The fire crackled as the friends sat in a circle around it. The orange glow lit up contented faces, rosy with mulled cider. A large pan near the flames kept the cider warm.
Sylvia and Yvonne listened intently as each person took it in turns to tell their story. Those gathered there would not have been considered ‘great’ in the Previous Age. Tolu had been a child that took care of several members of her family when they lost their sight, but she had done so with un-wavering selflessness that Ruach had seen and rewarded with access to Zion. Greg had checked on every elderly person in his village for years until he himself had become infirm and was murdered for the contents of his wallet. The group had all signed up for a hike around one of the mountain regions of Zion and had enjoyed the amazing views and each other’s company for the past three days.
“I had never even thought about whether dinosaurs would be here on the New Earth,” said Greg, after the stories had given way to observations about Zion. “I mean, it makes sense, but to see them in the flesh today was such a surprise, I was shocked!”
“Yes, you certainly jumped out of your skin when you saw that sleeping Tyrannosaurus,” laughed Yvonne, “but, so did I!”
“The way it was all curled up with a diplodocus. That wouldn’t have happened in the Previous Age,” said Greg. “I loved dinosaurs as a kid, I thought I knew all about them.”
“That’s what Zion is like,” said Sylvia. “I find the most surprising things happen here that would’ve been impossible before.”
“The whole place is built on trust,” said Tolu. “That’s my observation. Nothing here happens without trust.”
“Trust and respect,” added Greg. “This is life when all insecurity is replaced with trust and respect. All living things honour one another. It changes everything.”
“And yet nothing loses its distinctiveness?” said Tolu. “We are not swallowed up into one mass, where we lose what makes us… us?”
“Unity in diversity,” said Yvonne.
By now the sky was as dark as it could get on the New Earth. The four friends took a pause from the discussion to gaze up into the sky as the fire continued to warm them.
“Those stars,” said Greg, after several minutes of reverent silence.
“Yeah,” said Yvonne, also lost in wonder.
“Do you think we’ll get to explore the universe?” asked Tolu. “What’s it all doing up there, anyway?”
Greg chuckled at the awesomeness of the question. “I don’t know exactly, but it’s reminding me that I am very little.”
“Sometimes in the Previous Age, I would feel so tiny and insignificant, but then I would be tending to my relatives and know that I was very important to them,” said Tolu. “That I could be the difference in the lives of others. Then I felt at one with the whole universe!”
“I know what you mean!” said Greg. “When love was my priority, I didn’t feel so lost in the sea of existence. I felt like everything belonged as I got to know the people around me. They gave me such a sense of purpose and meaning. The only time I felt existential dread was as a young man.”
“Ah yes,” said Sylvia. “You were saying how you went to work in the city and make lots of money, just like your dad.”
“I made heaps of money and lost even more and by the time I was thirty I was miserable. I was divorced and convinced all that woman wanted was my money. When I gave it all up and became a postman in the middle of nowhere, that’s when I started to notice the human need around me.”
“Wealth can blind people to other’s needs, can’t it?” said Yvonne.
“Money can cause a feeling of entitlement,” agreed Greg. “That’s why I love the talent system here in Zion. It’s just another way we can honour each other. There are no banks because no one needs to protect or save the money! Saving for a ‘rainy day’ is no longer necessary.”
“I think about the people out in the various communities,” said Tolu. “I serve a group of voodoo witch-doctors. It’s easy to see how misguided their ideas are, but it’s also easy to see how they’ve inherited these ideas, having had no alternative culture around them.”
“So how are they responding to their new circumstances?” asked Yvonne.
“They are understandably struggling to make sense of the world without their previous paradigm. They are having great difficulty letting go of the traditions they had always known. However, they do have an attitude of wanting to help others. So much of what we called ‘evil’ was just misplaced methods of attempting to do good things.,” stated Tolu.
“Creeds don’t get you into Zion,” added Yvonne. “Some will have to become atheist to the god or gods of their old understanding.”
“Even certain ideas of who Jesus is!” said Sylvia. “The name of Jesus that was thrown around was often disconnected from the actual man and what he taught.”
“But I would want to say that even though I’ve met him,” said Greg thoughtfully, “I am no expert on him and his teachings. I was a very lapsed Catholic in the Previous Age. Imagine my shock when Jesus said my little faith was enough! When I was raised and brought to the great supper, I honestly thought there had been a huge mistake!”
“I don’t think anyone is an ‘expert’ in following The Way that Jesus taught,” mused Sylvia. “Often it’s about ‘unknowingly’ showing love, rather than ‘knowing’ how things should be.”
“Intuition over knowledge?” posed Greg.
“Yeah, trust over certainty,” added Tolu.
“Relationship over systems,” said Yvonne.
A thoughtful but happy quiet descended on the camp. The stars twinkled away above them.
The dawn overcame the darkness of the night and the friends stirred as the sky began its daily dance of colours. Pastel shades of yellow, orange, pink, purple and every shade in between.
The hike back down the mountain range was filled with encounters with strange and wonderful creatures. Herds of grass-eating dinosaurs would look up in unison at the travellers as they passed. A pack of wild dogs ran alongside them and enjoyed being tickled behind their ears.
The group walked back down the mountain trail and into one of Zion’s more urban neighbourhoods. Tall buildings reflected the pastel shades of the sky, with crystalline windows for viewing the landscape of Zion. On the tracks were an assortment of animals being ridden by people busy about their day.
“I suppose many different animals can be used as transport, given that they are all so tame here,” said Tolu.
“The teamwork between humans and animals has an amazing synergy here, greater than anything we saw in the Previous Age,” added Greg. “I went to a circus once as a child and there were zebras and elephants, but I found out later that they were abused to make them obedient. Here, kindness is clearly the basis of the relationship with working animals.”
“We got so far removed from nature before the Great Suffering,” said Sylvia. “We disregarded the other creatures of the Earth, and we thought so little of them. I am ashamed to think of how arrogant humans were back then.”
“It’s no surprise to me that animals are so central to life here in Zion,” said Tolu. All creatures are loved by the creator, and we are now able to look after them, and work with them, based in Agape Love.”
As the friends continued their journey, they came across many wonderful examples of humans and animals living and working together. Many of the scenes were surprising and joyous enough to make them laugh out loud in wonder. By the end of the afternoon, they had arrived back and were standing outside their rooms.
“Shall we meet for a final meal together, in a bit?” suggested Yvonne, always the most socially-minded.
“I think I need some time just on my own,” said Greg. “I always was a bit on an introvert, and that hasn’t changed here on the New Earth!”
“Of course, no problem,” said Yvonne, sincerely.
“I’d love to see you in a bit,” said Tolu. “But I’d definitely like a few hours to be on my own, as well.”
“And I am going to meet an old friend tonight,” said Sylvia. “The angel guides knew we knew each other from the Previous Age, so put us in dwellings close to one another.”
Tolu and Yvonne arranged to head to a café serving traditional Greek food that evening and bid the others goodbye.