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Always Coming Home:

Future Ethnography of the Inhabitants of the Valley of the Na, and The unBible of Ursula K. Le Guin

Always Coming Home:


Who turned us round like this, so that

no matter what we do, we have the air

of somebody departing? As a traveller{sic}

on the last hill, for the last time seeing

all the home valley, turns, and stands, and lingers -

so we live forever taking leave. (Le Guin, trans., Rilke's "The Eighth Elegy" [BG 193])


Bernard Selinger begins his discussion of Ursula K. Le Guin's Always Coming Home by saying that it "is like no other novel I have read" but "Still, it is patent Le Guin" ([127]). I'm not sure I'll call Always Coming Home a novel, although it says right on the cover, "Always Coming Home: a novel"; but, perhaps, Always Coming Home is best seen as one of Le Guin's major contributions toward the redefinition of the novel: a step toward the nonmasculinist novel. In whatever terminology, Selinger is correct: Always Coming Home is unusual and quite familiar, "patent Le Guin"; and also something unusual: clearly an ethnography but also what I'll call Le Guin's antiBible, or unBible.

I will work with Always Coming Home this far as I would teach the Hebrew Scriptures: at length, and as a work that should be covered "spirally," making several passes. I shall give some self characterizations by Le Guin and some statements relevant for her work she has offered in her own voice; and I shall then give some selected context: (1) some background on philosophy, (2) an important essay by Lewis Mumford on utopia and the historical rise of the royal city-state, (3) a historical instance of such a rise (and fall) of a royal city, (4) some American Indian background of Always Coming Home and Le Guin's rather radical variation there on a "typical situation, stock Le Guin plot" ("Legends" 9).[ 1] Readers who don't need yet another introduction to Existentialism or to speculations on the rise of patriarchal civilization might skip the introductory sections and move straight into my commentary on Always Coming Home, "Some Short Works in Always Coming Home: Philosophy," starting with the play of Chandi, the Kesh version of the story of Job.


In 1971, in The Lathe of Heaven Le Guin presented an effective intellectual attack on many of the premises of "The Judaeo-Christian-Rationalist West" (82; ch, 6). In 1975, Le Guin described herself as "an unconsistent Taoist and consistent unChristian" ("Ketterer" 139), and on another occasion offered the alternative, "a congenital non-Christian" ("Dreams Must Explain Themselves" [LoN (1979): 55]). In her Introduction to the 1976 re-issue of The Left Hand of Darkness, Le Guin presents the paradox, "I talk about the gods, I am an atheist" (n.p.; coll. LoN [1979] 158), and in the same year reacted to some comments in the special Le Guin issue of Science-Fiction Studies by rejecting use of "the word 'liberal' used as a smear-word" and saying that "If people must call names, I cheerfully accept Lenin's anathema as suitable: I am a petty-bourgeois anarchist and an internal emigree{sic}. O.K.?" ("A Response to the Le Guin Issue" 45). And speaking as guest of honor at the 19th Annual Mythopoeic Conference in the late 1980s Le Guin indirectly but very strongly characterized herself as an Outsider critiquing "the Judeo-Christian religion that informs our world view" and suggests that Always Coming Home offers a this-worldly alternative to "the City of God" that is "in the spirit only" and "not founded on this earth" ("Legends" 8).

The reference to "the Judeo-Christian religion that informs our world-view" was quite decorous in terms of Le Guin's subject and the original audience for the "Legends" speech. Le Guin focused much of her talk on the world-view of Native Americans, especially the California Indians, and the people who massacred the California Indians were Whites raised in the Judeo-Christian tradition; and Le Guin was talking to the Mythopoeic Society: a group whose very useful work centers on the Christian authors J.R.R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, and Charles Williams. Still, I prefer the oldest of Le Guin's formulations and the least direct: the reference of the villainous Dr. William Haber to "The Judaeo-Christian-Rationalist West." This formula may let Islam unjustly off the hook and may tempt us to forget that the Animist-Hindu-Confucian-Shinto-Daoist-Buddhist East has created its own share of horrors, but it focuses our attention on us -most of the probable readers of Le Guin's work -and our root problems.[ 2]

The "Rationalist" part of "The Judaeo-Christian-Rationalist West" should remind us that such pagans as Plato and atheists as Jean-Paul Sartre were and are important for what I think is centrally the intellectualizing of macho culture.[ 3] Indeed, the phrase "the One," stressed in Always Coming Home as mostly a monotheistic term, can refer also to the One of the radical monism of pre-Socratic Greek Eleaticism and its followers, or can be used more loosely as philosophical shorthand for the privileged, White, European philosophers of the Enlightenment with their lust for (totalizing) systems that would incorporate all knowledge, or for such slogans of unified total government as the Byzantine Emperor Justinian's "One empire, one church, one law" (Swain 2.613) or the Nazi variation, "Ein Volk, ein Fürher, ein Reich." A contemporary feminist identifying with all those "marginalized by the transcendental voice of universalizing theory," writes that the "nonbeing" of all those outside the rationalist world of the Enlightened served as "the condition of being of the One, the center, the taken-for-granted ability of one small segment of the population to speak for all" (Hartsock 170-71).

The "West" part of the phrase from Lathe brings in the traditional historical trinity of traditions for the formation of Western Europe: Judeo-Christian, Greco-Roman, and Germanic-Nordic; and we should add Islam and "The Empire of the Arabs" (Thompson and Johnson, title of ch 7). It is not just the One God that is at issue in the rise of patriarchy, but also the Heroes who worshipped Sky-Father Zeus (or Jupiter or Odin or Thor), or attempted on their agnostic own to win fame or assert their own personal, aristocratic worthiness and manliness (arete, virtus), their own Heroism.[ 4] Fanaticism, though, there yes; Judaism and Judaism's daughter religions have been quite good at producing fanaticism: Eric Hoffer ends his True Believer noting that "J.B.S. Haldane counts fanaticism among the only four really important inventions made between 3000 B.C. and 1400 A.D." (in The Inequality of Man, 1938). "It was a Judaic-Christian invention" (151, § 125; ch. 18). Still, the larger problem of the macho hero goes beyond the problems rooted in monotheism.


If there were no eternal consciousness in a man, if at the foundation of all there lay only a wildly seething power which writhing with obscure passions produced everything that is great and everything that is insignificant, if a bottomless void never satiated lay hidden beneath all -what then would life be but despair? -Søren Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling (1843): [30]; "A Panegyric Upon Abraham"

Le Guin has been very consistent in her attack upon much of elite attitudes and values in "the Judaeo-Christian-Rationalist West" (LoH 82), and in offering repeatedly "a gentle antidote" -or sometimes not so gentle -to what she sees as problems in our culture that go to our Judeo-Christian-Rationalist roots. Le Guin is, in her own description, "an aging angry woman laying mightily about me with my handbag, fighting hoodlums off" ("Carrier Bag" 168). Alternatively, though, one can see Le Guin, if not exactly wrestling with God, vigorously participating in a central Kulturkampf, and metaphorically wrestling with the issues of "ultimate concern" that define religion -as well as "with the angels of the feminist consciousness" (ER 11).

Le Guin denies a transcendent monotheistic god, but she is strongly concerned with issues of the human spirit, with what human people should do with our lives to live them well. She pays what most Americans understand as religious belief the great respect of arguing with it and against it, vigorously. If Le Guin is occasionally puzzled why her fans include some Anglican clergymen ("Dreams Must Explain Themselves," LoN [1979]: 55), she need not be: it's better to be attacked than ignored, and Le Guin's antipathy in fiction to much of the Western religious and intellectual tradition can be seen as an invitation by a worthy opponent to a necessary wrestling match.


The stakes in that match are high. Getting rid of God can be "extremely embarrassing" (J-P Sartre, "Existentialism" 294). With no God, one might be left on a Sartrean plain, with each of us alone, trapped in our own skins and, in extreme cases, nauseated by the world. Or, in Matthew Arnold's more poetic vision of life after the death of God:

. . . the world, which seems

To lie before us like a land of dreams,

So various, so beautiful, so new,

Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,

Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;

And we are here as on a darkling plain

Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,

Where ignorant armies clash by night. ("Dover Beach," ca. 1851)

Far more people, though, study Arnold, and Søren Kierkegaard, and Sartre -or learn Fyodor Dostoyevsky's teaching that If God is dead, nothing is prohibited -than ever come to feel the fear, trembling, dread, and despair that Kierkegaard, Sartre, et al. say define the stakes in this issue. So for those for whom it's "'God is Dead' -Will that be on the final?"; or "Weren't the problems of death and futility solved by hermeneutics?" I would like to do some Kierkegaardian multiple passes at the implications for most Americans and a good many other people of a world without a transcendent and loving One.

Consider for a moment an old legend of the rise of drama in Greece, specifically of tragic drama. In the beginning, in this legend, there was a chorus singing a dithyramb (a wild "Goat Song" hymn) to and in praise of the god Dionysos; and then one Thespis, an ancient impresario, went over to the chorus leader and had him step out of the chorus and told him he would be a new thing under the sun: an actor. The new actor then exited and re-entered (or stepped back into the chorus and stepped out again) and said "I am ______ (probably Dionysos)." Thespis and his actor had given the world impersonation, dialog, the possibility of conflict and action: drama, specifically tragic drama. That's the legend, anyway, andI want to accept it as an origin story and read thaqt story allegorically. When drama arose, there was a chorus singing of "We" and the god, with the chorus hoping to merge with Dionysos, a kind of "Father Nature," traditionally pictured as androgynous or "effeminate." The actor says "I am," and this produces tragedy, which, in its typical Greek form, usually involved an act of tragic pride (hubris) producing divine anger (nemesis). Taking for a moment a Hebraic view, the hubris was always and necessarily implied in the character's "I am," whatever name followed it. "I AM" is God's line. When Moses very sensibly asks for some I.D., so to speak, from the voice from the burning bush telling him to take on Pharaoh, God responds with "Ehyeh-Asher-Ehyeh": the Name of God is some sort of complex pun on "to be," or, for short, "I Am" (Exodus 3.14, Tanakh). Which makes sense. When I say "I am," it is a trivial statement: I was not here ten million years ago; I will not be here ten million years from now. I'm going to die and rot and return to the cycles of nature via worms and maggots, and however much that thought may please a Daoist mystic like Chuang Tzu, it does not please me.[ 5] If God exists, on the other hand, God is, was, and will be, world without end (very nontrivially) -amen.

In taking that step out of the chorus and saying "I am," the newly-invented actor stepped out of society, out of nature, out of tribal "we"-consciousness into alienated culture, history, and an "I"-consciousness which is necessarily tragic: the isolated individual's inevitable history of birth-struggle-death, a death that he -almost always he in tragedy -must die, ultimately, alone.[ 6]

Sartre's Orestes and Zeus in The Flies discuss this step into consciousness at some length and with some nicely melodramatic rhetoric:

Orestes: Yesterday, when I was with Electra, I felt at one with Nature, this Nature of your making. It sang the praises of the Good -your Good -in siren tones, and lavished intimations. To lull me into gentleness . . . . Suddenly, out of the blue, freedom crashed down on me and swept me off my feet. Nature sprang back, my youth went with the wind, and I knew myself alone, utterly alone in the midst of this well-meaning little universe of yours. I was like a man who's lost his shadow. And there was nothing left in heaven, no right or wrong, nor anyone to give me orders.[ 7]

Zeus: What of it? . . . Your vaunted freedom isolates you from the fold; it means exile.

Orestes: Yes, exile. * * * Foreign to myself -I know it. Outside nature, against nature, without excuse, beyond remedy, except what remedy I find within myself. . . .  Nor shall I come back to nature . . . but I must blaze my trail. For I, Zeus, am a man, and every man must find out his own way. Nature abhors man, and you too, god of gods, abhor mankind. * * * You are God and I am free; each of us is alone, and our anguish is akin. . . .

Zeus: What do you propose to do?

Orestes: The folk of Argos are my folk. I must open their eyes.

Zeus: Poor people!  . . . They will see their lives as they are, foul and futile, a barren boon.

Orestes: Why, since it is their lot, should I deny them the despair I have in me?

Zeus: What will they make of it?

Orestes: What they choose. They're free; and human life begins on the far side of despair. (121-23; Act III)[ 8]

Less militantly depressing but more specific are the series of questions and the single, somewhat depressing answer offered in the Jewish morning service immediately proceeding the Shema (the central statement in Judaism and Christianity of God's Oneness [Deut. 6.4, Mark 12.28-30]).

What are we? What is our life? What is our piety? What our acts of righteousness? What our salvation? What is our strength? . . . Are not all the mighty ones like naught before thee [God], and men of fame as though they were not? . . . For the multitude of their works is emptiness, and the days of their life are vanity before thee; and the pre-eminence of man over beast is naught: for all is vanity. (Service 6; cf. Eccl.)

The Ashkenazi text (eastern and northern European) then goes on directly to a major "But": "Howbeit we are thy people, the children of thy covenant" and moves very quickly from that rescue from emptiness into relationship with the Eternal, and to the happy duty of proclaiming God's unity. The Sephardic text (Spanish-speaking countries, Africa) adds another rescue: it modifies the conclusion that "all is vanity" by adding "except the pure soul which must hereafter give accounting before the throne of Thy glory" (High Holiday Prayer Book 31). We can all agree, I think, that we are transcendentally ensouled, or we are mud (EoH) or, as we will see, turds and words (ACH 168). Without a transcendent God to serve or defy, human life lacks any purpose beyond that of any other animal: survival, reproduction, and, generally, going about the business of being that animal. Without an immortal soul, we are our projects indeed, but mostly just dirt animated with lifebreath (ruach, anima, spiritus), or whatever less poetical images may be scientifically fashionable for explaining the mind-body "machine." Without a transcendent, acting, judging God before whose throne "the pure soul . . . must hereafter give accounting," there are neither strong, transcultural, trans-historical definitions of "good" and "evil" nor absolute rules for human behavior nor certain, ultimate sanctions for behavior good or bad.

Viewed imaginatively from outside the world, the world without God appears absurd: a "Turn, Turn, Turn" world of interlocking, meaningless cycles -cycles of nature, cycles of history -with human life the vision of Emptiness! Emptiness! responded to in the Hebrew prayer book.[ 9] In the poetic vision of Koheleth ("the Preacher," "Ecclesiastes"):

Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher

vanity of vanities! All is vanity.

What does man gain by all the toil

at which he toils under the sun?

A generation goes, and a generation comes,

but the earth remains for ever.

The sun rises and the sun goes down,

and hastens to the place where it rises.

The wind blows to the south,

and goes round to the north;

round and round goes the wind,

and on its circuits the wind returns.

* * *

All things are full of weariness;

* * *

What has been is what will be,

and what has been done is what will be done;

and there is nothing new under the sun. (Eccl. 1.2-11, RSV)

Koheleth's is not the view of some gentle cynic -a comfortable, genteel sort, in my view -but that of a rigorous capital "C" Cynic, and a protoExistentialist to boot, who works his way to the obvious conclusion that human beings are not "divine beings"; hence, Koheleth must "face the fact" that humans "are beasts. For in respect of the fate of man and the fate of beast, they have one and the same fate: as one dies so dies the other, and both have the same lifebreath; man has no superiority over beast, since both amount to nothing. Both go to the same place; both came from dust and both return to dust." (3.18-21, Tanakh).

One last quotation -from a work we can be sure Le Guin knew at least well enough to dismiss as "crap."[10] In African Genesis, Robert Ardrey recounts a theory that had a very brief popularity in the early 1940s: The Illusion of Central Position. According to the theory, this illusion "is the birthright of every human baby." I'd say the illusion literally stems from perception; it's an immediate fact of perception that The World Revolves Around ME. In any event, a baby boy enters the world and "Bright objects appear for his amusement, bottles and breasts for his comfort. His groping consciousness finds no reason at all to doubt the world's consecration to his needs and purposes. His Illusion of Central Position is perfect," an initial given of awareness (Af. Genesis 144; ch. 6). With maturity, however, the illusion is undercut and the child and then the man comes to a truer perception of his place in the scheme of things.

Nonetheless the theory grants that should a man ever attain a state of total maturity -ever come to see himself, in other words, in perfect mathematical relationship to the tide of tumultuous life which has risen upon the earth and in which we represent but a single swell; and furthermore come to see our earth as but one opportunity for life among uncounted millions in our galaxy alone, and our galaxy as but one statistical improbability, nothing more, in the silent mathematics of all things -should a man, in sum, ever achieve the final, total, truthful Disillusionment of Central Position, then in all likelihood he would no longer keep going but would simply lie down, wherever he happened to be, and with a long-drawn sigh return to the oblivion from which he came. (145; ch. 6)[11]

Or not. In a world of Emptiness! Emptiness!, where God is very distant and death is a trip to Sheol -the grave, Hades -and no more, Koheleth concluded "There is nothing worthwhile for a man but to eat and drink and afford himself enjoyment with his means" (2.24, Tanakh). And he advises his (male) readers to "Live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest all the days of the life of thy vanity, which he [God] hath given thee under the sun . . . " and, more macho-ly Existential, "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest" (9.9-10, AV).[12] Plus, of course, the teaching "Two are better than one," especially in the image, ". . . if two lie together then they have heat: but how can one be warm alone?" (4.11, AV).

One of the major contexts for Always Coming Home, then, is Le Guin's answering Sartre and Ardrey -however indirectly, intentionally or not -and carrying on Koheleth's great quest to determine "what was good for the sons of men to do under heaven during the few days of their life" (Eccl. 2.3, RSV), and which her Job-figure Chandi reformulates, gender-neutrally, "How shall a human being live well, then?" (ACH 236).[13] An obvious possibility for living in the world at all, and so getting a chance to "live well" is to lower one's expectations from life -stop hoping for some sort of purpose or cosmic significance -and intentionally, mindfully limit one's interests to the human world and limit the significant human world as much as possible to one's own people and attempt to build in whatever "green and pleasant land" one finds oneself in, not Jerusalem but a good society.[14]

Another context for Always Coming Home, then, is utopia, plus the related questions of the origin(s) of the current mess of the human condition. Both issues are neatly handled in a classic essay by Lewis Mumford: "Utopia, The City and The Machine" (1965).

One possible reason utopias go wrong, Mumford suggests, "is that the abstract intelligence" that creates utopias, "operating with its own conceptual apparatus, in its own self-restricted field, is actually a coercive instrument: an arrogant fragment of the full human personality, determined to make the world over in its own oversimplified terms." But Mumford prefers to stress another alternative. Mumford finds that both the ideal of utopia for the Greeks and what I'll call (after Aristotle's hamartia) The Big Mistake stem from the same historical event: the rise of "the archetypal ancient city."[15] In terms of utopian thought, the rise of the city in the ancient Fertile Crescent, is the relevant event; in terms of history, the move from the Late Neolithic village to Bronze Age city is relevant, whatever Old World rivers it occurred along, or New World forests or highlands it occurred in (see Mumford 10).

In the beginning, in the story Mumford accepts, the Neolithic village was (for one hand) composed of human people (in village-size numbers) who lived democratically, with "no ruling class" exploiting others, "no compulsion to work for a surplus the local community" couldn't use, "no taste for idle luxury," no private property, no "exorbitant desire for power," and nothing we would consider warfare: a golden age (Mumford 4), a variety of paradise (18). On the other hand, again in the story Mumford accepts, the common people of a Bronze Age city generally experienced city life in terms of "total submission to a central authority, forced labor, lifetime specialization, inflexible regimentation, one-way communication, and readiness for war." Mumford sums up their condition as that of a population of constantly scared people, "galvanized into corpselike obedience with the constant aid of the mace, the whip, and the truncheon" (17). Mumford's characterization may be somewhat sensationalized, but the analysis is convincing. The Hebrews in Egypt were ordinarily treated no worse than the native-born Egyptians, and my barely civilized ancestors saw themselves in Egypt as slaves.

The historical question is how did the kings and other elites pull off the transition from the Neolithic village to civilization -to city-life as we know it -and why did ordinary people go along?

In Egypt and Mesopotamia, the first cities were made by kings "acting in the name of a god" and incarnating within themselves the will and immortality of the gods. "The king's first act, the very key to his authority and potency, is the erection of a temple within a heavily walled sacred enclosure. And the construction of another wall to enclose the subservient community turns the whole area into a sacred place: a city" (Mumford 12 and 19). To build the city and to protect the city the king needs raw, physical power, and getting it was a problem in a Neolithic world in which the high point of technology was the bow and arrow (15). Mumford's key point is that concomitant with the theological pretensions I'll return to in a moment, kings developed two great machines: "the labor machine and the military machine," both organized hierarchically and bureaucratically, both serving with nearly mechanical rigidity the will of the king, and both related almost mystically in cycles of building and destruction (18). For Mumford, the city and the army -an "Invisible Machine" (19) -are the two great images of civilization and for the earliest political states. And the military army will be used as much as the labor army; with all such states, though Mumford himself cites only Plato's imagined Republic, "Nietzsche's observation that war is the health of the state applies . . . for only in war is such stringent authority and coercion even temporarily tolerable" (Mumford 6).

Briefly, then, we can say with Mumford that the first city arose because kings were able to deify themselves and create armies of laborers and soldiers, with the soldiers able to capture more laborers and keep them in line. Once the system got started, it would be quite stable. If one king builds an army and a city and another king does so too, the (re)building and (re)arming of both places go on as one attacks or threatens the other. We need "our" army to protect us from their army, and we need to capture them as slaves to rebuild portions of our city that they have destroyed. And so on, unto the days of Roland and Rambo. Again, though, how did the system get started?

And here I'll digress from Mumford for a bit.

One theory for the mysterious rise of warfare and civilization in the Neolithic (an important theory for the origins and influence of patriarchy) holds that there is little mystery. If there is a will to power in people, there's also a will to submit, and there are always people who enjoy giving orders (especially, perhaps, young men) and people around willing to obey (especially, perhaps, older boys).[16] As the Stone Age went on, human numbers increased enough that human groups met one another more frequently, and it is easy to picture occasional raids, where a man of the village led out the youngsters to revenge some offense, and maybe pick up some souvenirs: perhaps the head of a fighter from the Others, perhaps things of more everyday practical use. What changed in the Neolithic was the rise of herding and simultaneous rise of agricultural villages and the production of surpluses that could free some of the population from productive labor, and the production of surpluses worth the while of excess young men to steal. What changed also was that somewhere along the line people figured out the relationship between sexual intercourse and childbirth, and the concept of fatherhood was invented. With the concept of fatherhood -if Lewis Henry Morgan, Friedrich Engels, et al. are correct -would come the idea among men of "my children" and "the mother of my children," hence "my wife and children" and the idea of property, starting with property in people.[17] With the idea of property as the right to keep and hold and bequeath to one's descendants what one has -not just use -the idea of theft becomes more attractive. With the rise of surpluses, people had more stuff worth stealing, and with the rise of slavery, enslaveable Others necessarily had something worth stealing: themselves. From this point, the rise of the military to get the theft organized and regularized as protection money (tribute, taxes) takes little more explanation than the Mafia or the depredations of pirates, freebooters, Conquistadors, slavers, colonial exploiters, and other practitioners of large-scale, highly organized crime.[18]

Now, slavery can be quite pleasant for slave owners; but it is a pernicious institution for those who must compete with slave labor, and even the least vicious forms of slavery are horrible for the slaves themselves. A battle every now and then may be occasionally exhilarating for youngsters desiring a change of routine, but extended warfare is not pleasant for most of its practitioners, let alone its victims; for most of the men fighting, the formula is "Boredom punctuated by terror." So, we are still left with the question, Why did so many ordinary people at least acquiesce in the establishment of property, kingship, servitude, civilization, and the state?

Part of the answer may start with the straightforward archeological observation that the Cro-Magnons and all "neanthropic" humans "interred their dead in an elaborate and formal manner" (Swain I.22), so even in the Old Stone Age some people had the idea of death. By the late Neolithic, people were working -really working at drudge-jobs many of them -in the agriculture business and the related pastoral and industrial occupations made possible by agricultural surpluses. Many people, then, were living lives of drudgery, followed by death, a death of which they were conscious. And they were leading those lives of drudgery among large groups of people, most of whom necessarily remained strangers and amongst whom it would be difficult to maintain the illusion that one was special. They were immersed in what Simone De Beauvoir would much later call immanence. Arguably, these people needed some transcendent projects to break the boredom and futility. Especially among young men producing neither children nor art nor engaged in other useful labor, the destruction and killing of war might be the most obvious project to prove they significantly exist.

To return to Mumford:

By effecting a coalition between military power and religious myth . . . the hunter-chieftain of the later Neolithic economy transformed himself into a king; and kingship established a mode of government and a way of life radically different from that of the proto-historic community . . . . In this new constitution, the king gathers to himself all the powers and functions that were once diffused in many local communities; and the king himself becomes the godlike incarnation of collective power and communal responsibility. . . .

. . . it was through the king that the functions of the community were concentrated, unified, magnified, and given a sacred status, [and] it was only in the city that the power and glory of this new institution could be manifested in monumental works of art. (12)

With the most impressive monuments the pyramids of Egypt: tombs guaranteeing the immortality of Pharaoh, plus functioning as huge symbols of the social structure, ideologies, and striving for transcendence that made such monuments possible and necessary.[19]

The King's power to make decisions, to by-pass communal deliberations, to defy or nullify custom brought about vast communal changes, far beyond the scope of village communities. Once amassed in cities, governed by a single head, regimented, and controlled under military coercion, a large population could act as one, with a solidarity otherwise possible only in a small community. * * *

Up to this time, the human community had been widely dispersed in hamlets, villages, country towns: isolated, earthbound, illiterate, tied to ancestral ways. But the city was, from the beginning, related to the newly perceived cosmic order: the sun, the moon, the planets, the lightning, the storm wind. In short, as Fustel de Coulanges and [Johann Jakob] Bachofen pointed out a century ago, the city was primarily a religious phenomenon: it was the home of a god, and even the city wall points to this super-human origin; for Mircea Eliade is probably correct in inferring that its primary function was to hold chaos at bay and ward off inimical spirits.

This cosmic orientation, these mythic-religious claims, this royal preemption of the powers and functions of the community are what transformed the mere village or town into a city: something "out of this world," the home of a god. . . . [T]he city transmogrified itself into an ideal form -a glimpse of eternal order, a visible heaven on earth, a seat of the life abundant -. . . utopia.

. . . With such a magnificent setting as background, the king not merely played god but exercised unqualified power . . . . In the city, the good life was achieved only by mystical participation in the god's life and that of his fellow deities . . . . There lay the original compensation for giving up the petty democratic ways of the village. To inhabit the same city as a god was to be a member of a super-community: a community in which every subject had a place, a function, a duty, a goal, as part of a hierarchic structure representing the cosmos itself. (Mumford 13-14).

As Le Guin implies with the off-stage rise of the "Godking" in The Tombs of Atuan (1971), the temptation of a King and the temptation of even vicarious immortality are very great (see Crow and Erlich 205). Initially, it seems, only Pharaoh got immortality. Later, though, immortality became possible for anyone rich enough to get properly embalmed; and finally -by the Middle Kingdom in Egypt -there developed the theory of a separable soul as a birthright in all people (Swain I.122), or, perhaps, all people one considered good enough to be people. Instead of God's animating Adam with breath, there was body -dust, dirt -as a temporary house or temple or prison for an immortal soul. The goal of fully human life, then, becomes fully separating the true human self -the immortal soul -from imprisonment in the body and in the mortal world; the enemies of the true human self, then, became The World, the Flesh, and, later, the Devil. And the world, flesh, and devil could incorporate everything Other to, not part of, the immortal soul: the masculine, world-transcending, heaven-aspiring ego. This Other would be women to start with, and everything associated with the ultimate "woman": "Mother Earth, the giver of life to her children," the Great Mother worshipped "over the whole Near East in neolithic times" and emphatically not "the Sky Father" worshipped by "the pastoral and patriarchal nomads": the Indo-European, or "Aryan," peoples (Swain I.51).[20]


I'll end this Introduction with a historical example of the rise and fall of a royal city with a briefly successful true king representing the One cosmic and transcendent God. Around 1372 BCE, Pharaoh Amenhotep ("Amon is satisfied") changed his name to Akhnaton ("Spirit of Aton"), and ordered built a new capital, dedicated to Aton, the sun. This religious reform moved Aton to supreme god and finally the One God. Akhnaton became a fanatic for Aton and "relentless toward critics. . . . He put himself forward as the son" of Aton, "the sole god of the universe, and demanded obeisance such as earlier kings of Egypt had never received" (Swain I.158-59).

Akhnaton didn't have a very spectacular fall: no armed rebellion with a satisfyingly gory ending as in Shakespeare's Macbeth. Akhnaton was deserted by his family, and his power, figuratively, drained away from him. A regency was established, and then Akhnaton soon died, and the dynasty petered out after Akhnaton's successor, Tutankhamen. Upon his death, the royal and divine city of Akhnaton had been abandoned; by the time of Tutankhamen's death, the sun-dried bricks had already begun collapsing, "and the place became the desert which it has remained to the present day." A military dictator succeeded Tutankhamen, and "The last vestiges of Akhnaton's revolution were stamped out" (Swain I.159-60). Not quite the image of futility of Ramses II, as ironically celebrated in Percy Bysshe Shelley's "Ozymandias" (1817/1818), but Akhnaton offers an elegant paradigm for the rise and fall of a ruler who presents himself as son of the Sole God, demanding obeisance, and of a political movement based on those claims.

If you know Always Coming Home, all this -the philosophy, history, and historical illustration of Akhnaton -should sound familiar; indeed, Always Coming Home might appear a fictional re-viewing of this crucial "hinge" in human history: the moment when the ancestors of most of us did move into civilization and history in the ancient world, and do not move into civilization and history in the future-world of Always Coming Home. More exactly, Always Coming Home is a mâshâl of that event, an ideal configuration of humankind's not moving into LAWKI, "Life As We Know It" (Norton Introd. 34 f.). Such a reading is correct, and I'm going to recommend it, but I wish first to do a bit more contextualizing. The Big Mistake in human history is important here, but we can find contexts for the primary culture of Always Coming Home, contexts much more recent and closer to home for most of us than the Neolithic: Northern California until the Conquest, and earlier works in Le Guin's canon.


As Elizabeth Cummins implies (Understanding 181-83) and Carol D. Stevens detailed in a paper at the 1989 Conference of the Science Fiction Research Association, Le Guin would know of Neolithic people from, among other sources, anthropological work done with tribes in the area in which she grew up, tribal cultures gone with the wind by 1985 but sufficiently remembered early in the century that they could be described by Alfred Kroeber, and their stories retold by Alfred Kroeber, Theodora Kroeber, and others. In a sense, then, Always Coming Home is Le Guin's retelling of some of the Yurok Myths and Karok Myths, the story of Ishi as told by Theodora Kroeber and the stories Theodora Kroeber retells in The Inland Whale (Barr, "Other Hand" 115); in a sense, Always Coming Home is a fictional retelling of much in A. L. Kroeber's monumental Handbook of the Indians of California. But only -and this is an important point -in a sense; Le Guin is also abstracting from a number of "pre-Conquest cultures of the Americas" (LoN [1989]: 165): the Pueblo, for example -cf. "A Man of the People" (1995) -and the Navajo (Le Guin, personal communication). Always Coming Home is Le Guin's "gentle antidote" to "the Judeo-Christian religion" and the world-view of "the Judaeo-Christian-Rationalist West," an antidote administered by the healers of the traditional cultures of several tribes and groups of Native Americans.

To anticipate and overstate: in its ethics, Always Coming Home is a response to a generally successful genocide in California, suggesting that the ultimate Western City of Man, the extrapolation to its endpoint of the macho-heroic/aristocratic, transcendent ideal, would be Auschwitz: a city of death, power, and the triumph of the will over the body and compassion, the subjugation of even mind to will.[21] Le Guin, rooted in the American west, includes as a target for attack the contempt encouraged by the sort of "Judeo-Christian religion that informs our world-view" for not only the body but also the land and its sacredness in favor of sacralized history: the universe as divinely-scripted drama "acted by Man." In such a view the world, and especially the "New World" Europeans saw in the Americas, is only

a kind of natural resource for the destiny of Man. At the end of time . . . the world will fall to ashes, to the nothing it is; . . . a play that has been acted, a story that has been told. The world has no value except as a sort of waiting room or testing-ground for the soul of Man, a passage from eternity to eternity. . . . There is indeed a Holy Land in this tradition, but to consider it literally so, to worship the land, is to mistake the created for the Creator, the contingent for the transcendent. "Jerusalem," the Center, is in the spirit only: the City of God is not founded on this earth. ("Legends" 8)

In her earlier works Le Guin had opposed to this "City of God" of St. Augustine of Hippo and the Christian tradition, "the City of Man" of (more or less) the secular liberal tradition. In Always Coming Home, the City of God is subsumed into the City of Man, and the City of God/Man is opposed to places like "Dzil na' odili, the center of the world" in a Navajo emergence story ("Legends" 6, 8). The view we are asked to take to enter the world of Always Coming Home is that of people who are in the world, "'an integral part of it,'" as opposed to that of "People who look at the world from outside it, 'objectively'" ("Legends" 6).[22]

In her "Legends" lecture, Le Guin presents two maps, both relevant for Always Coming Home. The first goes along with the Navajo emergence story, which tells how the First People were initially "all together," not yet separated into nonhuman animals and human animals (or nonhuman-people and human people, for a more decorous paraphrase).[23] These First People move up through the worlds into our world (6) -for a number of motifs shared with California Indians, and which Le Guin will use in Always Coming Home. More important is a map very similar to the map of the "Ancient Yurok World" that precedes the introduction in Theodora Kroeber's The Inland Whale, in the 1974 edn.[24] Le Guin tells her Mythopoeic Society audience,

This is a map of the universe. The Yurok called it kiwesona, that which is. We call it Del Norte, Siskiyou, Humboldt, and Trinity Counties. You see the ocean surrounds the land, which floats upon it. . . . Over all is the Sky Country . . . . a solid dome whose outer edge bounds the universe. There's a hole in it for the wild geese to migrate through, and people have climbed up poles made of arrows into Sky Country, or got outside the world by shooting their boats through where the rim of the sky meets the rim of the sea. . . . The center of the world is a rock called Katimin, and the Klamath River runs past it. Along this river lived the woge, the first people, before they took their present forms of animals and humans. To live here is to live in the world that the woge got ready for us; a world where what we call the real and the spiritual, or the secular and the sacred, are the same thing -a seamless, centered sphere, a wholeness. ("Legends" 7)[25]

With some expansions, this is the everyday world of the Kesh people in Always Coming Home: they know of the cosmos -the universe of billions of stars in billions of galaxies -but they mostly choose to ignore it. Le Guin presents this turning away from space exploration and the galaxy as prudent and mature and as only a turning away: the Kesh and their neighbors do not try to oppose the cosmos or conquer it, Flash Gordon style; nor do they walk away from it like "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas" to "go somewhere else." The positively presented peoples in Always Coming Home can't "go somewhere else" in terms of the universe; the universe IS; but they can purposely and mindfully image it in the Five Houses of the Earth and the Four Houses of the Sky and, for the most part (like most humans) turn their backs on its galactic portions and live in "a seamless, centered sphere, a wholeness" -but a wholeness that includes "the sun, the stars" in the Four Houses of the Sky, and electricity and convenient, chosen machines and electronic devices -appropriate technology. And a mystic like Flicker can get in contact with the universe very completely and very directly.[26]


In spite of Le Guin's having written Always Coming Home by "a very different process from any other writing . . . [she] had done," Always Coming Home still includes the "typical situation, stock Le Guin plot" of much of her earlier work ("Legends" 8, 9). If the old Nordic scops had a "word hoard" for their poetry, Le Guin has her theme and motif hoard for her teaching works. We will see this in more detail shortly. For now, note that the ethnographic methods Elizabeth Cummins stresses in Always Coming Home have been hinted at in Rocannon's World (1966), The Word for World Is Forest (1972), and, most importantly, The Left Hand of Darkness (1969). If Always Coming Home is Le Guin's rather new "Carrier-Bag" approach to structure pursued vigorously, it is also a reworking of ideas and techniques she used in Left Hand: in some ways Always Coming Home is a culmination of her work on patriotism, the State, and "people who didn't fight wars" ("Legends" 9), on extroverted, aggressive ways of life vs. the introverted, and on the momentary insight into Being in the mystic experience, Daoist style or as part of "The Perennial Philosophy." In terms of structure, compare "Flicker of the Serpentine" at the center of Always Coming Home (Cummins 187) with the Foretelling in The Left Hand of Darkness; compare and contrast "Flicker" and "Junco" with the vision of Meshe. Always Coming Home is, so far at least, the culmination of Le Guin's analysis and critical critique of the "Judeo-Christian religion" and its doctrine "that man's singularity is his divinity," making us "Lords of the Earth," rather than parts of the world, making the "Judeo-Christian religion" a cult -and the currently most important cult -underlying "dynamic, aggressive, ecology-breaking cultures" (LHD 233; ch. 16).

Taking this view, we can find the philosophical centers of Always Coming Home in the sections, "Junco," "The Bright Void of the Wind," "The Dog at the Door" and "Flicker of the Serpentine" (four of the Eight Life Stories); "Time and the City," "A War with the Pig People," the play "Chandi," and "Some Generative Metaphors"; the figurative backbone to Always Coming Home is the three-part novella, "Stone Telling's Story." Significantly, "The Visionary: The Life Story of Flicker of the Serpentine of Telina-na" physically is near the center of the book (pp. 282-304 out of ca. 525 in the Harper and Row edition), but the other metaphorically central sections are scattered in various places in the book and "The Back of the Book." To place these chapters in context, I will now take a stab at describing just what Always Coming Home might be.


Always Coming Home is, first, a satura: a hodgepodge, a kind of literary stew or chop suey of many elements -a novella, poems, short stories, myths, dramatic works, legends, histories, romances, direct address by the author (in the guise of Pandora, an impossible anthropologist from our time, "now" working among the Kesh), recipes, song lyrics, insults, sanctifications (or, more exactly, praise of existing sanctity), and a utopia. As a utopian satire, Always Coming Home offers a fairly complete view of a good place, starting even as Sir Thomas More's Utopia (1516) started, with the physical place.[27] "The people had to be the people who belonged to that place. Their stories would be the stories of that place, their legends would be the meaning of that place, their songs would be the voices of that place. If they didn't fight wars it would be because they lived in that place, because the way people do things and make things in the Valley does not include the making of war" ("Legends" 9).[28]

So Always Coming Home is a very complete "Handbook of the Culture of the Kesh" -including music in the Harper and Row first edition -and a rather ahistorical, and antihistorical work, by Pandora "All-Giver" (ACH 147-48). A handbook is necessary rather than a historically-based narrative because the Kesh have managed fairly successfully to avoid progressing or falling back into history. If The Big Mistake of our ancestors was "stepping out of the chorus" into history, the Kesh have been smart enough to step back into the figurative chorus and stay there.

But who are the Kesh? They are the point-of-view people among the peoples who Pandora tells us "might be going to have lived a long, long time from now in Northern California."[29] So we are told in "A First Note," that seems to be Le Guin speaking in her own voice. The Kesh are not California Indians -the "cultures of the California Indians had been irreparably damaged or wholly destroyed" by the early twentieth century -but (as Stevens has stressed) our descendants.[30] And somewhere between us and them, the ancestors of the Kesh decided to live like precivilization people who fit into their worlds without trying to dominate them: something like Neolithic ideology but with electricity, metals, rifles, a modest railroad (469-70), and a very high-technology computer network. The Kesh live in the Valley of the Na River, which we may picture as the Napa Valley in California, after earthquakes have "reshaped the western coastline" (Cummins 179), producing, perhaps, the body of water "big enough for a whale to live in comfortably" that Ninawa arrives at to become "The Inland Whale" of the Yurok story (T. Kroeber, The Inland Whale 29-30).[31] The Kesh live in a post-cybernetic world, where the computing machines have split off from their human creators and proceed with their own evolution as the City of Mind (ACH 149-52), an entity that is expanding out into the galaxy quite effectively and holds the promise of "conscious, self-directed evolution" (150) until it can view the universe objectively and possibly holistically.[32] The world of Always Coming Home is also post-catastrophe: the series of Terran catastrophes beginning "offstage" but alluded to in "Nine Lives," The Dispossessed, and The Word for World Is Forest, and seen, again in only their first stages, in "The New Atlantis" (1975) and "Newton's Sleep" (1991). There were not only "vast subsidences and local elevations" that had "left most of what we know as the Great Valley of California a shallow sea or salt-marsh" but also "the permanent desolation of vast regions," and equally permanent genetic damage to the human survivors (ACH 159). In the story of "Four Beginnings" told in Always Coming Home by Cooper of the Red Adobe, the human people who preceded the Kesh -the "woge" to them; to us: us -"were born wrong. They were crazy, they tried to make the world. All they could do was make it end again, all they could do was imitate what happened before. So what they did caused fires and smoke and bad air and then ice and cloud and cold, everybody dying again," with just a few surviving "the dark, cold time" (160-61), which in the mid1980s would suggest a nuclear winter (ACH 148; see below).

The Kesh incorporate much of the material culture of dawn peoples who have lived along rivers from the Nile to the Yellow to the Amazon to the Colorado, or such far-future people as those who live along the Oro in Le Guin's "Another Story or A Fisherman of the Inland Sea"; as part of becoming "the people who belonged to that place" they would have had or developed customs appropriate to the place ("Legends" 9).[33]

The Kesh live in a series of small towns along the River. Our archeologist of the future, Pandora, had assumed that the towns "must be walled, with one gate" (like a very ancient city/fortress, or a slave compound on Werel in Four Ways to Forgiveness). When she gets over her presupposition, Pandora finds "the town was there, between the creeks, under my feet the whole time. And there was never a wall; what on earth did they need a wall for?" No wall, and at "the center is" not "a heavily walled sacred enclosure" (Mumford 12, 19) but "the Hinge" and "the sacred buildings and the dancing place . . . in their own arm of the double spiral" of the heyiya-if (ACH 3): chaos is not kept out but invited in at the void at the center, and ritually encompassed as part of life. Cummins counts eight towns (179); it's nine if we count the town of Tachas Touchas. I'll count it. First to get to nine towns (the number given in "The Dog at the Door" [280] and the map on 374): not a magic number among the native Californians, but an important one for Le Guin, and a significant number in Theodora Kroeber's The Inland Whale. Second, "Tachas Touchas was (notoriously) settled by 'people from outside' -from the northwest, traditionally" (411). We are told that "The people of Tachas Touchas insisted, without offering evidence, that the name of their town in their forgotten northern tongue meant Where the Bear Sat Down" (412). I think this is a joke. Tuches is the Yiddish term for "buttocks," and the people of Tachas Touchas may be the closest we will get to a touch of multiculturalism among the Kesh. Otherwise for the Kesh, "The rest of the world was not a matter of urgent concern to most people of the Valley. They were content to know it was there" (ACH 453). The Kesh have a good culture, but a pretty homogeneous one, and we would do well to count what little diversity they have.

As indicated above, and to be discussed in more detail below, the basic Kesh view of things is integration into in a sacred and joyous whole, an antithesis to the vision of life of Koheleth standing outside the natural cycles, and equally antithetical to macho atheistic Existentialism, trying to live outside nature entirely.

The Kesh people are far more sane and rather less "quarrelsome, competitive and aggressive" than we, or the Gethenians in The Left Hand of Darkness, but they do have their fights and ritualistic, "primitive" warfare, as we see in the important very small "History," "A War with the Pig People" (ACH 129-34).

But there have been no great invasions by people on the move, like the Mongols in Asia [or like the Gaal in Planet of Exile] or the Whites in the New World . . . . They have no nomadic peoples, and no societies that live by expansion and aggression against other societies. Nor have they formed large, hierarchically governed nation-states, the mobilizable entity that is the essential factor in modern war.

Towns are small and "communal, independent" and not just "somewhat introverted" but very introverted. Rivalries are "channeled into a socially approved form of aggression," of the flyting, the insult contest. Authority is anarchic: accepted as custom, without appeal to patriarchal ideals of divine right, patriotic duty, etc. (Wytenbroek 331-32). Class structure is almost nonexistent, and there is "no great gap between rich and poor," nor "slavery or servitude. Nobody owned anybody. There were no chattels. Economic organization was rather communistic or syndicalistic" and not "capitalistic" or centralized. I quote and paraphrase and make a bit stronger for Always Coming Home Le Guin's description of Karhidish culture at its best in The Left Hand of Darkness ("Gender . . . Redux" in LoN [1979]: 165-65 [a section Le Guin would not have us read differently in 1989]). More precisely: as among Karhidish culture at its best in Left Hand, so were social arrangements on the far-future North American West Coast at the start of Stone Telling's story in Always Coming Home.

Threatening to repeat the Neolithic entry into history, warfare, slavery, and patriarchy is the Condor People, in their own tongue, the Dayao. The Dayao are descended, figuratively, from the Basnasska Nation in City of Illusions (1967).[34] Falk is captured by these people and initiated as a Hunter of the Mzurra Society (67). Either paraphrasing Falk's thoughts or stating her own aphorism, Le Guin's Narrator in City observes or asserts that

The more defensive a society, the more conformist. The people he was among walked a very narrow, a tortuous and camped Way, across the broad free plains. So long as he was among them he must follow all the twistings of their ways exactly. . . . Wild herdsmen of the wild cattle . . . [they lived] a life with no rest. They hunted with hand-lasers and warded strangers from their territory with bombirds{sic} . . . . They had no agriculture and no domestic animals; they were illiterate and did not know, except perhaps through certain myths and hero-legends, any of the history of humankind. . . . They practiced a monotheistic religion whose rituals involved mutilation, castration{,} and human sacrifice. (CI 68)

Falk is made a member of the Mzurra Society "with the full initiations of a Hunter, a ceremony which involved whippings emetics, dances, the recital of dreams, tattooing, antiphonal free-associating, feasting, sexual abuse of one woman by all the males in turn, and finally nightlong incantations to The God to preserve the new Horressins [= the renamed Falk] from harm" (69).[35]

The main story of the Condor is told by a woman best called Stone Telling, a familiar figure in Le Guin's narrative: a liminal character like Genly Ai, Estraven, Tenar, Lyubov, Falk, Luz, Irena -also an "internal emigree," or just an émigré or immigrant or alien.[36] The change in Le Guin's method in Always Coming Home generally, is the scientific method, so to speak, of fairly exhaustive ethnography: having all those voices speaking the world of the Kesh. And in her novella, Stone Telling can tell us, like Belle in "The New Atlantis," just what she thinks, in her own words. This is important for reasons in addition to Cummins's point (176) and Marleen Barr's (114-15) on Le Guin's moving to female voices. Always Coming Home is strong satire and a long one, and profits from strong (and multiple) points of view.

Stone Telling is a woman of the Kesh, and her sojourn among the Condor makes for a Quest tale, with very significant variations, and is the main narrative in Always Coming Come. If one began study of Always Coming Home by reading Stone Telling's story straight through, one could see the rest of the book as background to the story, but background foregrounded by getting its own time in the book. If one reads Always Coming Home from beginning to end, Stone Telling's story comes in three parts, with material before and after it. I wish to start my discussion of Always Coming Home proper with the "background": some of the elements of the social and cultural world in which Stone Telling and her story are embedded, the important elements of the social and cultural world of Always Coming Home that Stone Telling's story helps illustrate. Viewing the works with an appropriate double vision, subject and ground are in dynamic cycling, what is foreground and what background depends upon the reader's choice of focus.


Some Short Works in Always Coming Home: Philosophy

We [progressives] just have to confront certain facts: 94 percent of the American people believe in God, 72 percent believe Jesus Christ is the son of God, 39 percent believe they spoke to God on personal terms at least twice last week. . . .

If we're going to be able to address people where they are, we have to be honest with ourselves and them, but we also have to acknowledge where people are. That is a crucial starting point -a place to begin and not to end. -Cornel West, interview in The Progressive 61.1 (Jan. 1997): 26.

Chandi (226-38)

"Pandora," as editor/Narrator, tells us that "Like most Valley drama, Chandi is symbolical or allegorical, generalising{sic} life. The resemblance of the plot to one of the great biblical stories is striking; but so are the differences" (227).

The biblical story is that of Job, and the similarity is that Chandi loses all, gets sick, gets argued with and bad-mouthed by choruses of uncomforting comforters -unjustly, absurdly suffers -and gets as good an answer as he can get to a couple of central questions on life for most humans. There are four major differences. First, the Adversary (Satan) in the prose introduction to the Book of Job raises the question, "Does Job fear God for nought{sic}?" (1.9, RSV) -and argues quite cogently that Job has a good deal with God: Job loves and fears and worships God and in return profits. Should people love and worship a God who fails to deliver? Second, in the poem of Job, Job accuses God of injustice in God's inflicting suffering and horror upon the innocent:

From out of the city the dying groan,

and the soul of the wounded cries for help;

yet God pays no attention to their prayer{sic}. (24.12)

It is all one; therefore I say,

he destroys both the blameless and the wicked.

When disaster brings sudden death,

he mocks at the calamity of the innocent.

The earth is given into the hand of the wicked;

he covers the face of its judges -

if it is not he, who then is it? (9.22-24, RSV)

Third, the climax to the poem of Job is a theophany: God reveals himself to Job -and to Job only, not the comforters, as William Blake stresses in his great illustration of the scene -and shifts the argument from Job's blameless (1.8) "Illusion of Central Position" and upright (2.3) accusations against God to . . . something else. If we make a leap of faith, God shows Job a universe in which God is somehow justified: Job sees his beloved God in the whirlwind. If we decline to make that leap of faith, we are pretty much left with the whirlwind and Job intimidated by raw power. Last, in the prose finale of the Book of Job, God pronounces Job right and his conventionally pious comforters wrong and restores Job to prosperity and his family (with Job getting new children in the conventional biological manner).

One crucial difference between Job and Chandi is that Chandi takes place in a universe of immanent sacredness/connectedness: no God, no Sons of God, no Satan. Another difference is that it takes place in a social world where human people take care of their own.

The play starts with Chandi as a "handsome man in the prime of life, magnificently dressed" and energetically chanting "Heya hey heya!" and going on to "dance the Summer," practicing for a performance planned for that night. The play's dialog ends with Chandi repeating the heya chant and then the lines,

There are the stars shining.

there is nothing between the stars,

the dark dancing. (228, 237)

The play itself ends with the tune of the Heron Dance: "Stooping and half-naked, stiffly and painfully, Chandi began to dance the dance which he practiced in splendor in the first scene: but all the motions and turns were reversed, so that the dance carried him across the stage to the right," apparently to his death. The cast vanishes into darkness, and then the musicians "held the Ending Tone" on their instruments "until it died away very gradually into silence" (237-38). Like much else in Kesh culture, but perhaps more directly, Chandi illustrates that these people "had no god; they had no gods; they had no faith." They are a culture with "a working metaphor. The idea that comes nearest the center of the vision is the House," a multivalent metaphor for Le Guin, including in its suggestions "STABILITY" and "Selfhood" (484); "the sign" of this working metaphor "is the hinged spiral or heyiya-if; the word is the word of praise and change, the word at the center, heya!" (49; "The Serpentine Codex").[37]

On a less cosmic level, Chandi illustrates that many people will die "in pain," as an audience member observes after the show (238), and, as we see in the play, often live in pain. In Chandi, suffering is not a mystery requiring "theodicy": attempting to explain the presence of evil in a universe created and ruled by a good, just, and omnipotent God. Chandi is about pain and suffering in any human world: as a constant in human life from the once upon a time of Job in "the Land of Uz" (1.1) and Ged and Arren in the Dry Land, to the time of Shevek on the planets Anarres and Urras to "a long, long time from now" among the Kesh. Shevek on Anarres allows that "Of course it's right to cure diseases, to prevent hunger and injustice, as the social organism does. But no society can change the nature of existence. We can't prevent suffering. This pain and that pain, yes, but not Pain" (TD 48; ch. 2). The same with the Kesh as we see in Chandi: Chandi has his people, "the House of Summer, the Serpentine," and they will, of course, take care of him: "Well, of course we'll go on looking after you. But" -but they don't have to like him much or like being around him; they will still, like Job's Comforters, add to his suffering. In such a world -even in utopia -"How should a human being live well, then?" (ACH 236).


"How to Die in the Valley" (83-94)

To live well, perhaps, one must learn to die well, once an important theme for instruction, but now unpopular.[38] We do have heroic works, teaching heroic death, but such works are irrelevant for most of us eminently nonheroic people, and the Kesh would (and Le Guin does) find such works misguided. Even the best of our heroic deaths might be, to reapply a phrase, "a bit too excessive, a bit too heroic, for Valley approbation" (90). The Kesh of the Valley of the Na learn to die, their way, with their ceremonies and rituals, from the members of the Black Adobe Lodge (87); the nonhuman people presumably know their own ways to die, but no animals are killed -not even a mosquito -without the "death-words" being spoken, or at least one word of the formula (90-93).

The Kesh do not, believe in «Pie in the sky when you die». They do not believe in a heaven of reward nor in a hell of punishment: not in their vulgar forms nor in the philosophical ideas of eternity with God (heaven) or infinitely removed from God (hell). They do believe in a soul or souls, but, as among the ki'O in "Another Story," their religion is "godless, argumentative, and mystical" (FIS 175 [1994]), or, perhaps more exactly, not a religion as a set of doctrines but a Way, a far-future version of The Perennial Philosophy. In any event, "Valley beliefs and theories concerning the soul were of a most amazing complexity, and imperturbably self-contradictory. One might as well try to pin Valley people down to one creation myth as to get a coherent description of the soul out of them. This multiplicity, of course, was in no sense of the word accidental. It was of the essence" (ACH 89 [see also 92]). Along with generic Humanity, the unborn, "most birds, sea fish, shell fish," and most animals not hunted by humans, the dead inhabit the Four Houses of the Sky, at least metaphorically, at least in the system given in "The Serpentine Codex" (here 44, [47]). The main thing about the Kesh view of death is that it is part of their intense "sense of community, of continuity with the dirt, water, air, and living creatures of the Valley" (90). It is encompassed in human community at "the World Dance at the equinox of spring" -a cosmic reversal time, a turning from Yin to Yang, a time of power in Earthsea and elsewhere. This "First Night of the World was a community ceremony of mourning and remembrance for all who had died" in a Valley town that year. "The long night ceremony of Burning the Names was a fearfully intense, overcharged excitation and release of emotion," and could be tough going for those placing high value on equanimity, "required on this one night to share without shame or reserve the pent-up grief, terror, and anger that death leaves the living to endure." Most important, the commemoration ceremonies, preeminently, give substance to "the emotional and social interdependence of the community, their profound sense of living and dying with one another" (88-89), their embeddedness in human society and the world.

"Junco" (267-71)

In a universe without a transcendent God, where "there is nothing between the stars," seeking an ultimate truth is futile and potentially dangerous. This issue is developed directly in the life story, "Junco," told in the third person, male singular -the first word of the story is "He" -by Junco himself. Even as the Lord of Shorth asked a wrong question with "What is the meaning of life?" (LHD 60, 70; ch. 5), so Junco seeks "the eternal truth."[39] Junco quotes Junco's saying that he wants Truth over "'the souls, the forms, the words,'" of the world, and quotes his promise: "'I will give my life, if I may see before death what lies behind life and death, behind word and form, behind all being, the eternal truth. . . . The gyre of the buzzard, the history of the rocks, the silence of the grass, they were all there, but he would not have them, desiring the eternal truth'" (ACH 267-68). Against good advice, Junco follows his quest, partially under the name "Sungazer"; "It was a name that others had given him; he had not chosen it. Now he thought that he must do what his name said." At the top of a mountain, "He looked up and gazed at the sun" (268). Junco would be ignorant of Le Guin's telling us that "Apollo blinds those who press too close in worship. Don't look straight at the sun" (LHD, 1976, Introd.); but commonsense, a bluejay, and an owl tell him to stop looking. He doesn't, and comes to see "wheels": "black wheels and very bright wheels, turning one within the other" (268): the most memorable part of the vision of Ezekiel (1.15-21) -and a memorable part of some migraine headaches -and a significant part of the vision of Flicker (ACH 291).[40] The wheels are wheels of power, contrasting with going with the world in gyres.

The earth and "everything" tell him "'Go down!'" off the mountain, which he does, and tries to get "below the Valley." He's been up the mountain: sign of Yang, place of revelations; now he'll go beyond the Valley -an embodiment of Yin -and go into a group or series of caves, "back to where springs seep out of the rock in the dark." It is a dark place, but still he can see "the bright wheels turning under the ground." Junco dances and cries out, "'Let me know the truth!'" (ACH 269). Junco is rescued by the vintners who use the caves, and they feed him and take him to his mothers' house. He refuses to stay and starts a fast to the death. He gets close, when he sees a shining person who says to him "'Take the gift!'" Junco thinks he will get truth, and he does: "The young man waited for the gift, for the truth." And nothing happens. He gets taken home and is healed, except for his eyesight. He "can see things only by looking sidelong at them." Looking straight ahead he sees nothing (270). And Junco returns to the world.

As "Sungazer," Junco was excessive even by most ascetic standards, which is part of the point. Junco's story is an exemplum, an example of a very wrong answer to the question "How shall a human being live well, then?". Junco is crazy, but logical, and his logic is important: his craziness reduces to an absurd his premises. If there's a transcendent Truth out there, one might well strive to find out what it is; if Truth is outside the world and our flesh shackles us to the world (see, e.g., Romans 8), then mortification of the flesh makes sense for the experience of transcendence. No transcendence, no experience -and Le Guin offers little transcendence in her works. Junco gets the gift of truth about transcendent reality: nothing. There is no esoteric eternal reality in Always Coming Home for there to be Truth about. Junco just harms his body, permanently -and ironically -affecting his vision. He could do worse: strivers after absolutes that transcend the body often produce high counts of other people's bodies.

No transcendence, then, but might there be "the experience of Immanence" accepted by the Handdarata (LHD 58; ch. 5)?


"The Bright Void of the Wind" (271-72)

Juxtaposed to Junco's story is "The Bright Void of the Wind," a life story told by Kulkunna of the Red Adobe of Telina-na. If Kulkunna is gendered in the story, I missed it: the personal pronoun s/he uses is the gender-neutral first person. The name itself is a combination of the Kesh words for "mountain" and "river" (especially The River: the river [na] the Kesh live along); na can also mean "To flow as or like a river" (518). Mountains are usually male symbols for us, but looking up kulkun in the Kesh Glossary one finds the parenthetical note on "Ama Kulkun, Grandmother Mountain" -a suspiciously useful note, I think, for blurring the gender of mountains. And rivers are always potentially androgynous: (traditionally) feminine water in a (traditionally) masculine shape. So I'll accept the name Kulkunna as androgynous, and will refer to per using third-person, neutral pronouns modeled on the system Marge Piercy uses in Woman on the Edge of Time (1976).[41]

Thirty years back, Kulkunna had a serious illness and eventually per heartbeat and breathing stopped. Pe had a near-death, out-of-body experience. In a vision, Kulkunna starts "inside a dark house," which has a door pe opens. "At once the wind blew it wide open . . . and the house shriveled up behind me like an empty bladder. I stood in a tremendous place of light and wind. Under my feet was only light and wind, the force of the wind bearing me up." Pe falls, of course, and "was terrified. I closed my eyes in fear, but it made no difference: there was no darkness there." Soon, though, Kulkunna begins to feel like a feather -an important symbol in Always Coming Home and, at least in Egyptian religion, associated with judgment after death, light, air, and supporting the sky ("Egyptian Religion" 505). In any event, Kulkunna says "I began to know the greatness of the wind, the brightness of the light, and joy" and would just as soon stay there (ACH 271).

Kulkunna feels called back, and goes, and the vision continues, seeing with "mind's eye that all my senses could perceive was themselves, that they were making the world by casting shadows on the bright void of the wind. I saw that living was catching at shadows with hands of light. I did not want to come back to that. But the doctors' art made me come back, pulling at me, and their singing drew me back, calling me home" (ACH 272). This is a rather solipsistic vision, related to recent ideas in our culture on the construction of reality. It may not fit in well with the general view among the Kesh that human people are part of a larger whole that, I would think, can exist without us (see, e.g., 297). Still, this vision is appropriate to the "many voices" structure of Always Coming Home and the idea of different truth for different people. Also, this vision fits in with the premise of Le Guin's "Pathways of Desire" that we do indeed create worlds between our ears -and with the internal debate on the social construction of reality in the Churten group stories in Fisherman of the Inland Sea (1994). Most important, Kulkunna's vision presents imagery of shadow, void, and light that is a Le Guinian constant.

The end of this very brief story? The main song Kulkunna hears is Blackfern of the Black Adobe's calling per back "to walk here now," not go with the "shining." Blackfern died when Kulkunna was a child, so pe listens and obeys: "I became my ashes. I became my dark body and its illness once again" but goes on to get cured and, taking care, remaining well and becoming a doctor (272).

Male Junco wants Truth before he dies, a certain, absolute Truth; and he gets nothing. Kulkunna dies and sees perhaps what Meshe saw in trying to see the meaning of life: "no darkness," "bright void" (ACH 271, 272 [LHD ch. 12]). Perhaps what Meshe saw is true enough and the ultimate truth and sole certainty. In Left Hand Faxe the Weaver asks Genly Ai to tell per, "What is sure, predictable, inevitable -the one certain thing you know concerning your future, and mine." Ai responds as we should expect: "That we shall die" (71; ch. 5). Ungendered (for us) Kulkunna returns to life, even if life is living in a "dark body" that may become the "ashes" of a body diseased; life is darkening snow with our footsteps and shadows (LHD), "casting shadows on the bright void."

Between Kulkunna's story and "The Dog at the Door" are two «mundane» pieces. "White Tree" is a beautiful little memorial by a grandchild to a grandfather. The grandfather's last name -i.e., name picked last in life -was White Tree, and we learn the he learned with (not from, Pandora notes) his uncle and worked with pear trees to produce a variety that would grow better in the Valley and produce a better pear for the Valley people to eat. His grandchild hopes "that he may be remembered for a while when pear trees are planted or orchards praised" (273-75).[42] "The Third Child's Story" by Spotted Goat of the Obsidian of Madidinou, is the life story of a loser and a nasty trouble-maker, but one who writes lively verse, with a darkly-comic tone. "Third Child" is his poem, beginning with his birth to a mother named "Careless" and ending with his decision after a life as a "superfluous person, / a low-quality person" with a small soul to stay where he is because "all the towns are just the same, / people are just the same": no damn good, and Spotted Goat will stay where he is just to spite them. If a map without utopia is not worth looking at, as Oscar Wilde said, a utopia inhabited only by the smugly wise is also not worth looking at: Homo sapiens sapiens -the Wise, Wise Man -is a grim joke as the name of our species, so a culture of the wise is not immediately relevant for us; and smug utopians are boring. Spotted Goat is a runt from one of Coyote's litters, who has lived an unmindful, irresponsible life; he (ironically) enriches Kesh culture, and his yapping prepares well for the earnest matters to follow.


"The Dog at the Door" and Flicker of the Serpentine (280-304)

"The Dog at the Door" is a very brief "record of a vision" submitted anonymously; the Narrator has no gender, no name, no house. This person follows a dog to "a deep well lined with stone" and looks down into the well and sees the sky. "I stood between the sky above and the sky below": in a center, then, as in Meshe's vision (LHD ch. 12) or "An Orgota Creation Myth" (ch. 17), with a daylight version of the main image in Le Guin's short story "The Stars Below" (1973). In what may be "overdetermined," as some psychologists say, by the center location, the story-teller asks, "Must all things end?" and gets the answer,

"They must end."

"Must my town fall?"

"It is falling now."

"Must the dances be forgotten?"

"They are forgotten." * * *

"Is the world at its end?"

The answer was: "There is no end."

"My town is destroyed!"

"It is being built."

The dog reappears, with a bag in its mouth with "the souls of the human beings of the world." The teller takes the bag and went along with the dog. The sky clears and the tellers sees "that the mountains had fallen. Where they had been, where the Valley had been, there was a great plain." There are people on the plain, each with a bag full of either seeds or little stones. "The stones in the bags made a whispering as they moved together, saying, 'In the end is no end. To build with us, unbuild with us'" (281).

I'm not sure what this all means, but it does show a humans-only Sartrean plain and a universe of impermanence combined with a kind of ultimate stability. As with Koheleth and Heraclitus, Kali and Shiva, Yin-Yang and the movement of the Dao (or with D. H. Lawrence): the reality of things is a cycle of cycles of dissolution and re-creation. A very mortal world, and simultaneously, unending.

And then comes the linearly last and thematically central story in this section of Always Coming Home: the story of "The Visionary: The Life Story of Flicker of the Serpentine of Telina-na," a woman -very much a female speaker -who has had "the experience of Immanence," very much capital "I" Immanence.

Like a reversed mirror image of the male protagonist of "The Man Who Could Not See Devils" in Joanna Russ's story, as a very young child Flicker had seen people in rooms, people invisible to everyone else, getting her mother to think that Flicker might have "the third eye" and should use it by becoming a doctor (ACH 282-83). Flicker turns away from these people only she sees, and they leave her, and she becomes a fairly normal teenage girl-woman: in love with horses (286), an occasional thief of booze, in with a group of dopers (287). She "did not want the world to be as it was" and began "making up the world." Most specifically, she nurses an infatuation for a forbidden love: a young man of the Serpentine of Chukulmas, her own house -a "brother," with whom sex would be incest (284, 287). Flicker wants to die (287), and at this low-point she has her central vision. It's a complex one.

It begins with her looking at Black Oak, an ordinary enough man, and seeing not him "but the Serpentine. It was a rock person . . . ," a human being made of serpentine. Serpentine hits her, or she falls -or undergoes something that hurts her head -and she is stunned (288). When she can look up again, she sees Serpentine put hands to navel and pull apart the body, opening "a long, wide rent . . . like the doorway of a room" that she is to enter. Flicker tells us she thinks "the rest of the vision all took place in the stone; that is where it all happened and was; but because of the human way human people have to see things, it seemed to change, and to be other places, things, and beings." Flicker finds herself "in the earth, part of the dirt," feeling the feelings of dirt. Rain starts and she could "feel rain coming into the dirt," feeling "in a way that was like seeing." Waking and sleeping, Flicker perceives. "I began feeling stones and roots, and along my left side I began to feel and hear cold water running, a creek in the rainy season. . . . Near the creek I began to feel the deep roots of trees" and other life (289).

The vision shifts here, but I want to deal with this passage, since it so powerfully invokes both capital "I" Immanence and the great fear with which those who will fully accept immanence vs. transcendence must deal: death, the grave, being in and becoming dirt. Or mud (see EoH 116-17, ch. 8; 176-77, ch. 11, and passim). The passage can be put in useful dialog with what I'll call the "Erdschweinhöhle" -"Aardvark hole" -meditation in Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow (1973), a section that deals with a number of motifs of great interest to readers of Le Guin (although Gravity's Rainbow has not been read by Le Guin).[43]

Part of Pynchon's meditation includes a bit of ethnography about the poorest group among the Herero people, whose totem animal was "the Erdschwein [earth-pig] or aardvark." Leaving the area of these people, a White might be able to perceive a

woman alone in the earth, planted up to her shoulders in the aardvark hole, a gazing head rooted to the desert plane. . . . She can feel the incredible pressure . . . against her belly. . . . [Her four stillborn children] have pointed her here, to be in touch with Earth's gift for genesis. The woman feels power flood in through every gate: a river between her thighs, light leaping at the ends of fingers and toes. It is sure and nourishing as sleep. It is a warmth. The more the daylight fades, the further she submits -to the dark, to the descent of water from the air. She is a seed in the Earth. The holy aardvark has dug her bed. (315-16)[44]

In the Zone (the spreading War, the metastasizing Western world), the point-of-view character feels, "The Erdschweinhöhle is in one of the worst traps of all, a dialectic of word made flesh, flesh moving toward something else...." (321).

Flicker's vision is more optimistic. Pynchon's Hereros see a binary choice: they can choose "between two kinds of death: tribal death, or Christian death. Tribal death made sense" (318) and Pynchon's Hereros will complete the Germans' job of extermination begun in Southwestern Africa by committing tribal suicide (317-18, 323). They will not attempt a return to tribal life and wholeness after the time of European sickness. They won't try to get back to the Immanence symbolized by the aardvark-hole. As Stevens stressed in her 1989 SFRA presentation, Le Guin offers no opportunity for "restitution" to massacred Indians. In Le Guin's words, "The people who lived in the Valley are silent, now and forever. We did not listen to them. We -my people -killed them without hearing one word they said." In Le Guin's view, "at the very root and center" of Always Coming Home "there is that: a silence, and an act of contrition. Not of reparation. There is no reparation. But inside my dance of celebration of humanity set in the dreamtime future [of ACH] there is another dance, a spiral going the other way into the past, not touching; a dance for the dead, in silence" ("Legends" 10). In my prosaic words, much of Le Guin's point in Always Coming Home is creating a mâshâl in which exterminated tribes do return insofar as their cultures are recreated in words and imagination.[45] And among the imagined Kesh and their neighbors there is a returning to life.

Even so, as a kind of mystic microcosm. Flicker does not get trapped but gets "moving toward something else." Le Guin has Flicker have it that the "human way human people have to see things" causes perception of change. So Flicker sees the rain -a classic symbol for revival, new life, renewal -as "ladders of rain" and climbs them out of her version of the aardvark-hole to the "stairways of cloud" and on to the "path of wind," where she gets a crucial helper: Coyote (289), the totem animal of the Eighth House (the House of the wind) and the Kesh symbol for change ([47], 49).[46]

Coyote asks Flicker if and then where Flicker wants to go, and Flicker says she wants to go to the Sun, taking her from the Eighth House (associated with Coyote, wilderness, "across") into the Ninth (Hawk, Eternity, "out" [47]). Going across then out, Flicker sees a jerky history of the world, one which is hard to describe: "Seeing with the hawk's eyes is being without self. Self is mortal. That is the House of eternity." Where there is no self, "When there is no I nor she{,} there is no story" (290). What Flicker can tell us about her hawk-vision is that she saw "the universe of power" -as power -as decorous for the daughter of an electrician and an apprentice electrician herself (in our job descriptions). In its purest form, this ultimate world was and is -if the more mystical interpretations of modern physics are correct (Capra chs. 13-15) -a "network, field, and line of energies of all the beings, stars and galaxies of stars, worlds, animals, minds, nerves, dust, the lace and foam of vibration that is being itself, all interconnected, every part part of another part and the whole part of each part, and so comprehensible to itself only as a whole, boundless and unclosed." In her moment of vision, "the electrical mental network of the City" of Mind, "that vast web" of cybernetic high technology in all its light-year magnitude immensity "was one momentary glitter of light on one wave on the ocean of the universe of power" -not being this time but "the universe of power" (ACH 290-91).[47]

Atman is Brahman. Self is universe. A human being cannot maintain the vision of Being for very long, nor can the Real be described at length without falling into bathos. Both Flicker and Le Guin move on into "a descent or drawing away" where things are describable. Following what seems like Buddhist tradition, they move from Being-as-Power to a "lesser place or plane, which was what might be called the gods or the divine, beings enacted possibilities{sic}. These I, being human, recall as having human form." The gods, however, are not Buddhist deities or Native American woge. The one Flicker remembers is a form of Hephaestus (Vulcan) the Greco-Roman metal-smith to the gods. Flicker applies the categories of the Kesh and sees the Hephaestus figure as a member of the Miller's Art; this is decorous for her, and also useful for Le Guin, elegantly alluding to literal milling of grain, the saying "The mills of the gods grind slowly, but very fine," and to William Blake's great vision of "dark Satanic Mills" destroying "England's green and pleasant land," and people (Preface to Milton [1804-08]).

Hephaestus in the vision "shaped the vibrations of energies, closing their paths from gyre into wheel . . . . making wheels of energy closed upon themselves, terrible with power, flaming. He who made them was burnt away by them . . . but still he turned the paths of energy and closed them into wheels, locking power into power." These wheels of the god grind slowly, perhaps, but turn all around them "black and hollow." Other beings appear, looking like birds,

flying and crying across the wheels of fire to stop the turning and the work, but they were caught in the wheels, and burst like feathers of flame. The miller was a thin shell of darkness now, very weak, burnt out, and he too was caught in the wheels' turning and burning and grinding, and was ground to dust, like fine black meal. The wheels as they turned kept growing and joining until the whole machine was interlocked cog within cog, and strained and brightened, and burst into pieces. Every wheel as it burst was a flare of faces and eyes and flowers and beasts on fire, burning, exploding, destroyed, falling into black dust. That happened, and it was one flicker of brightness and dark in the universe of power . . . . The dark dust or meal lay in the shape of open curves or spirals. . . . It began dancing. . . . to the left, something was there crying like a little animal. That was myself, my mind and being in the world, and I began to become myself again . . . . (291-92)

We have in this Vision, I think, a recapitulation of our history and a foretelling of the outcome of Stone Telling's story: the outcome of the crisis approaching the Kesh. Haephestus/Vulcan is one of the possibilities that may be enacted out of the infinite possibilities inherent in Being; he is an appropriate god to represent our civilization, a civilization that did, in Always Coming Home, keep "growing and joining until the whole machine was interlocked cog within cog," finally "burning, exploding, destroyed, falling into black dust" (291).

The rest of Flicker's story is Flicker's learning to live with her vision, learning "to speak sky with an earth tongue," approaching "the condition of living in both Towns," of "being oneself in the world" (292-93), learning "the techniques of revisioning, of recounting," of "recalling" and music (298).

She also has to learn to deal with Milk, an ungentle, celibate woman who works with words and has little respect for Flicker's male teacher, Tarweed, who "worked with words, drum, and matrix chanting." She also contemns Tarweed because he is a man. Flicker recalls that Milk "In the Lodge" had said "the old gibe" that "A man fucks with his brain and thinks with his penis." Flicker thinks that Tarweed knew what Milk thought, "but intellectual men are used to having their capacities doubted and their achievements snubbed . . . ." Flicker tries to defend him, but her own freedom from sexist attitudes only goes so far as, ". . . he thinks like a woman!" (293-94). These are reversals probably of use to young readers; for older readers, the more interesting part of this section of the story is Flicker's coming to understand that Milk is tough on her because Milk envies her for "going ahead," being ahead of her in the visionary calling (302-03). There is a moral here, I think: A great soul like Ged, teaching and using Arren in Farthest Shore, can willingly encourage a young person to lead; most people can't. Flicker also has to learn how to avoid a return to "making up the world" (300) as she had done with her infatuation with her Serpentine brother. Interestingly, she gets her name, Flicker, and important but bad (William Blakean? Sadean? D. H. Lawrencean?) advice from an old woman in a vision: "What are you sulking about? Why don't you go fuck with your [House] brother in Chukulmas? Desire unacted is corruption. Must Not is a slave-owner. Ought Not is a slave. Energy constrained turns the wheels of evil. . . . How can you gyre, how can you handle power, chained like that? Superstition! Superstition!" (295). Flicker may accept that "Vision is transgression!" always and necessarily (294), but she is not going to violate her people's incest taboo. She gets better advice from Deertongue, "A woman-living man of the Serpentine of Wakwaha." He tells Flicker to follow Coyote's advice "at the beginning of it all": to wit, "take it easy"; he also gets her to admit that her vision in the Ninth House is the center of her life, which she needs to recognize and, probably, let go (299).

It is significant that Le Guin does not idealize women in the "Flicker" story and that she presents without comments on any need to change his life, a male homosexual (?) or transvestite. Not a gay man in our sense, but, apparently, closer to the "One in every several hundred Yurok men, on the average" who "preferred the life and dress of a woman," a tendency, A. L. Kroeber tells us, that was "not combated, but socially recognized by the Indians of California . . . probably by all the tribes of the continent north of Mexico" (Handbook 46).[48] This is significant for Le Guin's later work; for now we can follow Flicker down from mystic vision -backward in Always Coming Home as a physical book -to the world of myth, and thence down toward mundane considerations of war and peace, politics, and family.


Time and the City section (149-72)

"Big Man and Little Man" starts with a retelling of a Japanese creation myth, I think, combined with Genesis (1.1-2.24) and the Western mystical idea that the first act of creation was God's withdrawal, to allow space for a creation to take place in. "Big Man and Little Man" starts with Big man having created the stars with his semen (or so "they say") and filling up all of the universe outside the world: "There wasn't room for anything else" (ACH 157), an image for gods and men too full of themselves. [49] Big Man sees "the world inside, and he wanted to be in it, get it pregnant with himself, or maybe he wanted to eat it, get it inside himself," anyway, get possession of it. Big Man couldn't get into the world, though, "He could only see it backwards." So he sends across "a Little Man," with "his head on backwards." Little Man doesn't like the little world, "So Big Man put him to sleep and while he was sleeping made a thing like a woman out of dirt, out of red adobe, they say. It looked like a woman, it fooled Little Man . . . ." Big Man tells Little Man to "go there and breed," which he does: Little Man "took the thing and went back inside the world. He fucked it and it made copies. He kept doing that until there were as many of him as mosquitoes . . . . All the same, no matter how many of him there were, he didn't like it there. He was afraid. He didn't belong there inside the world, he had no mother, only a father. So he killed whatever he was afraid of" (157-58), which is pretty much everything. "He was really afraid of water, because of the way water is" (158). That last point refers to Daoist ideas on water, but primarily to the American Indian idea that "The white people destroy all. They blast rocks and scatter them on the earth. The rocks say, 'Don't. You are hurting me.'" But water "can't be hurt. The white people go to the river and turn it into dry land. The water says, 'I don't care. I am water" (qtd "Legends" 5).[50]

Anyway, with the exception of water, Little Man and his descendants -we, civilized humanity -managed to destroy most of the world, finally poisoning the sea. So the world is corrupted, and Big Man declares, "It's nothing but corruption, that world!" and turns away and leaves. The vermin of the world come sneaking back and eat the dead: "They made it food." Some human people had somehow gotten born, "born with mothers," even, and survived (158). These new human people "weren't afraid" but were low enough, hungry enough, and smart enough to ask "the coyotes to help them," which brings Coyote herself. "Where she walked she made the wilderness. She dug the canyons, she shat mountains" and the world is renewed. "Things went on, people went on," leading to the world of Always Coming Home, "Only Little Man didn't go on. He was dead. He died of fear" (159).

The story "A Hole in the Air" works a major variation on the Karok/Yurok motif of the sky hole: changing a vertical trip into the sky world above into a temporal trip back in time to our civilization. In Le Guin's allegory, a man finds a hole in the air, "up near Pass Valley," we're told, "in the Range of Light" (154), a symbolically appropriate place for a kind of time-portal to an age in some ways (as the saying has it) "blinded by the light." The man goes "through the hole to the outside world," i.e., outside the world, into our world: civilization, "Life As We Know It" (Norton 35). This is the land of "The backward-head people," where the food is poisoned, and roads with fast-moving automobiles are everywhere, where there are very few people around besides human people and all seems to be "walls and roofs, . . . roads and houses." The human people there "had electrical wires in their ears, and were deaf. They smoked tobacco day and night, and were continually making war." The Kesh man tries to "get away from the war by going on, but . . . they lived everywhere" (156).[51] The Kesh man "died of grief and poison," and his people "took the pole house down and let the wind blow" away the hole in the air (157).

Again, from a Kesh point of view, we are the woge, the first people, who prepared the world for them by perversely unmaking the world, and we are outside the world, dangerous, and insane. That's the MORAL, and in case we don't get it, these stories are part of a kind of exposition sandwich.

After our author/editor Pandora has lamented killing off our civilization -imaging the death of a culture is far from genocide but less than innocent -and implicating us (147-48), we get "The City" section of Time and the City. This section subdivides into exposition on Yaivkach: The City of Mind, Wudun: The Exchanges, and Tavkach: The City of Man. The City of Mind and the Exchanges are the extraordinarily evolved computer network in the world of the Kesh and their neighbors, descended from human technology but now mostly outside of the human world. The City of Man is civilization:

The historical period, the era of human existence that followed the Neolithic era for some thousands of years in various parts of the earth, and from which prehistory and "primitive cultures" are specifically excluded, appears to be what is referred to by the Kesh phrases "the time outside," "when they lived outside the world," and "the City of Man." * * *

. . . [T]his period in which we live, our civilisation, Civilisation as we know it, appeared in Valley thought as a remote region, set apart from the community and continuity of human/animal/earthly existence -a sort of peninsula sticking out from the mainland, very thickly built upon, very heavily populated, very obscure, and very far away. * * * [Separated from them by a] gap or lack of connection. . . .

. . . [T]hey may have perceived it as the most important thing . . . about civilisation, about history in our terms: that gap . . . break, flip, that reversal from in to out, from out to in. That is the hinge. (152-53)

In the middle of Time and the City, there is "A Note on the Backward-Head People," the most terrifying "ghoul" in the Valley; because we are the horror folks who gave the Kesh and the other survivors on Earth those "vast regions" desolated "through release of radioactive or poisonous substances, the permanent genetic impairment from which they suffered most directly in the form of sterility, stillbirth, and congenital disease" (159). Our legacy to them has been "war, plague, famine, holocaust, and Fimbul Winter" (148) -of the nuclear variety, apparently, not the one out of Norse legend. Which brings us back to war, a central metaphor for our activity from a Kesh point of view: "They" -we -"smoked tobacco day and night, and were continually making war" (156).

"A War With the Pig People" and Commentary (129-34)

In his "Reactionary Utopias" article, Gregory Benford accuses Le Guin of an "aversion for violence" and avoiding in her work both violence and "the problem of evil" (16-18), in Benford's context, the practical problems caused by human evil. (There is no "problem of evil" in a theological sense for Le Guin, nor for Benford in his article.) I think one could say with equal truth, and equal error, that Le Guin is obsessed by the problem of warfare as large-scale, organized violence. Set as they are in Europe, however modified by an imaginary country, Malafrena and Orsinian Tales have war, insurrection, and the threat of war as a recurrent theme. And in Le Guin's SF and fantasy there is organized fighting, outright warfare, the threat of warfare, or repression through institutional violence or the threat of violence in Rocannon's World, Planet of Exile, City of Illusions (agents of the Shing destroy Terrans who seek to organize), The Word for World Is Forest, The Lathe of Heaven ("offstage"), The Left Hand of Darkness, King Dog, "The Matter of Seggri," The Eye of the Heron, A Wizard of Earthsea, and The Dispossessed -i.e., most of Le Guin's major works and some minor ones. As I have stressed, Always Coming Home is very much concerned with war, and I will be getting into the question of war in detail in the discussion of Stone Telling's narrative. First, however, we need to get back to the accusation against our culture that we smoke tobacco and make war continually. How does the man in "A Hole in the Air" know about warfare, and what does warfare have to do with nicotine addiction? The Gethenian languages don't have a word for war; how is it that Kesh does?

The short and simple answer is that the people of the Valley of the Na, like their Indian predecessors along the Klamath River and "primitives" most places indeed had warfare; it's just that what they mean by "war" is very different from our meaning. That difference is made clear in "A War with the Pig People" by Strong of the Yellow Adobe of Tachas Touchas (ACH 129-34).

This narrative is significantly called a "History": to say nothing of the negative implications of "history" in Always Coming Home, it is still an old insult that conquerors make history, plus widows and orphans; and much of what is thought of and taught as history is about wars. In this brief history, an unusually large number of Pig People stay around Tachas Touchas longer than usual, and "Their pigs were all over the hunting side." A man from both the Bay Laurel Lodge and the hunters of the town -after due consultation -goes over and politely asks the Pig People to keep their pigs out of the hunting area.

A Pig woman spoke for them. She was about seventeen years old. She said, "Can't your hunters tell pigs from deer?"

He said, "Not always."

She said, "This is how to tell the difference: deer run away, pigs don't."

This response angers the Bay Laurel people and the hunters. They meet and "agreed to have a war with the Pig People after [the celebration called] the Moon. Nobody spoke against it." Three people of the town go to the Pig camp and eat with them. "After everybody had eaten we sat around being polite, until Dream Eagle fetched out the tobacco and the pipe. He said, 'Will you smoke with us?'" Some thirty-one of the Pig men but no women smoke with the three people from town (129). "Four women and thirteen men" from the town "had agreed to fight the war." They negotiate when and where the war is to occur, then the townsfolk go home, with Strong noting that he was drunk and sick from smoking: smoking tobacco was not mere recreation or a bad habit among the California Indians, and, except for problem people under the influence of the Condor, isn't a common activity among the Kesh and their neighbors.

The ad hoc warriors from the town prepare weapons and ammunition "and people who had fought wars before talked to us and trained us"; and, of course, they all perform the proper rituals (130). Dream Eagle is chosen as "the war chief so he could tell us what to do and not do," but we are not told the method of selection. When the war begins, "Most of the Pig men stayed high up in the brush and shot from there. I think all of them had guns, but they were not all good guns. We had three very good guns made by Himpi the Gunsmith, and eight good ones. The rest of us had chosen to fight with knives or without weapons" (131). Dream Eagle is killed; Black (a young woman) is killed; Sun's Son is killed; and a fourteen- and fifteen-year-old behave bravely: running after the Pig People and shouting insults at them (132). A Pig man signals for peace, "and people called out, 'It is over, it is over'" (133). The Pig People move on, and the victors, more or less, of Tachas Touchas "went through purification ceremonies." Strong ends with what seems to be a compliment for both sides: "They were brave and true warriors in that war" (133).

Well, someone my age would call it a "rumble," except that when the word "rumble" was used, guns were usually not used (see West Side Story [film: 1961]). Clear of the Yellow Adobe of Tachas Touchas calls the war much stronger things and is angry at its adult participants.

I am ashamed that six of the people of my town who fought this war were grown people. Some of the others were old enough to behave like adults, too.

All over the Valley now they are saying that the women and men in Tachas Touchas make war. They are saying that people in Tachas Touchas kill people for acorns. . . . They are laughing at us. . . .

It is appropriate for children to fight, not having learned yet how to be mindful, and not yet being strong. It is part of their playing.

It is appropriate that adolescents . . . may choose mindfully to risk their strength in a game, and they may choose to throw away their life{sic}, if they wish not to go on and undertake to live a whole life into old age. That is their choice. In undertaking to live a whole life, a person has made the other choice. They no longer have the privilege of adolescence. To claim it in grown life is mindless, weak, and shameful. (133-34)

Counting coup, in the fashion of the Plains Indians, is obviously a kind of game; California Indians usually raided to avenge an affront they took seriously. I agree with Clear, though: rumbles have rules and, ideally, clear winners and losers; from an anthropological point of view, they are games for the rowdier among two or more groups' adolescents. What the Kesh lack is "large, hierarchically governed nation-states, the mobilizable entity that is the essential factor in modern war" ("Is Gender Necessary?" LoN [1979]: 164), nor do they have hierarchically governed city-states that were the essential factor in early ancient warfare. So their violence remains fairly personal, small-scale, and regulated. Violence is not celebrated as the defining act of manhood; war is not seen as the highest vocation of gentlemen or the noble man, or the greatest, most meaningful, most value-bestowing activity of a civilization. Warfare among adults, to Clear of Tachas Touchas, is "mindless, weak, and shameful" -and, in the Valley, literally ludicrous.

"Stone Telling"

"History is a nightmare from which humanity longs to awaken." -Qtd. Joanna Russ, end of We Who Are About To . . . (1975 f.)[52]

A hierarchically governed city-state and the glorification of war are exactly what the Dayao, the Condor people, have, and we get to see it in detail in the three parts of Stone Telling's story, and appended material (ACH 7-42, 173-201, 340-86).

Stone Telling is a "liminal" person, one of Le Guin's "Exiles and Envoys," to use Kathleen L. Spencer's suggestive phrase and highly useful analysis. Her mother is Kesh, her father Dayao, and her quest for her self, for Home, takes her from the Valley to The City of the Condor -a City of Man -and then (fulfilling the quest pattern) back again, re-integrated into her world and, in Always Coming Home, the world: "To be whole is to be part; true journey is return" (Odo's tombstone, TD 68; ch. 3). Her movement "There and Back Again" allows her to see and show us not only her utopian world of the Kesh but also the imperialist dystopia of the Condor.[53] In the movement between utopian and dystopian worlds, she is somewhat like the protagonist in Piercy's Woman on the Edge of Time (1976), or the "J's" in Joanna Russ's The Female Man (1975). "Genre writers and readers," as Le Guin has written, "share a common stock of concepts, icons, images, manners, and patterns, precisely as the musicians and audiences of Haydn's and Mozart's time shared a materia musica which the composer was expected, not to shatter or transcend, but to use and make variations on" (Norton 21). So Stone Telling joins other women travelers from one world to another and back again, helping to answer the question, "How shall a human being live well, then?" In the context of Always Coming Home, the question includes how we might set up cultures and societies that actively encourage -and avoiding creating cultures that discourage -good living.

The most relevant analogy for the politics of Stone Telling's journey may be an earlier work that Always Coming Home reflects in a reversing and distorting mirror image: Yevgeny Zamyatin's modernist dystopia, We (ca. 1920).[54] We starts in dystopia and mostly stays there, with a test of a space vehicle turning out to be no way out of dystopia and only a quick trip beyond the City's quite literal Wall. "Man ceased to be a wild animals," We's male protagonist-arrator, D-503 tells us, "only when he built the first wall. Man ceased to be a savage only when we had built the Green Wall, when we had isolated our perfect mechanical world from the irrational, hideous world of trees, birds, animals ..." (93; Seventeenth Entry), enclosing "infinity behind a wall" -outside it, I think -"terrified to glance outside the wall" (40-41; Eighth Entry). D-503 is a man of the City, initially well-integrated into his world. The plot of We has him meeting I-330, a sensual woman and revolutionary, and being led by her to discovery of transgressive sex and politics, and losing his integration: i.e., going insane. D-503 finally is captured by the authorities and cured by having his imagination excised, but there is a chance the rebellion of the forces of energy and change will defeat the City and its stasis.

In the background of We is

the Great Two Hundred Years' War -the war between the city and the village. The primitive peasants, prompted perhaps by religious prejudice, stubbornly clung to their "bread." But in the year 35 before the founding of the One State, our present food, a petroleum product was developed. True, only 0.2 of the earth's population survived the war. But, cleansed of its millennial filth, how radiant the face of the earth has become! And those two tenths survived to taste the heights of bliss in the shining palace of the One State. (21; Fifth Entry)

It turns out that a "small remnant" survived also outside the Wall, to become the wild, savage Mephi -as in "Mephistophilis" (C. Marlowe) or "Mephistopheles" (Goethe) or "Mephisto." These savages are the "half" that must unite with the civilized for full humanity (163); in any event, they represent nature and energy. I-330 tells D-503 "There are two forces in the world -entropy and energy. One leads to blissful quietude, to happy equilibrium; the other to destruction of equilibrium, to tormentingly endless movement. Entropy was worshipped as God by our -or rather, your -ancestors, the Christians. But we anti-Christians, we ..." (165; Twenty-eighth Entry). She never finishes the sentence, but that doesn't matter much for We and is irrelevant for us. What's relevant here is the City/Village split and Always Coming Home's literally re-evaluating some basic terms of Zamyatin's formula. Le Guin indeed puts her protoJudeo-Christians within the walls of the City and the people integrated into nature into wall-less villages in the shape of the double-spiral heyiya-if (ACH 3); but it is the Condor who hold the promise of action, destruction, and "tormentingly endless movement," or at least busy-ness.

Le Guin is revisiting and re-visioning, I think, her own City of Illusions (1967). There she had tried to balance "The forest of the mind" (inhabited by humans in households) with the City and civilization: civilization "not as a negative force -restrain, constraint, repression, authority -but as an opportunity lost, an ideal of truth. The City as goal and dream" (LoN [1979]: 147). In her introduction to the 1978 re-issue of City of Illusions, Le Guin expressed dissatisfaction with the Shing, the City-dwelling villains of City of Illusions. "Real villains are rare; and they never, I believe, occur in flocks. . . . ." Le Guin had obeyed an order from her elder daughter to write about a people she had thought up, the Shing: "They're bad." As of ca. 1978, Le Guin thought she'd "fluffed it" with the Shing. "I should have made Elisabeth tell me how to do it. . . . Eight-year-olds know what bad is. Grownups get confused" (LoH [1979]: 146). The City of the Condor is a Bad Place -period: "a negative force" a place of "restraint, constraint, repression, authority." And the Condor (abstract mass noun) are bad, the villain (singular) of Always Coming Home: not each Condor person individually, nor even high-ranking Condor people, but the Condor as a culture. Le Guin has learned "what bad is" enough to show its social expression in a highly satiric story.

Always Coming Home starts sputteringly, as is traditional with saturas/satires (see Jonathan Swift's longer works), but when we get past a rather analytical Contents and "A First Note," "The Quail Song" (a ten-line lyric), and a note moving us "Towards an Archeology of the Future" -then Always Coming Home "begins" with "Stone Telling," Part One.[55]

Part One (7-42)

We meet Stone Telling under her first name, North Owl, and she tells us her mother's names were Towhee (a bird), Willow, and Ashes and that as a girl she lived with her mother and her grandmother, Valiant. Her "father's name, Abhao, in the Valley means Kills," which is our first hint that her father's name, at least, is not of the same sort as those that are just given, in meaningful words ("ashes," "owl"), without translation. Stone Telling talks to us as if we were human people of the Valley, and -as in most really imaginative SF -we have to suspend our disbelief and a few beliefs, and tolerate some ignorance and the risk of misunderstanding if we are to follow her story. E.g., "First Name" here doesn't mean first name in our binomial nomenclature for European naming: it's the chronologically first name someone uses (7-8).

We soon learn that young Stone Telling is teased by some of the other children with epithets of "half-House" and called "half a person," and that this hurts her (9). The significance of the mockery is, first, that kids can be cruel even in utopia, second, that her father was an outsider, one who "had come from outside the Valley and had gone away again," and, third, as we shall learn later, that there is a kind of sickness in the Valley, with some very subtle manifestations. Thinking as a child, North Owl saw these epithets to mean only that she "had no father's mother, no father's House, and therefore was half a person"; she hadn't yet even heard of the Condor (10), but she will, very shortly.

North Owl's first adventure is going with her mother and (maternal) grandmother to visit her grandmother's mostly ex-husband in Chumo, a rich town. Continuity with our idea of the human world is assured by young couples in Chumo going off into a willow wood to copulate (or whatever), and North Owl and her bratty cousins entertaining themselves by annoying the couples. Difference and change -for the Kesh as much as for us -is indicated by North Owl's grandfather. He has changed from his middle name of Potter to (probably) a last name of Corruption, a name that bothers Valiant (13). Corruption tells Valiant and us, "Your body is not real" and performs a trick upon himself and then North Owl demonstrating the maxim: he passes a potter's paddle through his hand and then through North Owl's arm. Corruption says, "This North Owl might come to the Warriors," teaching her a new word, with Valiant responding, "No chance of that. Your Warriors are all men," with Corruption answering back, "She can marry one." Willow may have been "frightened by the power her father had shown"; North Owl seems impressed (14).

Very soon, North Owl sees men of the Condor for the first time and learns that her father may return, news that initially causes her to have a momentary but frightening vision and keep repeating "I don't want it to eat you" (16). Nothing comes of the Condor visit for a while, and North Owl goes on being, mostly, a normal eight-year-old of her people: including one who recognizes dirt as "the mother of my mothers," and kinship with Coyote (21-22).

North Owl sees a Condor gyring one day: "Nine times it turned in the air about my town, and then completing the heyiya-if flew gliding slowly into the northeast," over North Owl, convincing her the Condor sought her (23). Her mother calls North Owl "Condor's Daughter," as if it were a name (24), and then news of the Condor arrive, and with it a debate. Some say the Condor should be kept out of the Valley, that they're sick, "that they have their heads on crooked," and that for ten years there have been Valley people emulating the Condor, the "men of the Warrior's Lodge in the Upper Valley, and what are Warriors but people who make war?" The speaker of North Owl's heyimas (to North Owl, centrally meaning something like "school") sees no problem: "They can do us no harm. We walk the gyre." He is answered with "And they walk the wheel, and the power builds!", a line we are not going to understand until we return to it after reading "Flicker" on wheels of power and understanding what "gyres" mean to the Kesh (the image of the Way). In this loaded context, North Owl finds a feather: "It was dark, stiff, thin, and long. I knew what it was: it was the word I must learn to speak." North Owl tries to give the feather to Cave Woman, who was "very old, wise, and weak." Cave Woman refuses the gift, saying it was for North Owl. "Heya," she says -"Heya, Condor's Daughter, in the dry land, think of the creeks running! Heya, Condor's Daughter, in the dark house, think of the blue clay bowl!" The dry land in the universe of Earthsea is the land of death; here it is that symbolically, and the City of the Condor. The dark house is usually the grave; here it is symbolically that, plus, I think, the house of North Owl's father's family (25; see also 359). I don't know what "the blue clay bowl" might be, but North Owl is of the Blue Clay, associated with fresh water and Earth and game animals ([46], 420). North Owl denies being the Condor's Daughter, but Cave Woman responds "It seems the Condor says you are," and North Owl takes the phallic feather (Selinger 137). "Seeing it in the lamplight, dead black, longer than an eagle feather, I began to feel proud that it had come to me. If I had to be different from other people, then let my difference be notable, I thought" (25).

When North Owl is nine (another Le Guinian nine), her father returned to the Valley. Looking back, the adult Stone Telling knows that he was "Terter Abhao, True Condor, Commander of the Army of the South, who was off duty with his troops for the autumn and winter, awaiting orders for the spring campaign -who returns to be rejected by the town but accepted immediately and without recriminations by his wife and daughter. To North Owl, her father was home and that was that: "He was home . . . our family was whole; now everything was as it should be, balanced, complete; and so it would not change" (29-30).

The rest of Part One is the story of Abhao's stay in the Valley, especially North Owl's response to him and his men, until, inevitably, he leaves.

When she first sees her father's soldiers, North Owl isn't sure what to make of them and tries out theories. "They all dressed alike and looked alike," so perhaps they are "a herd of some kind of animal" -not a human animal, either, since, if they had language, she couldn't understand it. Or perhaps they were crazy or just very stupid, with Abhao "the only real person among them" (31). Stone Telling's recalled perceptions and thinking are our introduction to the military seen with an innocent eye, or at least seen by someone ignorant of military customs in our world. North Owl's observations demean the military (as Le Guin intends) and defamiliarize uniforms, inviting us to see the weirdness of dressing a whole band of men identically and wonder what function the uniforms fulfill.[56] And here that sense of wonder isn't just a virtue in readers of SF but an ethical imperative: the organizers of the Condor military and those in our world are neither crazy nor stupid (Wytenbroek 334-35). More exactly, they are very much like Herman Melville's Ahab's brief insight into himself, "namely, all my means are sane, my motive and my object mad" (250; ch. 41). Another naive observer, Shevek at the climax in Urras in The Dispossessed, gets a sudden insight into "why the army was organized as it was" and concludes, "It was indeed quite necessary" (245, ch. 9). In Kesh terms, the Condor have their heads on, but their heads are on backwards.

"Kills" in the Valley is a stranger in a strange land, but an aristocratic one, too arrogant to learn to behave appropriately in the Valley, since he is certain that his way is the only way for a True Condor: "I am not a tyon," he tells Willow: not a farmer, not a peasant. "I am a commander of three hundred in charge of an army, I am - There are things a man can do and cannot do" (32). In terms of traditional Western European culture, what would come after the "I am" is "an officer and a gentleman." And being "gentle" means severe limitations of the kinds of work one may do without losing face; a gentleman, ordinarily, may not do subsistence farming or build huts (cf. Falco in EoH on Victorians being City people, not peasants [19; ch. 2]). Valiant remains quiet, "but she could not hide her contempt for a man who would not herd or farm or even chop wood. He, holding herders and farmers and woodcutters in contempt, found this hard to bear." And Willow loves Kills too much to insist that he work (31).

North Owl enjoys her father. For one thing, he has the largest horse she's ever seen and takes her for rides, giving her an aristocrat's view of the world -that of a cavalier, knight, caballero: a horseman and a gentleman. He also introduces her to a variety of thrill unavailable among the Kesh. One day, when his troops are building a bridge, Abhao has North Owl yell "Now!" in his language as loud as she can. Each times she does so, ". . . the men working would drop the piledriver, a big stone in{sic} a pulley. I heard my high, thin voice and saw ten strong men obey it, over and over. So I first felt the great energy of the power that originates in imbalance, whether the imbalance of a weighted pulley or a society. Being the driver not the pile, I thought it was fine" (32).

North Owl is not the only one in the Valley to be attracted to such power. We have heard of Warrior Lodges growing up among the Kesh, and soon learn that they are organized by men who imitate the Condor in following a military or militaristic life (as North Owl's grandfather has done). When Warriors from Chumo and Kastoha-na arrive, there is a mild confrontation with the Condor. To start, it was wrong to build a bridge "without consulting either the River or the people who lived alongside it" -and why a bridge at all? (33). Because, Abhao explains, the Condor wish to get their supply wagons across the river and don't want to go out of their way. Why not ford or "carry things across by the ferry"? Because "Soldiers don't carry loads on their backs." Besides, "Men of the Condor are not only brave fighters but great engineers. The roads and bridges in the lands around the City of the Condor are the wonder of the age" (34). Like the ancient Romans of the Republic and early Empire and, until recently, the Americans, the Condor are great builders, and builders build. To the people of the Valley, Abhao and his troops are building in their home: "This Valley is our house, where we live," and they don't need roads or bridges (or outside meddlers) to get around in their own house. A woman of great power calls Kills "child" and suggests he needs more education. Having trouble arguing with women (or even talking to women in front of his men [34]), Abhao says "The decision is neither mine nor yours to make or change"; the "Roads will be widened, bridges will be build. Do not provoke the anger of the Condor!" (35).

What we have in this minor confrontation in Always Coming Home is less a misunderstanding than a confrontation between two groups of people who see the world in different ways and therefore have irreconcilable goals. The Condor wish to impose their corporate will upon the Kesh and everyone else, and the Condor are much more heavily armed than the Kesh and much more ready to kill people to get their way. This is not a misunderstanding but a nonviolent version of the confrontations in The Word for World Is Forest (1972), The Dispossessed (1974), and, preeminently, The Eye of the Heron (1978). North Owl notes that Abhao's "head was not on backwards" (35); he could learn the Valley ways. He's just not going to because he's been raised as a narrow-minded, aristocratic snob who doesn't feel a need to learn the ways of his inferiors.

We do get a minor misunderstanding when Terter Abhao says to his wife, "We must go before your World Dance, Willow," meaning by "we" he and his troops (39). Willow understands "we" as "you and I" because, Pandora tells us in a note, he has used the form of "we" that "includes the person addressed, and a form of the verb 'goes' which implies going a short distance for a short while," so Willow assumes he's inviting her for a walk (42). Two speakers of English might equally miscommunicate if a wife assumes the primary "we" for her husband is himself and his family. That may indeed be the case, with Kills, if we see his family as the Terter clan among the Condor people. In any event between an order from the Condor (his sovereign and commander-in-chief) requiring him to leave his Kesh wife and child, and his wife and child's desire that he stay, he chooses to obey the Condor. And Willow figures this out quite quickly and tells him if he goes not to come back.

Willow puts Abhao's clothes and red rugs outside the door and Willow's Blue Clay relations explain to him "that a man may come and go as he likes, and a woman may take him back or not as she likes, but the house is hers, and if she shuts the door he may not open it." Abhao insists "But she belongs to me -the child belongs to me" and is mocked in what would be a comic scene if it were not narrated from the point of view of the pained North Owl (40). Part One ends with Abhao's departure, asking North Owl to wait for him, and with Willow going back to the name of Towhee, her name as a child (41). Abhao follows his orders, putting military business before his family. As with Rulag in The Dispossessed, "The work comes first"; we are to understand but disapprove -and disapprove far more than with Rulag, whose work did not center on killing people (see TD ch. 4, 100 for the quotation).

Part Two (173-201)

If one reads through Always Coming Home beginning to end, Part Two of Stone Telling is introduced with the last subsection of Time and the City, "Time in the Valley." This section includes a Valley Origin Myth; except we must note that it is "a" myth, one of them, not the myth; and the "myth" we hear from Red Plum may be more of a tale or a story she made up (165). It is a narrative, in any event, both similar to Le Guin's other origin myths -the Orgota Creation Myth and Meshe's vision in The Left Hand of Darkness, the Segoy stories in the Earthsea trilogy (and their revision in Tehanu), the rise of Atlantis -and different from them. The myth in "Time in the Valley" starts in chaos: "not light not dark, nothing moving nothing thinking. The sea was all mixed up with the dream, death and eternity were the same . . . no edges, no surfaces, no insides. Everything was in the middle of everything and nothing was anything. . . . In the sea and air and dirt the mortal souls were mixed in, mixed up, and they were bored, bored with no change and no moving and no thinking." So they start moving about, "falling a little, dancing a little" and making a little bit of noise: "The was the first thing, the noise, the first thing made. They made that music, those mortal souls. They made the waves, the intervals, the tones . . . . That is what the world is still singing if you know how to listen": the music of the world, here, not the music of the spheres. So in the beginning was music, and with the music comes differentiation (ACH 166): things drew apart and organized into "outsides and insides . . . things and spaces between things." And among the least things in the new world, among the dust-motes and sand-grains, was the Coyote soul (in North American Indian folklore, the classic Trickster). "The coyote soul wanted more kinds of music, chords with more voices, disharmonies, crazy rhythms, more goings on." Coyote soul "pulled itself together out of everywhere" and thereby "left gaps behind, holes in the world, empty places. By unmaking it made darkness. So light came in to fill the holes: stars, sun, moon, planets came to be" (167). Coyote has created the world of Sky ([47]).

Across the gaps come rainbows and on the rainbows are the Four-House people who call out to Coyote. Coyote, though, can only sing her song (i.e., howl), so the Four-House people call out words to her to teach her to speak, "and their words were all the people of the earth," people in Kesh terms: including bears, pond-scum, condors, and lice. The peoples of both earth and sky laugh at Coyote, so she runs off (167) to and into a local mountain -or a mountain the myth teller gets to claim tentatively for their own local mountain -and eats hot volcanic things, and sulks. "In there . . . she went into herself, deep in, and made there in the darkness the he-coyote. . . . There in the mountain she gave birth to him. While he was being born . . . he shouted, 'Coyote is talking! . . .'" Coyote nurses he-coyote, and when he is grown they mate, setting an example for all the other people of the world, who mate (and establish thereby the Moon Dance, when human people have a ritual orgy). Coyote and he-coyote having left, the mountain is now hollow, and inside it, "in the heyimas of the wilderness . . . this hollow filled with people, human people all crammed together." Their origin? Maybe from he-coyote's afterbirth, maybe from Coyote's turds, maybe from Coyote's words made flesh, or maybe not. The volcano erupts, spewing out the human people. The ones who landed closest to the mountain -the people of the local teller -hit the ground softest, and so got less sense knocked out of them than other folk (which is why to this day locals are smarter than strangers): "Anyway, so here we are, the children of Coyote and the Mountain, we are their turds and their words" (168).[57]

The rest of this subsection is on time-keeping and calendars and the general resemblance of the Kesh to the Indians of Northern California in not being much concerned with exactness of time keeping.[58] Pandora discusses time with Gather: a man of 60, an expert in using the Exchange, a student of domestic architecture, "whose lifelong passion has been the retrieval of data concerning certain doings of human beings in the Valley of the Na. At last we have met a historically minded person . . . " (169). Except she hasn't, exactly. Gather "spatializes time; it is not an arrow, not a river, but a house, the house he lives in" (171-72). Pandora is frustrated and leaves Gather, walking off with the Archivist of Wakwaha. "If you don't have a history," Pandora says to the Archivist, "how am I to tell your story?" The Archivist asks for a definition of history, and Pandora quotes, "the study of Man in Time." The Archivist is silent.

"You aren't Man and you don't live in Time," I say bitterly. You live in the Dream Time."

"Always," says the Archivist of Wakwaha. "Right through Civilisation, we have lived in the Dream Time." . . .

After a while . . . [the Archivist] says, "Tell about the Condor. Let Stone Telling tell her story. That's as near history as we have come in my day, and nearer than we'll come again, I hope." (172)

And, if one is reading linearly, this brings one to Stone Telling Part Two. If one is looking at Le Guin's canon spatially, structurally -compare the Dream Time among the Athsheans in Word for World (1974), and the view of civilization in "Buffalo Gals . . ." (1987 [BG]) and of history in "A Man of the People" (1995 [FWF]) and "Another Story" (1994 [FIS]).

Part Two (173-201)

Stone Telling Part Two begins with repeating that Willow had left her middle name and had gone back to Towhee, her first name, a problematic choice since it went "against the earth." Moving on in the story, Stone Telling tells us that her love has gone to her father when he said farewell to her and asked her to wait for him. "I thought I did not love my mother at all." Aside from a re-enactment of a common mother-daughter conflict, North Owl's choice of beloved parent serves a psychological function for her: "My loyalty to him made my difference from other people a virtue, and gave unhappiness both a reason and a term," centrally in the chronological sense of "term," until Kills returns, but potentially with a pun: the reason and word for "unhappiness" is "Kills" (173).

As the story goes on, the political becomes the personal for North Owl as her grandfather moves back in to help organize the town of Sinshan for the Warriors. In the two years since Abhao had left "the Warriors had been doing more and more things the Bay Laurel boys" -the Lodge in Tachas Touchas that had fought the Pig People (129) -"were supposed to do -scouting, watching the outside ridges, making weapons, training people in the use of guns, having trials of strength and endurance, and teaching various kinds of fighting" (175). North Owls' beloved cousin, Hops, becomes a Warrior and takes the middle name "Spear," whose phallic suggestions amuse North Owl (175-76). The household becomes strongly involved with not only the Warriors but also the Lamb Lodge: "a kind of woman Warriors" (176).

North Owl is caught up in the tension in her town. Spear tells her the new teaching "that there had never been sacredness in rocks or springs, but in the mindsoul, the spirit only. The rock and the springs and the body, he said, were screens that kept the spirit from true sacredness, true power." North Owl disagrees and says sacredness, heyiya, "was the rock, it was the water running, it was the person living." If the person breaks the relationship and says, "The sacredness has gone out of it," then the person had changed, not the rock. Coincident with North Owl's turning thirteen, there is a change in custom significantly juxtaposed with the introduction of this new philosophy. The Kesh had their custom of "living on the Coast": a period of abstinence from sex in early adolescence (see "Living on the Coast," in the Back of the Book [488-89]). The change the Warriors introduced was "to forbid the young men even to speak to adolescent girls" (179). As we know from Irena's pain when her brother Michael deserts her for the world of macho in The Beginning Place, this is a bad sign. Readers of just Always Coming Home have the point made for them by North Owl's adopted grandfather, Ninepoint. Ninepoint's biological grandson had gone over to the Warriors and taken the name "Vile," and Ninepoint accuses him of arrogance and implies that the lot of them may be "so afraid of girls you have to make war on them." Or so afraid of themselves that they have to fight themselves. Corruption comes to speak contemptuously of all women, and Valiant finally accuses him of "trying to be like those Condor men, who are so afraid of women they run . . . away from their own . . . to rape women they don't know!" (179). We will see more of the Condor shortly, but insofar as we get within the story a psychological explanation of why they do what they do (or sexists generally do) the answer seems to be fear -a very popular and plausible theory. Keep in mind, though, North Owl's pleasure in "the power that originates in imbalance" (32).

North Owl comes to see her absent father as a symbol of her freedom and strength and asserts to her household, "I am a Condor woman!" (180).

And womanhood of some sort she is about to embark on. Just before the party for her entry into the Blood Lodge, she talks with Spear, who asks her who she is, now, and who may hint at regret that sexual love between them is taboo. For a moment "he had forgotten about being the Warrior who turned away and the Man and the Self. He had sat by the dry creekbed and the soul of the water had come into him" (181). And they talk and Spear leads with her the linedance that is important to her "Blood singing" (181, 183). Shortly thereafter, though, Spear returns to the Warrior way and avoids her and will not speak to her (183). She follows after him in desperate infatuation and her personal hang-up with him becomes political. She was "swallowed up" in her love and had become "the servant" of that love. And so she joins the Lamb Lodge, where they "spoke of love, of service, of obedience, of sacrifice" for the love of a Warrior man as unambiguously good things -as they are in the Religion of Love in the Romance tradition and in the Imitation of Christ (the Lamb of God) in the Christian tradition. North Owl accepts such teachings for her love of Spear. Looking back, Stone Telling's sees her year in the Lamb Lodge as "a lie, a denial of my own knowledge and being, and yet a truth at the same time. Almost everything is double like that for adolescents . . . ." As implied earlier in Clear's "Commentary on the War with the Pig People" (ACH 133-34), "The Lambs and Warriors were houses for adolescents, people who were not able to choose their own way yet, or unwilling ever to do so" (184). Soldiers, clearly, want others to structure their lives for them -or at least soldiers acquiesce in the structuring -and, perhaps, free them from the pain of freedom; Stone Telling suggests the same is true for romantic girls and girl-women who wish lives limited to "loving, serving, obeying, sacrificing."

At a low point in her relationship with her family -when North Owl has finally dropped the emotional big one and said to her grandmother, "I hate you!" -Terter Abhao returns (185). He gives her a new name, Terter Ayatyu (Woman Born Above Others, of the clan of the Terter), and takes her away to live among the Condor (186-87). This is the first turning point, or major hinge, of the story and it leads to Stone Telling as a stranger being introduced to the strange land of the Condor, the Dayao. In terms of plot, Part Two takes us to Stone Telling's installation in the Terter household and her acceptance as granddaughter by her father's father, Terter Gebe, the clan chief. In terms of getting done the work of the story, the crucial point is a brief ethnography of the Condor, and "a history" (192).

Briefly, in terms of their ethnography and history, the Dayao are well on their way to epitomizing (in a mâshâl as satire and wish) The Big Mistake in the evolution of our societies.

The Condor as a man is Mumford's early Bronze Age King given a local habitation and a name (and some high technology): Genghis Khan or some Aryan chieftain converted to a city-based, militant, postMosaic monotheism; Joshua leading Israel into a Canaan with a much smaller and more pacific population.[59] The Condor as a man is a temporarily successful Akhnaton, starring in an unBiblical epic celebrating the failure of Egypt to become an Empire. Alternatively, we may see the Condor people as relatively high-technology Spartans: the women-avoiding militarists of Greece, conquerors and enslavers of the helots.[60] In their combination of technology and hierarchy, the Condor people are in a line of Le Guin's thought going back to the Gdemiar in "Semley's Necklace" (1964); more importantly here, the Condor people are the culmination of a line of thought that Le Guin had been nursing as a minor theme since Planet of Exile (1966).

In Planet of Exile, "a new time" had come. Among the native peoples, the Gaal had stopped thinking of time and space in their traditional ways. Time to them had been "a lantern lighting a step before, a step behind -the rest was indistinguishable dark. . . . They looked ahead only to the next season at most. They did not look down over time but were in it . . . ." For the Gaal until recently, "space was not a surface on which to draw boundaries but a range, a heartland, centered on the self and clan and tribe. . . ." The Gaal had started to think of time and space in a civilized way, "in the linear, imperialistic fashion" (PE 74; ch. 9). A " great man" arose among the Gaal who "united all their tribes and made an army of them." The Gaal stopped raiding and started instead "besieging and capturing Winter Cities in all the Ranges along the coast, killing the Spring-born men, enslaving the women, leaving Gaal warriors in each city to hold and rule it over the Winter. Come Spring, when the Gaal come north again, they'll stay," holding the lands they've conquered (PE 23; ch. 2). The Condor, finally, are the Basnasska Nation from City of Illusions (1967) settled down; I picture them as the Basnasska Nation in the City of the Shing, with the Shing teaching them the Terran imperialist, macho monotheist mode, i.e., how to be truly bad.

In a "Carrier-Bag" ethnography of the Condor, I'd say the following are the most important points noted or shown in Parts Two and Three:

" The Condor people are "at war with every people" between the City of Man and the Valley of the Na (192), and, in theory, at war with everyone until they bring everyone "under the wing of the Condor" -or kill them all (194).

" In the City of Man, the men will "blind the eye or cut off the hand of a woman or farmer who writes a single word"; writing is sacred and limited to the True Condor elite, with only the One-Warriors, a kind of warrior priesthood, literate to a high degree. The Word of One is absolute truth, and "That word -'One' -is the end of talking as well as of writing, under the Condor's wing . . ." (192).

" The Condor status system starts with the One at the top, God. ("Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one" [Deut. 6.4; qtd Mark 12.28-30]). Next under One is One's messenger, The Condor. "Certain men belonging to certain families are called True Condors"; others, also of high status are the "One-Warriors. No other people are called Condors. Men who are not of those families are all called tyon, farmers, and must serve the True Condors" (as Helots served the Spartans or European serfs served aristocrats or Japanese peasants served nobles and warriors or American peons served the gentlefolk in the great house). Women of elite families are called "Condor Women" and are inferior in rank to Condor Men but superior to and "may give orders to tyon and hontik. The hontik are all other women, foreigners, and animals" (i.e., nonhuman animals, "lower" animals in the view satirized in the Condor).

" Stone Telling correctly sees that the City of Man is "civilisation" and that to use civilized as a compliment and barbaric as an insult is problematic (193).

" Upon conquering a city, The Condor "killed and burned men and children and kept women to be fucked by Dayao men," penning the women with the cattle (193-94).[61]

" The City of Man is built rectilinearly, "with walls of black basalt," a "magnificent bridge," "machines and engines of work and war" -a phrase I can picture delighting Lewis Mumford -and many other "marvelous products of handmind." Stone Telling summarizes: "All I saw was great, and straight, and hard, and strong . . . " (194).

" Condor houses reflect "the winter dugouts and summer tents" the tribe used when they were "nomads of the Plains of Grass," except in The City they're all-electric, usually brightly lit, and "very warm and comfortable, encompassing" (ACH 194 [see LHD 117 , ch. 8]). Stone Telling speculates that "maybe their health as a people was in being nomads." When they built a city and lived in it, they "locked their energy into the wheel, and so began to lose their souls" (196).

" In a land low on metals, the Condor have plenty, and the City, as a whole, seems wealthy. "But their wealth did not flow; they did not give with pleasure" (195), so by Kesh standards they were poor.

" Condor women "lived under siege all their lives" and are rarely allowed to be alone; Stone Telling says she was never left by herself. As far as Stone Telling can find out, the only work Condor women did or were allowed to do was spinning and sewing (195).

" Condor men would rape foreign women taken as slaves, but they would marry only Condor women (196). The Condor women are kept in under a regimen Stone Telling calls "a household arranged like a himpi-pen," i.e., a pen for oversized guinea pigs (199).

" Condor society is absolutely hierarchized and militarized: "Everything among the Dayao had to have a chief. If two of them were together, one or the other was chief.[62] Even when people worked together one of them was chief of the work, as if working were making war . . . " (199).

" Women are not included in the life of the mind of the Condor; "they are kept in but left out." Stone Telling finds it notable that "It was not men there, but women, who told me that women have no souls" and so don't need to learn about "the soul's way" (200).


" Except for a "pretty wife," all wives must comes with dowries; and it is a noteworthy point if a man "never beats his wife" (ACH 345; Stone Telling Part Three [cf. and contrast EoH 24; ch. 2]).

" Condor's wives are "expected to have babies continuously," in a big-litter theory appropriate to a warring people (345), but the peasant women "aborted more often than they bore" (349).

" Adulteresses are "killed by the husband's family . . . in public," in a formal execution because the wife belongs to the husband (346; as contrasted with murderous "jealousy and sexual rage," which Stone Telling accepts). Indeed, punishments generally are violent, frequent, and severe, and directed toward underlings (348); the Condor also practice group punishment, killing ten "hontik of the City . . . as punishment or payment for the deaths of . . . ten Condor killed" at a distant mine (353). California Indians would understand killing members of another family if the killer of a member of your family didn't pay for the loss to your family; Stone Telling, taking a more philosophical view, sees group punishment as a sign of binary thinking: The killing of random slaves for punishment or payment "was fair, if all Condors were one and all non-Condors the other: either this, or that" (353).[63]

" Dayao women, even among the elite, come to think like slaves and feel it necessary to lie to men, usually, "smiling and agreeing with everything and pretending" ignorance (358-59).

" Dayao women feel insecure outside the walls of a father's or husband's house "because to Dayao men all women unprotected by a man are victims" (360).

Stone Telling ends Part Two summarizing what she can infer about the ideology of the Condor -starting with their theology; this passage is crucial for ordering the data about the evils of Condor culture (everything, mostly, except their cooking) and determining what Le Guin is up to in Always Coming Home and what she had been leading up to in her teaching works for nearly two decades.

One made everything out of nothing. One is a person, immortal. He is all-powerful [and a "he" -RDE]. Human men are imitations of him. One is not the universe; he made it, and gives it orders. Things are not part of him nor is he part of them, so you must not praise things, but only One. The One, however, reflects himself in the Condor; so the Condor is to be praised and obeyed. (200)

Alternatively put, "I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth" ex nihilo, "and all things visible and invisible" (Nicene Creed), followed by very standard divine right of kings theory (and Condor theory is only a slightly stronger version of the divine right theory one can find in the Elizabethan Homily on "Good Order and Obedience to Rulers and Magistrates").

The theology goes on to present a Great Chain of Humanity -but with Platonic «reflection» metaphors as much as Aristotelian theory -moving down from The Condor to the True Condors and One-Warriors, "who are all called Sons of the Condor or Sons of the Son" (as Christians believe in "one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God" [Nicene Creed]). The Sons of the Sons, as "reflections of the reflection of One" are also to "be praised and obeyed." Peasants are still reflections, if very dim ones, so are counted as human beings, if barely. "No other people are human," and only human people -recalling that the Kesh use "people" to mean "beings" -count in the Condor system. "The hontik . . . have nothing to do with One at all; they are . . . unclean, dirt people. They were made by One to obey and serve the Sons." That last part gets "a little complicated," and contradictory, "since Condor's Daughters gave orders to tyon [farmers] and talked about them as if they were dirt people," a contradiction found, not coincidentally, in Western racist, sexist, and class-defining theory.

Stone Telling speculates that things "must have been very different when the Dayao were nomads, but it may have started then, too, as a matter of sexual jealousy, the chief men trying to keep their wives and daughters 'clean,' and the women holding themselves apart from the strangers they met along their way, and finally all of them coming to think that to be a person at all is to be separate from and apart from everyone and everything" (200). This gets at the "Judeo" part in "Judeo-Christian religion": the nationalist part of Jewish doctrine (opposed to the Universalist part) that praises God for not making "us like the heathens of the earth, nor fashioned up like the godless of the land."[64] This part of Condor belief also satirizes doctrines that define purity through separation: "Blessed is the . . . Ruler of the Universe, who separates" not just Israel from the heathen but "sacred from profane" (Gates of Prayer 641). If "To Be Whole Is To Be Part" (TD 68; ch. 3), and if the world is already sacred, then radical separation as a way to holiness is a big part of The Big Mistake. It is a very common mistake, hardly limited to Western monotheism: Cf. Arha at Atuan as the "solitary, untouched priestess, a holy thing" (Tehanu 56; ch. 5). In being set apart, Arha has been sacralized: "For Émile Durkheim, sacredness referred to those things in society that were forbidden or set apart . . . ," as suggested of the etymology of "sacred" from Latin sacer, "set off" (Streng 123).

The final parallel is primarily a satire against Apocalyptic Christianity. The Condor believe that even as there "was a time when One made everything, there will be a time when everything will stop being, when One will unmake everything. Then will begin the Time Outside of Time. One will throw away everything except the True Condors and One-Warriors who obeyed him in every way and were his slaves. They will become part of One then, and be forever (201; see The Revelation to John 7.1-22.5).[65] As we learn later in the words of a Condor hymn, "In One . . . There is no death!" (352).

Part Three (340-86)

Stone Telling Part Three completes the Catalog of Abuses against the Condor, shows them as a Judeo-Christian analog/sexist-militaristic culture, and completes the story. In terms of the political overplot of the rise and fall of the Condor, Part Three shows the fall foreshadowed in Stone Telling's earlier observation that even while stealing and slaying in the Volcano country and spreading the disease of their ideology among the Kesh, the Condor "were dying" (194). In terms of the more personal history of Stone Telling, Part Three tells the story of her marriage among the Condor, her aborting the fetus produced by a marital rape, her giving birth to a daughter, and her return to her people to become "Woman Coming Home," and then Stone Telling: a wife again, then mother and grandmother. Stone Telling, Part Three, is a mâshâl bringing to a happy ending the story of the greatest threat to the Kesh and their uncivilized neighbors within their memory. Part Three also brings to a very happy ending the story of Stone Telling, a woman like Ursula K. Le Guin at least insofar as she is a writer, a mother, and one who has lived in two worlds rather liminally, marginalized: in Le Guin's case, marginalized as something of a liberal, a romantic, "a petty-bourgeois anarchist," and, necessarily as "an internal emigree{sic}" ("Response" 45).

In Part Three, Terter Gebe and Terter Abhao fall into disgrace (341-42), and Stone Telling is married off as "pretty wife" to Retforok Dayat, a younger brother, no soldier or One-Warrior, but from a rich family, and a man who "never beats his wife" (345). The marriage starts off well enough. Since Stone Telling "had little happiness," she will settle for "pleasure," and took it, as sex, as frequently as she could -which was fine with Dayat's first wife (346). As alluded to earlier, Stone Telling becomes pregnant twice.

I aborted the first pregnancy, because my husband had raped me when I told him I did not want him and though I had no contraceptive. A Condor's Daughter would go on and have the child of a rape, but I did not. It was easy to get abortifacient from the tyon, who aborted more often than they bore, and Esiryu [her servant] helped me. Two years later, when I was twenty-one years old, I wanted to became pregnant. Esiryu and Syasip [first wife] were good friends, but I was always bored, because there was nothing to do but spin and sew and talk, always indoors and always among people, never alone and therefore always lonely. I kept thinking that a child would be like the Valley. It would be part of me and I part of it; it would be beloved home. (349)

If the child had been a boy, he'd "have 'belonged' to" Stone Telling's husband, but "Since she had decided to be a girl she was unimportant and did not matter to anyone but me and Esiryu and Syasip." The priest names her Danaryu (Woman Given to One); Stone Telling calls her Ekwerkwe, Watching Quail (351).

The Condor move toward a total war effort, trying to build "Great Weapons" that will allow them to conquer, everything. About the time Ekwerkwe is born, the Condor bring out Destroyer and the Nestlings: a tank and aircraft (ACH 350). Stone Telling describes the tank as "huge and magnificent," "huge and blind, with a thick penis-snout" and three Condors inside. It breaks through the roof of a cave "and destroyed itself with its own great weight, thrusting and wedging itself into the lava tube," which makes for some interesting Freudian imagery. More significantly, Stone Telling dreams of the tank "moving in the cave, pushing the earth in, crushing darkness." The tank in the cave is not Ged with his mage-light staff in the labyrinth at Atuan, but an ironic violation (350): the bringing of force into the domain of the Earth Mother, which bothers Stone Telling in her dream but, in world-time, destroys the tank. The aircraft come to naught less symbolically: not enough petroleum for fuel, and the attempt to make alcohol fuel takes up a lot of grain (351). And, as we know from The World for World Is Forest, air power isn't of much use against guerrillas, and high-tech cities are very vulnerable to attack from former slaves: ". . . one person, probably a man or woman who had been a hontik slave and knew where things were and how to behave and talk, came at night and set fire to the fuel storage tanks. They exploded. The person was burned to death, but the Nestlings were left without fuel" (352-53).

Primitive warfare went well for the early kings in part because there were plenty of resources around for what they needed, and only limited communication among the people they were out to subjugate. Post-civilization warfare goes ill for the Condor in part because we civilized folk have depleted the Earth of easily-gotten resources, and because the Condor's neighbors have the Exchange: the computer terminals of the City of Mind are there for a kind of very high-tech e-mail.

In Always Coming Home Le Guin deals with what she sees as one of the most serious problems facing utopia: hostile neighbors, specifically armed and dangerous neighbors like the Condor, and all the "dynamic, aggressive, ecology-breaking cultures" (LHD 233) for which they stand. And her last answer to why the imperialist Condor fail is the same satiric, probably inevitable answer she gave in The Word for World combined with a common bit of wisdom from the antiwar movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s: "If you want to stop the War Machine, / Don't feed it." In Always Coming Home, Stone Telling tells us that "The sacrifices the Dayao were making were to win them wealth and comfort when the Nestlings went out to war. The trouble with the plan was that all the human peoples living anywhere near Dayao country had already moved away" -an option Le Guin consistently endorses, as long as there are places to physically or psychically go to -"or, if they remained, stayed to make war, not to give tribute of food, slaves, or anything else" (352). Perhaps only those with empty hands are truly free because only they are really free to fight obstreperous people like the Condor, and/or move on.

As life got harder, among even the privileged Condor, a number of women want to move away from where "the finger of light had pointed," southward "into more prosperous lands"; and their husbands listen, however much their ideology says women speak nothing of importance. It's a difficult issue for them, especially the women: ". . . most of them had lived their whole life{sic} inside the City, inside the houses, inside the rooms" and were ignorant of the outside world and afraid of it (352). Stone Telling suspects they fear the outside "because the Dayao said that everything belonged to One," so they "forced themselves to think in twos: either this, or that. They could not be [outside] among the many" (352-53 [see Psalm 24.1-2]).

To move or not to move becomes a major issue, hence a major problem since the Dayao lacked democratic or even representative institutions to resolve disputes, "So ideas became opinions, and these made factions, which diverged and became fixed opponents" (352).

Failure and dissension tend to bring on repression, and the City becomes "more and more like an ant-hill against which another ant-hill is making war." The executions of the ten City slaves to make up for the killing of the Condor soldiers at the mine destroys Stone Telling's desire "to be a woman of the Condor or to follow their way" (353), and the executions of other "enemies of the Condor" sickened her and scared her: her grandfather had died, and her father was "chief of the household" of the Terter, a clan in disgrace. She wants her father to go with her and finish their journey, returning to the Valley. The constant boredom of the life of a Condor Woman has returned to her after Ekwerkwe has grown a bit, and now that boredom is punctuated -decorously in time of war -with terror; looking at her father she "saw that place in front of the Palace in his face, the stakes and the bloody pavement" -a fear of execution for him, herself, and maybe even her child. Plus a growing disgust and what we might call guilt. "There is no way," Stone Telling thinks, "that men could make women into slaves and dependents if the women did not choose to be so. I had hated the Dayao men for always giving orders, but the women were more hateful for taking them," and Stone Telling grows very angry for her years in the City, possibly years of complicity (355). Stone Telling escapes, with Ekwerkwe and Esiryu, her servant, escaping with her as Stone Telling's friend -and aided by Arda and Dorabadda, two of Terter Abhao's soldiers: "They had the loyalty prized by the Dayao; they were like sheepdogs, trustworthy, brave, and mindless, doing what another person thought, minding him" (356). One of them is shot and killed the first moment an ambush heard the men speak Dayao (357).

As the ambush indicates, the world outside the City is tense. The mother of a household that puts up Stone Telling and her party complains "that there was too much war, too much killing going on, that the young men of her house were sick and carried guns, like crazy people" (357).[66] To dramatize this point, Stone Telling recounts her meeting some Warriors of her own people, including Changing Always, who took on the Warrior name Maggot. Maggot greets her as "North Owl," and she tells him she's that no longer North Owl but "Woman Coming Home," the name which comes to her (and she chooses) for the middle of her life (358). However much Le Guin privileges change in the aphorisms and symbolism of her work, we should recall from Lathe of Heaven that the busy-ness implied by "Changing Always" bodes even worse for this character than "Maggot," and Maggot and his warrior associates don't disappoint us. Woman Coming Home is suspicious of them and responds to them with "The slave mind" she learned in the City, and, as she would respond to Condor men, she lies (358). The Warriors go on to the City, and Woman Coming Home et al. go southwest. To a young man with the Warriors who is of her House, she repeats Cave Woman's words to her: "My brother, in the dry land, think of the creek running. My brother, in the dark house, think of the bowl of blue clay" (ACH 359 [see 25]).

Ekwerkwe comes to enjoy the trip, but Esiryu, away from home, isn't so much "cautious and mindful of difference" -good things -but just scared: "To a Dayao woman outside the walls of her father's or her husband's house all men are dangerous," regarding all women without male protection as victims: "cunts," as Esiryu sees herself, "as something to be raped." Woman Coming Home names Esiryu "Shadow Woman," short form: "Shadow" (360).

Woman Coming Home arrives home in a flurry of significant words, phrases, numbers, and images:

I walked singing a song that came to me out of the rain and the feathers [she picked up on the way], the words given to me:

"There is no knowing,

only going on,

only going by, ah ya hey.

I am the great being,

the grass bowing."

When I came back into the Valley of my being, I brought this song and the feathers of nine birds from the wilderness, the coyote's way; and from the seven years I lived in the City of Man I brought my womanhood, the child Ekwerkwe, and my friend Shadow. (361)

As George Orr enters the "sea of being" in dream after the climax of Lathe, as Osden goes off into "the forest of being" at the end of "Vaster than Empires" (WTQ 198) -and as other Le Guinian characters enter decorous symbols of the Dao -so Woman Coming Home returns to the Valley of her being. And Woman Coming Home, Ekwerkwe, and Shadow go to the Blue Clay heyimas (here, meeting house) at Kastoha and arrange for shelter. And as most of the political action takes place offstage at the political climax of The Left Hand of Darkness, even so we learn "that there had been a meeting of the Valley people about the Warriors, and that that lodge had stopped being." The scholars of the heyimas advise her to post on the Exchange what she knows about "the doings and intentions of the Dayao people," which she will do when she gets back to her home town (361).

Woman Coming Home gets to her mothers' house and is admitted but not enthusiastically welcomed. Her grandmother Valiant is dead, but more disturbing is her mother. With the end of the Warriors, the Lamb Lodge also ceased, and her mother turned in on herself. "Her souls had shrunk away and unmade themselves," Woman Coming Home thinks; "that is the danger of going backward in the way she had done when she took back her child-name. She had not gyred but closed the circle." In her own mind, Woman Coming Home gives her mother her last name: Ashes (365).

Politically, though, the small town of Sinshan seems better. Some walking wounded remain after the Condor crisis, but a sickness "had gone out of the Valley that had been there when the Condor was there" (365). Shadow likes it. She thought the City hard, "being was hard. Here's it's soft. * * * Animals live softly. They don't make it hard to live. Here people are animals. * * * Here even the men are animals. Here everybody belongs to everybody. A Dayao man belongs to himself. He thinks everything else belongs to him  . . . ." Woman Coming Home says that the Kesh "call that living outside the world" (366-67). In terms of the satire, we can call it the hard Dayao way of living Life As We Know It, living in civilization, living in a culture that is monotheistic, rationalist, aristocratic, death-denying, death-dealing, high-tech, and macho; a culture that uses "ideal" as a compliment and "animal" as an insult, that can set up transcendent Goods that "justify" mundane horrors.

The love plot of Stone Telling's story gets resolved as the denouement of the story as such, but it is not Stone Telling -melodramatically violating an incest taboo -but Shadow who marries Spear. This brings Spear to a happier ending than we might foresee for Irena's disloyal brother in The Beginning Place (1980) or Tenar's ne're-do-well son in Tehanu (1990): all youthful males who turn away from women, and turn on them. Spear, though, is lucky enough to live in a good society. Not marrying Spear is just as well for the rational part of Woman Coming Home, who "felt the Warrior still in him." Woman Coming Home can now see her father as a life-long soldier but still one who had been "in mind and heart no warrior at all." Spear, on the other hand (for a useful binary opposition) was like her comfortably rich husband among the Dayao, "who though he never fought with his body or weapons made all life into war, a matter of victory or defeat." She also comes to think that "People who make life into a war fight it first with people of the other sex . . . trying to defeat them, to win a victory." Shadow wouldn't play such a game, "but all her education among the Dayao had fitted her to play the already-defeated one, the loving enemy" (368).

Woman Coming Home eventually comes to marry, gets rich -i.e., can and does give much -and ends her tale as Stone Telling and "the grandmother weaving at the loom" (376). She gets the last word on romantic love, before enacting a more stable love:

Maybe it was because I had seen what the passion of love did to my parents' lives that I kept shy of any man who might have brought such passion into my life. I was just beginning to learn to see and I did not want to be blinded. Neither of my parents had ever truly seen the other. To Abhao, Willow of Sinshan had been a dream -waking life was all elsewhere. To Willow, the Condor Abhao had been all the world -nothing mattered but him. So they gave their great passion and their fidelity to no one, not truly to one another but to people who did not exist, a dream-woman, a god-man, and it was wasted, a gift to no one. My mother had gone out of her own being after that nonbeing, had spent all passion on nothing. Now nothing was left of it or of her. She was empty, cold, poor. (369)

Countless are stories of similar woe, / Like this of Willow and her Abhao -in real life -but we usually want something more pleasing in literature, and we usually get comic romances, romantic comedies, or, with luck, a high-class tear-jerker like Romeo and Juliet. Abhao and Willow are not Romeo and Juliet. There is enough in a name in Shakespeare's play, enough enmity between Montague and Capulet, to kill off the young lovers, and a large part of the supporting cast; there is far more significance in the names "Condor" and "Kesh." If we wanted, we could put together the series Planet of Exile (1966), The Eye of the Heron (1978), and Willow and Kills in Always Coming Home (1985), and see Le Guin making "progress . . . away from open romanticism, slowly and steadily," with no ambiguities about how steady she goes or about what "romanticism" refers to (headnote to "Semley's Necklace," WTQ 1) -or Le Guin's changing views on progress. It's not that simple. The Rolery and Jakob pairing in Planet of Exile was Le Guin's strongly romantic statement on love conquering lots, if hardly all. But the loves in the slightly earlier Rocannon's World are more ambiguous, and Le Guin has gyred around the themes of love and romance for three decades, through The Beginning Place (1980) and right up to the love stories in "A Fisherman of the Inland Sea" (1994), "The Matter of Seggri" (1994), Four Ways to Forgiveness (coll. 1995), and "Coming of Age in Karhide" (1995). Difference matters; love matters greatly; true love is based in difference -not in romantic love at first sight, but in perceiving the Other, eventually and momentarily, as that person really is: necessarily radically different (an Other), necessarily similar if a sibling at humanity's hearth, a participant in Being. "Love" is a word of power in Always Coming Home and a great passion can be a good thing in Le Guin's canon, but there are matters beyond romantic passion, and there are other powerful and important words.

The last words of the political overplot are comments by Pandora, our editor and annotator, and documents by people more politically engaged than Stone Telling and in some ways more knowledgeable; this set of documents and commentary give both an overview of the Condor people and the views of conscious opponents of the Condor.

Document 1 gives a synopsis of a summary of a history of the Condor, sent because "People in Rekwit think it important that we stop the Condor people from making trouble." Here we learn that before their time "as nomads in the Grasslands and in the desert countries" the Condor may have lived in the Great Lakes region and, in any event, are related linguistically to the peoples of the Great Lakes area. Pandora has problems finding people who think chronologically, but one person in the Rekwit area can state directly that "About a hundred and twelve years ago" the Dayao "began to become civilised," coming under the leadership of Kaspyoda, one of their men, who led them west, died, and was succeeded by a son who started to re-democratize the people but was killed by a cousin, "a man named Astyoda, calling himself The Great Condor," who saw the finger of light in the Lava Beds and founded the City (377). In terms of California Indians -arguably not the most relevant group in this case -the closest parallel would be the Wiyot. Like the Yurok, the Wiyot are Northwestern Californians who speak an Algonkin (sic) language: a set of languages centering of the Great Lakes. And they are the only Algonkin speakers in Northwest California who share the fairly common Californian concept of "a supreme god." The Wiyot believe in Gudatrigakwitl:

With Gudatrigakwitl, "above old man," we encounter a conception of which there is no trace among the Yurok. He existed before the earth, he made it, made the first man . . ., made all human beings, animals, acorns, boats, string, other utensils, the weather, even dances. He used no materials and no tools. He merely thought, or joined and spread apart his hands, and things were. He lives now and will exist as long as the world. (A. L. Kroeber, Handbook 112, 119)

The Dayao One People, under charismatic leadership, also combine elements of the Mormons -a number of elements from the Mormon migration from the midwest -the Israelites (coming off the desert into Canaan), and Le Guin's Gaal and the post-Shing recreation of Plains Indians in City of Illusions (see above).

The second and third documents are from people who agree with the concerned people of Rekwit. Reads of the Serpentine notes that "much infection has taken place" since the Condor came to the Valley; "Cults have arisen," presumably the Warriors and Lamb Lodge. "If fighting a war is necessary{,} people will come from here to the fighting. If quarantine is possible it would be better"; and Reads asks that news of aggressive acts by the Condor people be entered on the Exchange. The third document notes simply that the Tahets "have been fighting a war with these sick people for two lifetimes." And from here Pandora notes "a flurry and then a steady crossflow of messages through the Exchanges of twenty-two different peoples of the regions." One notes the depredations of the Condor and says, "If you try to fight them you had better have guns and bullets. They do." Another, from a people far away, took up the "sick" motif. "Do not fight these sick people, cure them with human behavior." Pandora tells us that the Rekwit people responded "tersely, 'You come up north here and do that'" (378).

Pandora gets the penultimate words, noting that had the Condor people attempted to increase their territory or move southward, they "would have met the concerted resistance by an alliance of all the people in the region. But the Condor dreams of empire were self-defeated." So, no war. But a major need for an explanation since in the personal, political, and historical experience of most of us, people looking for fights usually find them, and evil, well-armed imperialists usually conquer nicer peoples with fewer weapons. Pandora suggests some possibilities:

" The Condor "seem to have been unusually self-isolated; their form of communication with other people was through aggression, domination, exploitation, and enforced acculturation. In this respect they were at a distinct disadvantage among the introverted but cooperative people native to the region." Also, they just couldn't use the Exchange very well. Between their fear of contamination and their dominance hierarchy, the Condor were under strong pressure to restrict use of the Exchange, which they did, limiting it to the priestly caste and The Condor himself (the only one with a personal terminal, as Stone Telling recalls).

There were no documents in the Exchanges figuratively stamped TOP SECRET, and the City of Mind had no qualms in any sense about releasing information about weapons construction. What stopped the Condors' Great Weapons program was "the absence of the worldwide technological web . . . of the Industrial Age," and, as mentioned, the depletion "of many of the fossil fuels and other materials from which the Industrial Age made itself" (379-80). Pandora notes that even at the height of the Industrial Age (our era) the expense "of making maintaining, fueling, and operating such machines . . . was incalculable, impoverishing the planet's substance forever and requiring the great majority of humankind to live in servitude and poverty. Perhaps the question concerning the Condor's failure to build an empire with its advanced weapons is not why did they fail, but why did they try."

" As Pandora and Le Guin are well aware, the obvious question from anyone with military knowledge is why didn't the Condor "use their superiority in metals not in a misguided effort to build anachronistic tanks and bombers, but in building up a good arsenal of guns, grenades, and other 'conventional' weapons until they were invincible among the almost defenseless and poorly armed peoples about them?" And Pandora/Le Guin adds significantly: "Then they might truly have made history!" Or restarted history: either way, a bad thing.

Pandora says that the Valley people might have responded to such questions by observing that "Very sick people tend to die of their sickness" or that "Destruction destroys itself." Pandora/Le Guin adds "This answer, however, involves a reversal from our point of view. What we call strength it calls sickness; what we call success it calls death" (380). For reversals cf. not only folklore and the Dao and clown traditions but also that somber worldly philosopher, Karl Marx (in Capital III.12.3).[67] Marx had a view of reversals that is relevant here: "In competition [under Capitalism], therefore, everything appears upside down [Larrain: reversed]. The finished configuration of economic relations, as these are visible on the surface, in their actual existence, and therefore also in the notions with which the bearers and agents of these relations seek to gain an understanding of them, is very different from the configuration of their inner core, which is essential but concealed, and the concept corresponding to it. It is in fact the very reverse and antithesis of this" (311; also qtd. in different trans. Larrain 220). Militaristic, competitive Condor society is operating in contradiction to its world, a world in which the Condor ideas of strength are weakness. The Condor attempt at conquest fails partly because Le Guin wills them to fail, mâshâl fashion but also because, mâshâl fashion, Le Guin presents a vision of a universe and a social world in which such attempts will fail. And we readers can accept that failure or reject it in terms of what we find plausible.[68] Stranger things have happened. The mâshâl worked, so to speak, in Word for World; the United States military did withdraw from Viet Nam and most of Indochina. And a motif of history as well as old poetry is Ubi sunt?: Where are the empires of yester-year, from the mini-empires of the Fertile Crescent to the holy city of Akhnaton to the Chinese Warring States to the empires of the first Rome, Byzantium, and then Moscow? Where are the ancient Aryan tribes -or the Thousand-Year Reich that was to come from the twentieth-century revival of Aryan Herrenmoral, the morality of the Masters? The Nazi Third Reich lasted a dozen years.

Pandora does not deal with what made the war unnecessary, but goes on to suggest something biologically unlikely but quite possible in terms of cultural development and of great ethical interest. She suggests an optimistic, Kropotkinesque version of "the law of human evolution" (TD 177; ch. 7): that "natural selection had had time to work in social as well as physical and intellectual terms" and that her future Californians (newcomers like the Condor excepted) might be "healthier" -saner -than she, or we, can understand. "In leaving progress to the machines, in letting technology go forward on its own terms and selecting from it, with what seems to us excessive caution, modesty, or restraint," it is possible that "these people did in fact succeed in living human history with energy, liberty, and grace" (380-81). I'd put it that the Kesh have begun to live, human history, with our history, the history of civilization, dominion, and destruction -the history of the misuse and abuse of technology -something we muddle through in a prehuman way, and while seriously insane.

The concluding section is "About a Meeting Concerning the Warriors" Lodge, by Bear Man, a member of the Doctors Lodge (381-86). It also concerns the Lamb Lodge, and the topic of the meeting is the dissolution of those lodges. The argument for the dissolution of the lodges is, as we would expect, that the Condor are sick, "Their heads are turned backwards," and that the people of the Valley "have let people with the plague come into our house," and "The people of the Warrior Lodge and some people in the Lamb Lodge have been infected" (381).

If we've read Stone Telling consecutively, we know how this debate comes out. What is most important about it is the final comment by Bear Man and the comments by the Warriors: words in male voices, and finally, after all this talk about sickness, by a physician. Bear Man tells us that he was at the meeting he records and has been thinking about it in the many years since. He has

come to think that the sickness of Man is like the mutating viruses and the toxins: there will always be some form of it about, or brought in from elsewhere by people moving and traveling, and there will always be the risk of infection. What those sick with it said is true: It is a sickness of our being human, a fearful one. It would be unwise in us to forget the Warriors and the words spoken at Cottonwood Flats, lest it need all be done and said again. (386)

Here, then, is a good chance to be pretty sure of what Le Guin means by "the sickness of Man": What the Warriors say. And what they say is that they are proud to be Warriors; that they are not sick, but everyone else is. "[Y]ou're dying and don't know it. You eat and drink and dance and talk and sleep and die and there is nothing to you, like ants or fleas or gnats, your life is nothing, it goes nowhere . . . . We are not insects, we are human people. We serve a higher purpose" (382). Skull of Telina-na, a Warrior, says, "Our sickness is our humanity. To be human is to be sick. The lion is well, the hawk is well, the oak is well, they live and die in the mindfulness of the sacred and need take no care," and thus far Skull could be Ged lecturing Arren in The Farthest Shore (66; ch. 4). But here Skull comes to a "But," and it's not Ged's "But" about human consciousness and our need to "learn to keep the balance." Skull goes on,

But from us sacredness has withdrawn care; in us is the mind of the sacred. So all we do is careful, and all our effort is to be mindful, and yet we are not whole. . . . You say that human people are not different from the other animals and the plants. You call yourself earth and stone. You deny that you are outcast from that fellowship, you deny that the soul of man has no house on earth. You pretend, you build up houses of desire and imagination, but you cannot live in them. (384)

This could be Orestes to Zeus in J-P Sartre's The Flies: Skull has reinvented Sartrean Existentialism and accuses his opponents of Bad Faith in denying the human condition in a Godless world. What Skull has to say so far is definitely arguable: we humans are in culture and are conscious, and that far we are "outside" of nature. Le Guin accepts the fact of our disconnection from nature; and since her first published story, "An die Musik," she has been advising us to unbuild walls, unbuild houses, and go outside into Nature and dance over the nearest figurative abyss. But then Skull takes a logical leap and shows not a cloven hoof -that's a fable among Christians -but a figurative jackboot. We cannot live in our houses of desire:

In them is no habitation. And for your denying, your lying, your comfort-seeking, you will be punished. The day of punishment is the day of war. Only in war is redemption; only the victorious warrior will know the truth, and knowing the truth will live forever. For in sickness is our health, in war our peace, and for us there is only one, one house. One Above All Persons, outside whom there is no health, no peace, no life, no thing! (384)

A slip here from Orestes into the Prophetic mode, but then quickly into something more ominous for readers with any knowledge of the Heroic doctrine most recently celebrated by the Nazis, and totalitarian word-twisting scrawled across the twentieth century as "WAR IS PEACE / FREEDOM IS SLAVERY / IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH" (Orwell, 1984 17; I.1). And to those who hear the totalitarian allusion, "One Above All Persons" sounds ominously like Deutschland über alles ("Germany over all"). It is one formula for what I see as the complement of the denial of death in The Big Mistake: the setting up of a transcendent Good that is "Above All Persons," and upon whose orders men can -and some women, too -with clear consciences, commit massacres, atrocities, horror.[69]


As a teaching story, Always Coming Home is crucial to Le Guin's canon. It raises the great question of Ecclesiastes and Job How shall a human being live well, then? -and does a fair job answering it. Appropriating E. M. Forster's injunction on the title page of Howard's End (1921), we might put the answer, "Only connect ...", except that comes across a little too active for the "Perennial Philosophy" view that one already is connected. Perhaps what we need to do to live well is to recognize our connectedness to people with whom we bond, to our clans and towns and societies, to the Earth, to the cosmos. Among the Kesh, such connectedness is possible. Among the Condors and those who mimic them -corresponding to worshippers of a transcendent One God in our world, to supporters of patriarchy and hierarchy -the connection is denied, showing us a way in which people can live ill.

Always Coming Home may also be seen as the culmination of Le Guin's initial work comparing and contrasting different ways of living in or outside of the world. The Kesh vs. the Condor people completes the pattern by working it out in full detail. And the Kesh vs. the Condor takes to its logical conclusion Le Guin's critique of Western culture: civilization as we know it was a bad idea, a wrong turn, a perversion.

Decorously, Always Coming Home may also complete the pattern of controlling symbols as variations on the Yin-Yang. In The Left Hand of Darkness (1969) and The Wind's Twelve Quarters (1975) the symbol was the Yin-Yang itself. In The Dispossessed (1974), the symbol was the Circle of Life: a circle almost completed, but with a break for the Void to come in. In Eye of the Heron (1978) it was the ring tree; in The Compass Rose (1982), the symbol is our compass with its directions, but supplemented by the Native American stress on Above and Below as directions (CR xi). In Always Coming Home, the highly stressed symbol is the heyiya-if, "the figure or image of the heyiya," i.e. of that which is a "sacred, holy, or important thing, place, time, or event; connection; spiral, gyre, or helix; hinge; center; change. . . . To be or to be at the center; to change; to become; Praise; to praise" (512; Glossary). The specific form of the heyiya-if is a mirror-image doubling of "The Exponential . . . Life Spiral of Time" symbolizing "the unity of evolution, learning, perception-hallucination{,} and dreaming," and (as just a curve) studied by Descartes, Torricelli, and John Bernoulli.[70] Le Guin stresses the heyiya-if's openness and its reversal. "The Dayao way," Stone Telling Tells us, "was without clowns or clowning, without reversal or turning, straight, single, terrible" (201). Under that sentence on the page is the heyiya-if as a printer's mark: spiraling, open, reversing.[71]

Again, the main continuity with Le Guin's earlier works is that there is a symbol, at all, and it is a symbol fairly similar to those in the earlier works. In King Dog, also from 1985, the symbol is Shiva/Kali: "an androgynous dancing god/dess" (20), and the King's dog. In the later works, Buffalo Gals And Other Animal Presences (1987) and Tehanu (1990), the symbols get still more complex: Coyote and a dancing woman in Buffalo Gals, Tehanu herself in Tehanu: girl and dragon.

Always Coming Home is pivotal in featuring in its main story a strong but flawed female protagonist, letting her tell her life from girlhood in her grandmother's house to when she becomes the grandmother (375-76). The stakes in Stone Telling's story are high, as is decorous for SF: immediately, the direction of human culture for at least twenty-three peoples in the region, counting the Condor (ACH 378; "Messages Concerning the Condor").[72] Ultimately, perhaps, given human history from the end of the Neolithic to the present, the stakes may be as high as the nature of human culture on Earth. If the Condor win, a portion of humanity on Earth will fall out of nature into culture and history and recapitulate the "urban revolution" and beginning of the ancient empires, a process that can diffuse, and which, in our world, lead to Life As We Know It (Swain I.59 f.; ch. 3). The fates of at least two approaches to human culture are at stake -at least locally -and yet this is only part of the story; Stone Telling also tells us about her relationships with her mother and father and family, about her one romantic love, about her married life, about fucking and making love, about birthing and motherhood, about escape and finally finding a good relationship.

Always Coming Home is an unBible giving counter myths to compete with those central to the culture of the Judeo-Christian-Rationalist West. And it moves toward a symbol appropriate to the new mythos, the heyiya-if, indeed, but also Coyote. If civilization as we know it says we must accept One Above All Persons, Le Guin suggests that we join those who walk away from the One, necessarily in our world becoming internal émigrés. Southwind says in Eye of the Heron (1978), "So long as we stand and fight, even though we fight with our weapons, we fight their war" (114; ch. 8). Blood Clown of Chumo who responded to the great Existentialist speech of Skull says mockingly "Outside of One there is nothing, / nothing but women and coyotes" (ACH 384). Le Guin will move on, to a large extent with the women and coyotes.



Future Ethnography: End Notes 

[  1] My thanks to Kathleen Spencer and Carol D. Stevens for supplying me with a copy of the "Legends" speech, and for other help with my scholarship over the last decade. 

[  2] Le Guin's King Dog shows large-scale violence in what could be ancient Indian culture.  In the "Redux" portion of "Is Gender Necessary?", Le Guin says that she had in mind for Gethenian balance "a Taoist ideal" that would be better exemplified historically by some "pre-Conquest cultures of the Americas" rather than actually existing (thoroughly sexist) ancient Chinese civilization (LoN [1989]: 165).   

[  3] For a very different view of Plato and Le Guin, see Rochelle on LHD and some of Plato's major dialogs, esp. Rochelle 322-26.   

[  4]  For Le Guin on heroism, see Haber's heroic fantasies in LoH (e.g. 36; ch. 3) and, more positively, the overflowing of life in even pragmatic young Anarresti, yielding altruism and desire for self-sacrifice and "scope for the absolute gesture" (TD 75; ch. 4).  For Hero as normal stage "adolescents go through on their way to becoming responsible human beings," see below in this chapter and "The Fisherwoman's Daughter" 229.  For the Artist as Hero: "Fisherwoman's Daughter," 223, 226, 229. 

[  5] Chuang Tzu ch. 6, "The Great Supreme" (esp. Giles trans. 72 and 79). 

[  6] Note for the complexities of dying along, the dying man beyond "touch" in TD 49-50; ch. 2; and see below for dying in the Valley of the Na.  Note the medieval / Early Modern play of Everyman (ca. 1500)—where only Good Deeds will go with Everyman to the grave, and the more recent Calvinist hymn, "You've Got to Walk that Lonesome Valley" ("You've got to walk it by yourself"). 

[  7] See below, this chapter, my discussion of "The Bright Voic of the Wind (ACH 271-72).  Cf. and contrast shadowlessness in LHD, where it is a very negative thing Le Guin associates 99 ith the hyper-rationalists of Orgoreyn.  With atheism's leaving one free from "orders" Le Guin agrees: FS 136-37; ch. 9. 

[  8]   There is a similar dialog between a variant Christ and St. Paul in Nikos Kazantzakis's The Last Temptation of Christ (English edn. 1960): the last temptation is to live a domestic life as an ordinary man, rejecting the transcendent project of a Paul who intends to be an Apostle of heroic purpose, founding Christianity, whether there is a Christ or not, whether Jesus the carpenter wants him to or not.     

[  9]  'Turn, Turn, Turn" is the title of Pete Seeger's setting of the poem in Ecclesiastes "For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven" (3.1-9).  Strongly contrast the positive view of emptiness in Tao te Ching (chs. 4, 5, 11, 16). 

[10]  See Erlich, "Ursula K. Le Guin and Arthur C. Clarke . . ." 122; n. 1. 

[11] Cf. and contrast imagery in FS of selfhood as "a wave on the sea" (121-22; ch. 8).  Cf. the speech in Clarke's Childhood's End telling us that human attempts to explore even our own galaxy are "like ants attempting to label and classify all the grains of sand in all the deserts of the world" (CE 137, ch. 14; see Erlich "Ursula K. Le Guin . . ." 116-17).   

[12] I have removed AV's italics, which indicated words inserted for the translation.     

[13] The italics identify this as a "peg" line in Chandi.  The "peg lines," or "hingebolts" ranged from ten to twenty for a play and "were invariable both in wording and in the order they were spoken.  Everything that was said and done in the intervals between them was up to the players" (226, 227). 

[14] For Le Guin's denying human purpose, see LoH 82, ch 6; WE 17-18, ch. 2. 

[15] If you were taught that tragic heroes always have "tragic flaws," chalk one up in a Kulturkampf for those who believe, like the rather priggish Edgar in Shakespeare's King Lear, that "The gods are just, and of our pleasant vices / Make instruments to plague us" (5.3.171-72).  The Mistake in a neatly-constructed tragedy should stem from the characters of the principle characters, but the source of the Mistake can be a neutral element or a virtue as well as some flaw.  

[16] See Le Guin's 1994 short story, "Solitude" (esp. 143) for how sometimes "boygroups{sic} get wicked" when "magicians among them, leaders" organize them for action (including, apparently raiding and quite likely rape).     

[17]  A. L. Kroeber rejects the assumption of "the classic evolutionistic school of anthropology of, say, 1860-1890," which definitely includes L. H. Morgan, "that early societies must have done the opposite of what we do," so if we are monogamous, "the beginnings of human sexual union probably lay in the opposite condition of indiscriminate promiscuity.  Since we accord precedence to descent from the father, and generally know him, early society must have reckoned descent from the mother and no one knew his own father" (Anthropology § 5, Patterns and Biology 6).  Still, fatherhood is a concept and can be no older than abstract, conceptual thought.  It is also clear that matrilineal descent was the rule among many early peoples (see Swain I.46). 

[18]  Cf. in Le Guin's canon the exploitation of Athshean wood, and Athsheans, in WWF and the plans for re-establishing serfdom of Councillor{sic} Luis Burnier Falco in Le Guin's EoH (ch. 5 and passim).  Add to my exposition here Barbara Ehrenreich's recent contradiction: "Or so the story went, until Lawrence H. Keeley's War Before Civilization was published in February of 1996 . . . .  Relentlessly, and with an impressive command of the archeological and anthropological evidence, Keeley analyzes what he calls 'the myth of the peaceful savage.'  For one thing, there is evidence for what looks very much like war from about 12,000 years ago . . ." ("Once Upon a Wartime" 21).  See also Susan Faludi's "Let Us Prey," rev. of Ehrenreich's Blood Rites: Origins and History of the Passions of War, following Ehrenreich's rev. article in the Spring Books issue of The Nation for 12 May 1997 (Faludi: 24-28).     

[19]   Note the pyramid as architecture and objective correlative for social structure in Orwell's 1984 (I.1, p. 7; II.9, p. 171). 

[20]  Caution to younger readers: In Nazi and neoNazi racist theory, the Aryans were and are the "Master Race," destined to destroy the power of the Jews and rule over inferior peoples (basically, all nonAryans).  I use the term intentionally; don't use it casually.   

[21] Cf. Charnas's Walk to the End of the World; see Kroeber § 249 for "separation of body and soul" leading, in at least some instances, to "contempt of the body" (Biology and Race 190).   

[22] "Legends" 5: Le Guin is quoting Robert F. Heizer and Albert B. Elsasser, The Natural World of the California Indians (Berkeley: U of California P, 1980), #46 in the series CALIFORNIA NATURAL HISTORY GUIDES.   

[23] Cf. in Tehanu the song of the Woman of Kemay telling how "in the beginning, dragon and human were all one" (11: ch. 1). 

[24] A fair idea of the world-view of the California Indians can be inferred from the nine stories of the nine heroines in The Inland Whale. 

[25] In "Legends," "samething" is one word; on my ms., Le Guin corrected that as a mistake.   

[26] Le Guin stressed for me Flicker's vision and the emphasis of ACH precisely upon technology.  ACH as a meditation on technology, and perhaps Technique, is a topic I have not dealt with in detail in Coyote; I recommend it for development by students of what Thomas P. Dunn and I have called "The Human/Machine Interface" (Erlich and Dunn, Clockworks [subtitle]).  Researchers should look very carefully at "Some Generative Metaphors" at The Back of the Book (483-85) and note THE MACHINE, placed after THE ANIMAL, and before the set, THE HOUSE, THE DANCE, and, concluding the list, THE WAY.    

[27] Utopia: Sir Thomas More's New Latin formulation from the Greek for No Place (outopos) and Good Place (eutopos).  The second part of More's work is a very complete description of Utopia, starting with geography and the origin of the current (utopian) constitution, and moving on to matters studied today as sociology, political theory, theology, cultural studies, criminology, ethnography.  The first part of Utopia and its conclusion make clear that pagan Utopia is a rational norm against which Christian Europe is to be measured and found wanting.   

[28] For ACH as a pacifistic work, examining both "the psychology and anatomy of war," see Wytenbroek (quote from 330). 

[29]  The opening sentence of ACH may be characterized in contemporary linguistics terminology as A self-reflexive artistic sentence, whose tense, aspect, and mood may be described as "past conditional, semi-conditional, emphatic past perfect, implying futurity."  (Source: Stephens paper, plus consultation with Max Morenberg, a linguist in my department, 8 May 1995.)   

[30] Quoted clause is from Le Guin, personal communication. 

[31]  See in BG the introduction to "May's Lion" for Le Guin's comment that her initial work for ACH was "trying to find the right way to get from the Napa Valley of my childhood and the present to the 'Na Valley' of the book" (BG 179).   

[32] Cf. and contrast A. C. Clarke's pure mentality Vanamonde in The City and the Stars and the evolution of the ETs in his novel—not Stanley Kubrick's film—2001.  See Erlich, "Ursula K. Le Guin . . ." 120-21. 

[33] Like the Original Californians, adults among the Kesh rarely practice even primitive "war for the fun of the game, or for gain" (Handbook 308).  They also incorporate positive parts of the cultures of the Zuñi and Navajo and other pre-Columbian, North American peoples ( Le Guin, personal communication).  Eliminated features of some Amerindian cultures include slavery; there was not much, but some among West Coast tribes.  And the Kesh are far from what A. L. Kroeber describes as "the usual Californian point of view: a stranger would usually be killed on principle because he was a stranger . . ." and neighbors attacked if they'd given serious offense.  (For slavery in Native-American California, see A. L. Kroeber, Handbook: Yurok: 32; Shasta: 296; Modoc [Oregon]: 308 Juaneño: 647; Mohave: 752).  I do not attempt in Coyote rigorous identification of Le Guin's literary sources; even less will I attempt to do more than suggest her sources in academic ethnography or among living peoples.     

[34] See also the Bosses of the City of Victoria in EoH, and their scheme for establishing large estates and serfdom (or peonage).  

[35] Folk is named for Old Horressins, a dead member of the Society, who would haunt the tribe until someone assumed his name.  Ghosts are a minor theme in Le Guin's canon; note above Mumford and Eliade on one function of a city wall the warding off of "inimical spirits," such as ghosts. 

[36] Liminal: Threshold condition.  The theory of liminality is developed by Victor Turner; my thanks to Kathleen Spencer for introducing me to the work of Turner and for her essay "Exiles and Envoys" (for liminality, see Turner, Ritual Process, ch. 3, and Spencer esp. 34-36, 42).  Stone Telling is particularly interesting in moving from the near communitas  (but still structured society) of the Valley into the rigid structure of the City of the Condor, where she is a very liminal character: marginal, barely defined.  See Spencer on Luz in EoH (Spencer 39-42). 

[37] Heya: Cf. "Haya!" in "Coming of Age in Karhide" (481).  In Judeo-Christian, "heya" would be a combination of Kadosh! Kadosh! Kadosh!, Hallelujah!, and Baruch . . . ! (Holy! Holy! Holy!, Praise Yahweh!, Bless/Praise!)—except that the Judeo-Christian equivalents I suggest are not correct translations.  The Hebrew words direct praise to Yahweh, even as the Condor praise only the One (see below, discussion of Stone Telling's Story) and orthodox ants praise only the Queen (see discussion of "The Author of the Acacia Seeds," coll. BG).  I elide Christianity in "Judeo-Christian" here as a reversal.  Also, heya is "the word that contained the world . . . on this side and on the other side of death" (94; "How to Die . . .").  For the heyiya-if, cf. "the Bokononist concept of a wampeter" in Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle (1963): "A wampeter is the pivot" of every karass "just as no wheel is without a hub" (a standard Daoist analogy to show the importance of the Void).  Whatever a wampeter is, "the members of its karass revolve about it in the majestic chaos of a spiral nebula" (42; ch. 24). 

[38] For a relatively recent ars moriendi (art of dying) see Joanna Russ's We Who Are About To . . . (© 1975, 1976, 1977).   

[39] Cf. Meshe's vision and its effects: LHD 162-64, ch. 12; Ai and Handdarata comments on it and ultimate truth: 60-61, 67-68, 70-71; ch. 5.   

[40] Le Guin notes the "aura" of migraine headaches (personal communication).     

[41] Readers of Coyote annoyed with the "pe/per/pem" pronoun system should note that I won't use it for long, and that Le Guin had a point in avoiding such a system with her androgynes in LHD and after. 

[42] Cf. Shevek on the Shevek in the early days on Anarres who "designed a kind of bearing they use in heavy machines, they still call it a 'shevek.' . . . .  There is a good immortality" (TD 160; ch. 7).  

[43] Personal communication: Le Guin has not read Gravity's Rainbow.  Still, note in Gravity's Rainbow • naming in a godless universe: "There may be no gods, but there is a pattern: names . . . may have no magic, but the act of naming . . . obeys the pattern" (GR 322).  • "Christian Europe" as "death and repression" (317).  Christianity as the way of division vs. "Pre-Christian Oneness," the religion of "the Empire" (321), associated with "immachination" and "the Rocket" (318).  • The creation of a world/people without history.  "The people will find the Center again, the Center without time, the journey without hysteresis, where every departure is a return to the same place, the only place..." (319).  • The "old tribal unity" for the Hereros of German Southwest Africa including "the gathered purity of opposites, the village built like a mandala ...." (321).  See also GrR 563, 701.   

[44] Cf. feelings of being part of the universe in Le Guin's "Solitude" and VFA (41).   

[45] Again, mâshâl: "a likeness; . . . or 'satire.' . . .  either the aptly stated analogue of a previously experienced reality, or . . . the quasi-magical, verbal prefiguring of reality in the shape . . . in which the utterer would like to encounter it" (Rabinowitz 320).     

[46] The Kesh, however, want little to do with historical change.  In ACH, Le Guin is an ally to Y. Zamyatin and develops the same sort of City/country, Christian/anti-Christian conflicts he uses in We, but her Kesh seem liable to Zamyatin's sarcastic statement of the (anti)utopian ideal as "the condition where nothing happens any more" (24; Sixth Entry).     

[47] Cf. Ged on human selfhood in FS, as "a wave on the sea" (122; ch. 8), and the electricity, dance, and wave references and imagery in "Dancing to Ganam" and "Another Story" in FIS.     

[48] See Handbook Index, "Transvestite" (971).   

[49] A god's masturbation to create the world images creation ex deo, without goddesses or women or anything female or feminine.  For another approach, note the erotic aspects of Bill Kopman's fantasies creating and filling the world of "Pathways of Desire" (CR 204-05 and passim).     

[50] Cf. George Carlin's routine, "Water don't give a shit"; he is using an idea of Lao Tzu's (Tao te Ching chs. 8, 43, 78) that Le Guin alludes to in her "Review of Ascent of Wonder," and an American Indian idea Le Guin quotes here from "an old Wintu woman" (see also Needham II.42, Welch 43).   

[51] Cf. the vision of civilization in "Buffalo Gals."  

[52] Either original or modified in James Joyce's Ulysses (1922): "History, Stephen said, is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake."  My thanks to Sue Ebbs on the SFRA ListServ for the Ulysses quote from Oxford Dictionary of Modern Quotations., and to Brooks Landon and Andy Miller for giving the location: ch. 2, line 377 in The Correct Text, ed. Hans Walter Gabler et al. (New York: Vintage, 1986): 28.   

[53] "There and Back Again" is J.R.R. Tolkien's alternative title for The Hobbit (1937), quoted "Legends" 9.  For the condor as symbol, note A. L. Kroeber on “the two-headed condor” among the Nazca people of southern Peru, in his discussion of “The Double-Headed Eagle” as § 190 of Anthropology.  Kroeber traces the European symbol back to the winged sun disk of Ra through its use in Austro-Hungary and Russia: “The meaning of sovereignty remaining attacked to the figure, the device before long became indicative of the imperial idea” (474).   

[54] For a discussion of mirror images and reversals, relating to ACH, see Selinger 135 f. 

[55] The Harper 1st edn. has it Part I, Part Two, Part Three; I have regularized the section titles. 

[56] Uniforms first became necessary to allow (relative) strangers to fight alongside each other and distinguish «friends» from «enemies».  Beyond this primary use, they mark position in bureaucracy and rank in a hierarchy, abstract identification with a unit too large to bond with, and perform other functions.  Cf. rudimentary uniforms among enemy army in King Dog  

[57] Cf. and contrast Adam (Man) as dust + breath (Gen. 2.4-7), and humans as mud (EoH).   

[58] A. L. Kroeber's Handbook Index has no entries for "time" or "calendar." See also Handbook 177 (ch. 11) for the usual lack of a word among the original Californians for "year," and for people not keeping track of their ages.    

[59] A. L. Kroeber describes the Aryans who entered the Punjab as a “cityless, hut-dwelling, cattle-raiding, uncommercial Vedic people,” with a culture that was tribal, without walls, “unbound, ready to pack up and move without being essentially nomadic; half peasantlike and half aristocratic; an uncitified semicivilization, pioneer rather than backwoods” (Anthropology 749; § 305)—rather like the early Condor and in some ways like the White Anglos who initially came to California.   

[60] Ca. 650 BCE, a Messenian revolt seriously scared the Spartan overlords, leading them to divide their population “into three classes: the Spartans, the perioikoi [“ dwellers around”], and the helots”: i.e., professional soldiers, villagers who lived as second class citizens, and state-owned serfs (Swain 1.315-16).  Male Spartans avoided women more but were possibly less sexist than male Athenians.    

[61] Cf. the destruction of Troy by the Acheans, with the subsequent slaughter and taking the women for slaves, as described and shown in The Trojan Women by Euripides (415 BCE).  Cf. and contrast regulations for Israelite holy war: Deut. 20.10-18.   

[62] Cf. Shevek on Urras watching two incompletely indoctrinated boys (TD 118; ch. 5).  Note that in the Great Chain of Being — standard Western theory among the educated elite from ca. Aristotle into the 18th century (with residues unto today) — there is a rank for everything and everybody.   

[63] Either/Or: 1843 work by Søren Kierkegaard establishing the basic premise of modern Existentialism in the need for individual, conscious, responsible choices.  Alluded to by Heather Lelache in LoH (90; ch. 7).  In this passage on the Condor, Le Guin attacks thinking in binary oppositions; she consistently supports conscious, responsible choices, what the Kesh would think of as acting mindfully.   

[64] From the nationalistic opening of the Aleynu (High Holiday Prayer Book, e.g., 251); this is balanced, from a Jewish point of view, later in the prayer, with the Universalist idea that all people will one day come to worship the God of the Jews.  The formulation, however, is unlikely to please a Kesh scholar, except for making explicit just Who, primarily — though not exclusively — is "One": "The Lord shall be King over all the earth; on that day shall the Lord be One, and His name One" (Service 59).     

[65] See also "Legends" 8 and Le Guin's " Ketterer " letter 139: her statement that ". . . all apocalypses are fake to me." 

[66] See TD on sickness metaphors (96; ch. 4), and note that it's difficult for people without a single transcendent God to speak definitively about "good" and "evil" — which is an effective argument for atheism — but which makes it difficult to talk about people who are bad.  E.g., ". . . to the Mesopotamians, there was no independent concept of evil.  Just disease and ill health.  Evil was a synonym for disease" — or so says, plausibly, a character in Stephenson's Snow Crash ([1992]: 116; ch. 15). 

[67] Hellmut Wilhelm translated the opening line of Tao te Ching 40 as "Reversal is the movement of tao" (where "Return" is also possible): Change 34.   

[68] For a different suggestion, see Benford 17.     

[69] In LHD, Genly Ai says that the mission he is on "overrides all personal debts and loyalties."  The person he is talking to responds, "If so . . . it is an immoral mission" (LHD 104-06; ch. 8).   

[70] R. Fisher's Figure 2 in Voices of Time 372, reproducing the curve from E. H. Lockwood, A Book of Curves (1963).   

[71] For the importance of Pandora for what she sees as the open-endedness, the ambiguity of ACH, see Franco 30 and passim.  On clowning, cf. and contrast Owen's clowning for Natalie in VFA (13 f.). 

[72]   Note in "Dancing to Ganam that "Ganam is one little city-state on a large planet, which the Gaman call Anam, and the people in the next valley call something else entirely" (FIS 142).  Even so, the Kesh are one culture on a large and complex world (Le Guin, personal communication). 

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