Tensor couldn't sleep. He stood at the window-wall.
His eye caught sight of a leaf dancing in the wind. It hung in the moonlight, silver and veined and crystalline, before being snatched into the blackness beyond.
A solitary green leaf, prematurely disconnected from its branch. It would still function in the morning, over-producing starch from the conversion of sunlight; though without access to the xylem channels to the roots, it would soon run out of water, production would slow, the leaf would brown and crisp. For now, it was free and living in the moonlight.
Either the leaf had gone beyond the threshold of reflected moonlight from the window, or it had simply spun edge-on and slid away into the enveloping darkness, Tensor found himself relaxing his focus to take on the valley beyond. As if sourced at his feet, the valley invited a long view East, walled by scalloped ridges either side. The apex was not so much a mountain, just the meeting of the hills, a slight saddle to indicate how this valley connected to other adjacent valleys.
A clear night, stars far brighter than any city night sky, one of the benefits of living out here in the wild. Tensor ignored the mapping of his mind, the named networks of constellations he superimposed upon the dusting of stars, and just let himself be drawn by them. This light emanating millions of light-years away to find its way into the privacy of his eye, each star a sun pulling at his attention so briefly. The utter wonder of starlight.
The thin sickle moon contrasted sharply against its black margin, the only evidence of the nearest star, our sun, on the other side of the planet. His mind considered the terminator line, the tangential twilight permanently pushing its brightening and fading crest as the earth spun. It was still hard for him to grasp that half the population of the earth were active at this precise moment, at breakfast, midday or afternoon, while their shared behaviour during the long night was constant and cool. There was more fraternity in the earth's shadow than there was in the sun's light. Here was the source of collaboration, in the darkness of imagination where man's vision could be projected as stories, as plans, as things not yet made, of times and places not yet lived. The day was given to effort, to eating and living, to business. The night was given to contemplation, and shared dreaming.
Tensor stood naked before the glass. With geothermal heating, it was always temperate to warm indoors no matter the season, regulated by the passive ventilation system of the entire block. Over thirty floors housing over six hundred families living as one community. This thing he stood in had started as a dream in someone's head, put to words as some incidental backdrop in a science-fiction novel no doubt, before it became an architect's design. Iroquoi Tower. Once expressed with the precise lines of mathematics, so it stepped from conception to a feasible and fundable project. It had the same financial engine that had revitalised urban regeneration; all the inhabitants had invested in the project mostly in terms of effort, but it had taken inspired insight of a specific individual to guarantee construction. Functioning like insurance, it was his twenty million that turned the dream into reality, not only to build the tower-block at the mouth of this isolated upstate New York valley, but to prove definitively the ecological efficacy of MTTP. Ten million was equivalent to a century, and the community who lived here intended to live on a self-sufficient annual cycle for at least a hundred years. One entire floor was reserved for the Sheikh's family, out of a sign of respect, though they seldom chose to live there and it was mostly given over to guest visitors.
A handful of leaves had been shaken from a tree and tumbled through the air, catching the moonlight in ellipses and arcs, with indescribable beauty, uniquely witnessed by the corner of the universe that was folded into Tensor's awareness. Sure these clumps of leaves blowing in the wind could have been observed by other's eyes, but they were uniquely present here, caught by his awareness. How much of nature happened out-with the perception of any witness? Surely this was a source of inspiration, a justifiable belief in spirit or God? The glorious miracle of awareness that humans were blessed with?
The leaves fell from the vertical forest that comprised one side of the tower-block, variagated every few floors, deciduous, coniferous, a few fruiting orchard varieties. Narrow concrete platforms extended from the towerblock to provide a foothold for various fruiting brambles, and to hold the earth which contained the rooting structure. Rather than fight against the incremental growth of the trees, the bio-architects had cleverly included the roots as part of the vertical structure of the building, creating a meshwork of concrete, steel and living wood. Once the trees died, their roots would be fossilised as part of the building forever.
The valley revealed itself in different hues at night. The forests on the ridge to the right, north-facing, a texture of shadow quite distinct from the lowland gorse and grasses and the fields on the south-facing slopes of the valley opposite. There was no need to have farming out there, and Tensor would rather have it had gone to seed and to return it to its natural wild aspect. Several hundred years ago the forests had been cut down, partly to extract wood for the building of houses in the nearby towns, and partly to clear for livestock and arable fields. There were dwindling numbers of members in the community who wanted to continue farming the land along old and, Tensor thought, archaic agricultural methods. The several floors of state-of-the-art hydroponics and permaculture made the eco-block partially sustainable. It was work-intensive, but this was part of the system they had introduced, where the objective was not to automate food-production, but to include human effort as an essential part of it. The philosophy extended to the preparation of foods whether it was in the shared kitchens or done privately. A fine way to practice mindfulness: the state of loving-kindness resulting in plentiful harvests, and experienced as wholesome nutritious and tasty meals.
There had been a move recently to increase the number of livestock beyond the one floor and establish a perennial external pastoral stock, but this had been blocked. The whole point of the towerblock was to not impact on the valley, not even agriculturally. As much as was possible, human production was kept within the block. Nevertheless, there were outhouses and farms on the south-facing slopes, and the animals were taken out at spring.
There were pockets of houses distributed throughout the valley. He could not see them since lighting wasn't encouraged at night, again the point being for people to live within nature. Amid the forests there were stand-alone cottages, various huts and out-houses, and there were recent petitions to build several zero-impact house near the upper throat of the valley, but this was still under consideration because of the logistics of construction as well as regular supplies. Construction was relatively easy to calculate and guarantee, but the latter was much harder. It was not simply a matter of acceding to the enthusiasm of a few dedicated eco-warriors, but to consider whether it would be a sustainable investment once that enthusiasm wore away. In fifty years time, would people still want to trek up the valley with weekly supplies? Notwithstanding the current excitement of the recent airship that was being built. It was always wise to predicate any development in terms of commitment of continued effort; technological improvement alone was missing the point completely.
There were already open source plans of pre-cast concrete panel and reinforced concrete frame towerblocks at over a thousand locations worldwide, at various stages of population and funding. Several were taking this Iroquoi Tower as precedent, but many were planning bigger communities, with upgraded services. Instead of a health centre, a hospital. Instead of a central community hall, a dedicated sports hall, dance hall, theatre. Instead of a supermarket floor, huge sharing malls. Instead of 3D printing for local use, factory-scale fab-labs for export and production. Instead of business floors dedicated to online services, entire production houses for film and tv and music channels. Shared carpools below the surface, even the tributary road would be built underground. Living cities, rooted in the wild.
The question would be, would they evolve along ecological economic financial protocols, or would commercial interests be involved at the outset? Iroquoi Tower was all about community, people wanting to live there, sharing the space, and the only reason it was working was because at its heart, was deep respect. It could so easily turn out badly if they were not vigilant in their daily practices, in the decisions they were making as a collective. A community founded on anything less than trust of diversity, would soon find that commercial interests would begin to dictate their lifestyle: what they watched on the net, what they ate, how they grew their food, and slowly and surely a deterioration of body and spirit and the consequential social degrading to the ugly conurbations based on competition that characterised so much human civilisation.
Clouds obscured the moon momentarily, the valley faded from view, replaced by his own outline. Tensor's face was a landscape of shadows, and he could just make out the sparkle of reflected light in his eyes. Is this where it all came from? Civilisation, the engineering of aquaducts and roads, the scripts and poems, all the designs and arts of man, this very building he stood in, all from a spark in the mind's eye?
This concludes the first section of the Blue Movement of the book, GIFT. Continue reading the whole book, and consider gifting-it-forward.
Aug 30th, 2013