanket of fascism that comes with it. Right now society would sooner kill most of mankind in great orgies of genocide, as we already have begun to do, and stand ready to incinerate its cities with nuclear bombs that we have ready assembled and deployed to be launched within minutes. That's where we stand, Anton. So who is dreaming? We live a nightmare that's already ongoing, Anton. We are not awake as a society. We are dreaming that this is life, and that this is civilization. We close our eyes and stand ready and eager to destroy one-another and ourselves in the name of empire. Talk about dreaming! We create poverty on a vast scale in the name of this empire, while a few arrogant inhuman creatures rob society blind in their greed for profit. We are dreaming, Anton, if we think we can survive this. However, I like to think that our present dis-graced existence can be brought to an end. I like to think that the grace of our humanity can be brought back to life on our planet. I like to believe that we stop the dreaming, and that we wake up to our humanity and to the potential it gives us to create a New World. The Principle of Universal Love doesn't need to remain stomped into the ground. It can be asserted again, as it once was in times of renaissance when a New World had been created during the few bright days in mankind's past. While this bright New World was later wrecked, the process is still possible to create it anew, and to do it more effectively this time and more deep-reaching. Right now, things look grim, especially for the Soviet Union. But things don't have to remain that way. We can stop this dreaming in which we wastefully while away the hours, as we have done for too many centuries already."