(The interview transcribed here takes place in the year 3090.)
Q: What exactly IS an “Enfolder”?
A. This is an evolved person, almost post-human, who is not only able to empathize but also to be felt inside the consciousness of the person who has come to them or to whom they have gone. They are halfway between angels and prostitutes. That is, they reach out with their wings to form a sheltering tent of protection and comfort for the person, which is where the “Enfolder” term comes from, but they are also able to make intimate contact, either letting the person enter them or by penetrating the person. That’s the other more “sexual” half. Both images are very powerful in our culture.
Q: So when did the past people begin to think of creating “Enfolders”? They have made such a difference in the way people get along. So much more real healing. How did they even imagine this kind of person?
A: It’s a natural growing edge of human evolution. We know that at some point humans developed “empathy” and were able to at least “feel with” others. That led to the creation of communities, collaborations, and sustained group efforts like symphonies and cathedrals, ocean-going ships and research labs.
Q. How did you actually create “Enfolders?”
A. We found some people particularly good at it. “Method” actors, for instance, were used to inhabiting other people and had explored themselves without restraint, so they could respond even to very twisted criminals. Some shrinks were good at it — the ones who didn’t depend on theory very much. Often, old women. A few religious people. But our best prospects were sex workers — not street walkers, but high-level courtesans who could only be found via networks of people who knew them. They were people who talked to their clients, figured them out so as to pleasure them. Not many parents — too busy to enfold their children.
Partly we used old-fashioned methods: finding people who were natural Enfolders and forming them into a group that mixed genes until a new kind of person emerged from them. But then also by studying the genetic plan for this kind of person we could add genes and epigenes that would make them Enfolders much sooner. They did need special experiences, like being enfolded themselves.
Q. Are there people who resist enfolding?
A. Oh, yes. That’s a problem we’re trying to understand now. Some of them seem to have a prion disease, that is, a few are actually excellent Enfolder material except some of their protein molecules tend to fold in some misshapen way. “In” where they ought to be “out.” We don’t know why. It’s very ironic since a crumpled molecule gene is the opposite of what psychic Enfolding is supposed to do.
Q. How do you go about treating resisters?
A. Usually the resistance comes from damage, but sometimes there’s something missing that failed to develop — a code corruption. We’re getting better at adding code to the genomes of the damaged people, but also we know that humans grow and change in response to their environment, so we set about changing the human “built” aspect of the planet itself. You might know that the shelters, the public baths, the food stations that are now in every settlement are part of our movement. Each of them has an Enfolder on call.
Q. Are males or females better Enfolders?
A. I’m surprised at your question since we’ve known for a long time that every gender-assignment is negotiable and sex is unique for every human. Sex is not the only way to be Enfolded, though it works well, but Enfolding is an extension of the hormone loop involving oxytocin, which is a nurturing, sheltering, empathy-based phenomenon. In fact, dogs are pretty good at enfolding, since they evolved along with humans, in their same domiciles.
But I have to admit that in the early Star Trek episodes the precursor Enfolders were female. Troi, for instance, or Guinan, the Whoopi Goldberg character. Of course, when Heinlein spoke of “grokking” he didn’t specify gender.
Q. How would you answer accusations that Enfolders are pussies who have no strength and stifle creativity because they let everyone get so comfortable that they don’t try to make things or improve?
A. Perhaps you know about the dynamics of a protective parent? They can be superhuman in their opposition to destruction and danger. There are stories about small women who somehow were able to lift cars off their run-over children. Soldiers say they aren’t fighting for some patriotic politician back home, but rather for the man next to them. In combat men are often Enfolders of each other. It’s not weakness, but strength.
The basic engine of survival is desire, a force that be twisted and abused, but which in its purest form is always creative and as strong as humans can be. All the arts come from desire.
Q. But isn’t destruction necessary to clear a place for the new? Since there isn’t enough room on the planet and it has turned out that going to other planets was impractical, isn’t death necessary to make way for birth? Doesn’t art come from anguish?
A. Oh, yes. If that weren’t true there would be no need for Enfolders.
Q. Could I meet one of these Enfolders?
A. Wait here for a few minutes.
A figure enters the room and a soft voice asks, “Would you like me to be male or female or something between?”
The journalist responds, “Must you ask?”
“We do best to start in a formal way where you have explicit control.”
“Okay. May I have a child?” (He’s a little scared and thinks it might be safer.)
The figure becomes an eight-year-old in jeans and striped t-shirt, bowl-cut hair, bare feet. He comes to stand beside the journalist and puts a hand on his shoulder. “We won’t use the sexual trope for merging,” the child says. The journalist feels relieved. He hadn’t thought of that angle.
“May I hug you?” It was unclear who was asking but the hug came. There were no real wings present, but a kind of rustling, a softness and warmth without any pressure or feeling of confinement. From this safety the journalist felt his mind project images left from his expeditions to troubled places, and some photographic images of places even harder to bear. He had witnessed some, written about them. Charred and dismembered bodies. At this point in the future most wars and starvations had been eliminated or curbed, but the planet continued in its violent catastrophes: earthquakes, tornadoes, volcanoes, tsunamis, blizzards, landslides. No Enfolder had any power against them except to deal with the responses to the tragedies. We can choose how to react.
Rage, sorrow, hunger, craving. Then the journalist began to feel himself dancing with the child — even though the boy was smaller, they seemed matched. Both seemed to have wings. As they moved, muscle pain and joint aches in the journalist dissolved. Music began a sound weave and emanated a great comfort. But it was not like heroin or cocaine — oh, yes, the journalist had tried drugs at one of the terrible periods of his life, but he had been able to kick. Still . . .
The child felt that and returned it transformed — it was like having the child’s hands on his actual heart, easing bruises he hadn’t known were there. He felt his usual insomniac guarding tension leave, but without falling into the black void that usually was how he felt when he slept.
He laughed. The child had become a dragon. What a cliché! But he HAD asked for a child. Maybe it was one of those feathered dinosaurs he had just read about. They were flying. From this height, the planet was luminous and whole. Now he had something to write.