“At first it seemed impossible – a radio signal that came not from Earth but from far beyond the nearest stars. But then the signal was translated, and what had been impossible became terrifying. For the signal contains the information to build a Machine that can travel to the stars. A Machine that can take a human to meet those that sent the message. They are eager to meet us: they have been watching and waiting for a long time. And now they will judge.”
The Student put his hand upon the sheaf of calculating paper he had brought with him and said, “Are you sure that the problem is a factual one?”
“The premises are true. I have distorted nothing.”
“Then I must accept the results, and I do not want to.”
“Naturally. But what have your wants to do with it?”
And then again, in a society given over, as that of the First Empire was, to the physical sciences and inanimate technology, there was a vague but mighty sociological push away from the study of the mind. It was less respectable because less immediately useful; and it was poorly financed since it was less profitable.
“Are we matching paradoxes, or is this all a word game to see who can say the least in the most words?”
“Where history concerns mainly personalities, the drawings become either black or white according to the interests of the writer.”
It was strange that a world which had been untouched through the vast conquering sweeps and retreats of a millennia, and equally untouched by the civil wars and palace revolutions of other millennia–should lie dead at last. It was strange that the Glory of the Galaxy should be a rotting corpse.
For centuries would yet pass before the mighty works of fifty generations of humans would decay past use. Only the declining powers of men themselves, rendered them useless now.
“This is interesting. How long have you thought that?”
“I never thought that, in the sense of believing it. It is merely an alternative to be considered.”
If, from a distance of seven thousand parsecs, the fall of Kalgan to the armies of the Mule had produced reverberations that had excited the curiosity of an old Trader, the apprehension of a dogged captain, and the annoyance of a meticulous mayor–to those on Kalgan itself, it produced nothing and excited no one. It is the invariable lesson to humanity that distance in time, and in space as well, lends focus. It is not recorded, incidentally, that the lesson has ever been permanently learned.
“There’s always a prevailing mystique in any civilization,” Leto said. “It builds itself as a barrier against change, and that always leaves future generations unprepared for the universe’s treachery. All mystiques are the same in building these barriers—the religious mystique, the hero-leader mystique, the messiah mystique, the mystique of science/technology, and the mystique of nature itself.”
Let the future happen of itself, he thought. The only rule governing creativity is the act of creation itself.