The amazingly colorful hues of the horizon shone through the porthole as
we descended through the atmosphere of the planet. The barren desert-
looking earth rushed towards us as we descended. Automatically, the
counter thrust of the engines ignited to slow our descent. The touchdown
proceeded smoothly as we gently landed. Thus far our mission to reaquire
contact with the settlers of this far-flung planet had gone well. It had been
nearly two centuries since anyone had last heard from the settlers, so the
Captain and I had no idea what to expect. Were they alive? We prepared to
find out as the Captain quickly shut down all systems.
Our landing coordinates had been well chosen: the last known location
where the settlers and equipment had been set down. After climbing into the
Land Hoverer and checking its systems and all other necessary equipment,
we debarked from our ship. The Captain was humming one of his favorite
tunes as he left the driving and navigating to me. As the ship’s navigator it
was my duty to choose our route and search patterns. With no signs of life,
no outbuildings, no old equipment-nothing, our search could last for months.
We had already been months away from our home planet, Artaru, and with a
growing family at home I did not want to prolong my absence. The Captain,
more a freewheeling type, did not seem to mind being away from family and
friends and lived in his own little musical world, lost in some pleasant
Thankfully, the Land Hoverer moved quickly over the uneven terrain.
The high winds howled outside but failed to touch us inside. The best
sensors produced on Artaru had yet to pinpoint any anomalies and the hours
and eventually the days of searching dragged by. Almost a week after we
arrived, though, a heat signature was located and we headed towards it.
Stopping nearby we put on our pressurized suits, grabbed our packs stuffed
with supplies and left the Land Hoverer.
The vent we came upon was huge and had a constant influx and outflow
of air depending on which side you were near. Eventually, we located an
airlock which allowed us easy access to huge ladders that led downward.
With a little trepidation we descended rung by rung.
We stopped climbing down at the first entryway even though the ladder
continued to descend. When we entered what appeared to be a maze of
small apartment complexes, we came across people occupied in a variety of
pursuits but who gave us just a passing nod of acknowledgement. Asking to
meet someone in charge did us little good because individuals would not or
possibly could not give us a straight answer. Their personal pursuits took
precedent over all else. Not being able to break through and find any
political structure or leader we eventually gave up trying to find a ruler.
However, we did discover a clue when we asked about the glowing stones
that seem to supply the light and heat throughout. When pressed to answer
about the source of the glowing stones, the person would always point
downward, so resigned ourselves to another trek.
Rung by rung we lowered ourselves for a considerable length of time
until coming to what appeared to be the next level. Again, we found
apartment complexes and meeting rooms and though drab were designed
much more orderly and again filled with people. Most of them were caught
up in intellectual pursuits pondering some philosophical problem or reading
or writing or teaching. When we asked to be taken to a leader the individual
would invariably ask which area of expertise we needed. Was it
astronomical, societal, historical, biological or some other field of study.
Confused, I remained silent, but the Captain finally stated, “We want the
When we arrived at the historical meeting room, the Captain asked for the
record of the settlers’ history since they landed on the planet.
For the next few hours I sat quietly nearby while the Captain read the
tome of what had happened since the settlers had arrived. He kept shaking
his head in disbelief and amazement.
Nearly at the end, he slammed the book closed and emphatically stated,
“We must visit the third and last level.”
As we left, we again noticed the glowing stones but never once saw anyone
involved in mining.
Again our descent was strangely quiet while we juxtaposed the two
wildly different communities of Levels’ One and Two in our minds. The
Captain did not hesitate to enter Level Three and strode into the first rooms
as the commander he was.
The pleasant greeting that met us shocked him and we stopped.
“My name is Daoud,” the man stated. “I am the greeter on duty today.
May I be of service?”
“Yes, I am the captain of a ship that has just arrived from Artaru. Please
take us to whoever is in charge.”
“Certainly. Please follow me,” our greeter responded.
After walking a short distance through beautifully designed and
decorated corridors, he entreated us, “Please be so kind as to wait here
while the elders are called to the Assembly Hall.”
About a half an hour later the two of us were led into a palatial hall which
stunned us with its size and beauty. The elders sat before us and we were
beckoned to sit in seats carved out of what appeared to be limestone.
The Chief Elder began, “We understand you have arrived from Artaru.
We knew this day would come, but it took many more decades than we
imagined. I am sure you have many questions, and we will do what we
can to answer them.”
Deferring to the Captain, I let him initiate the conversation.
Very seriously the Captain asked, “What has caused the split and
the different levels here?”
The Chief Elder replied, “Your question goes to the heart of our dilemma.
We believe every person should be able to choose where and how they
want to live. We do not force our will on anyone unless they are a
menace to society. We were created with free will and we respect that
The Captain responded, “Do you mean people have chosen to live in the
frivolity of Level One and dull intellectualism of Level Two?”
“Unfortunately, that is exactly what they have done, the Chief Elder
answered. We supply them with the energy stones they need to
survive(mined in deeper regions) and send our own among them as we
“But what has caused this rift?” the Captain asked perplexed.
“The divide is one of worldview. Level One focuses on the body and
sees little else. Level Two stays locked on the mind and has a myopic
view in that direction. Our level attempts to include body, mind and,
most importantly, spirit in our society. Exercise, sports and games help
us stay healthy and strong but are only a small part of our total well-
being. Teaching, training and intellectual pursuits are likewise
worthwhile endeavors and very necessary but can never satisfy the
deepest longings of the human heart. The human spirit only blossoms
into full bloom once it recognizes its need for faith in Jesus Christ who
died on a cross to take away our sins. That initial step into the spiritual
realm along with Bible study, prayer and being part of a Christian
community are what begin to create a whole person and a whole society.”
Our trip back to Artaru was also strangely quiet as we pondered what we