I don’t normally post fiction to this blog, or other people’s work. However I recently had the pleasure of meeting a man who has written a beautiful piece that speaks to the ongoing disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, and our relationship to nuclear power. Without further ado, I present the Oath of Menes, by William Simmons of Van Horn, Texas.
Oath of Menes
My name is Menes, Eternal King over Egypt, and first Pharaoh in Upper Egypt. I have reigned here since 3100 years before what you in the West call the Common Era, or for about 5100 years.
I started my reign here at around the same time that we thought to write down the events of our lives. We carved these writings into stone; but 400 years after the start of my reign, one of my servants devised a material called papyrus, and we started recording on it many more of the events of our lives.
Over the centuries, we recorded how we strove with each other, and how we strove with other peoples around us. Apart from our own internal wars, we fought with, and overcame, and sometimes were overcome by, the Persians, the Hyksos, the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Phoenicians, the Philistines, the Hebrews, the Greeks, the Romans, the Byzantines, the Arabs, the Mongols, the Crusaders, the Turks, the French, the English, and, now, the Israelis.
We wrote down many things, but some things I regarded as too precious to record. At the beginning of my reign, the gods revealed to us a potent source of power contained in a few sacred metals. These metals had to be refined, and highly purified in order to harness their power. But after they were purified, they became dangerous to all living things which approached them. The gods would permit me to use them, but only if I would swear an eternal oath to take custody of this material until it was no longer a danger to the sons of man.
Alas, in my avarice for power, I undertook this obligation, which is why I stll linger, and have not yet laid my head to rest and joined the rest of my people.
Over the centuries, I held firm to my solemn oath in the knowledge that, by discharging it faithfully, I would be protecting the sons and daughters of man from the results of my own pride. But, less than one short century ago, what was given to me by the gods, you discovered yourselves, and now you are playing with the sacred metals, having taken no oath to protect either yourselves, or your children, from its ravages.
And, now, I despair in my soul of my oath. I have watched as you have indulged in the same acts of hubris in which I indulged so long ago; but you commit these acts without the willingness to take on the yoke of obligation to protect your people. For all the 5100 years that I have lingered on this earth, I have not yet discharged even one-fifth of my oath for the Plutonium-239, and not even one-millionth of my oath for the Uranium-235.
Let me tell you clearly that you will not be able to responsibly care for these metals and guard your children unless you are willing to live nearly forever. As I have watched human history unfold, I have not seen one dynasty, kingdom, regime, civilization, or political system which has endured long enough to actually undertake a responsible commitment to protect others from these metals. I alone have lingered on this earth for 51 centuries, and I have only discharged one-fifth of my obligation for the metal with the shortest half-life. And, after I retreated with my metals to the underworld, my kindom was overrun by the Persians, the Hyksos, the Assyrians, the Greeks, the Romans, the Byzantines, the Arabs, the Mongols, the Crusaders, the Turks, the French, the English, and the Israelis. Any plan to responsibly maintain custody of these metals cannot endure such upheavals–not to mention the unpredictable ravages of the gods: earth tremors, mountains of fire, towering waves, blinding winds, ruinous rains, blistering sun, and bone-chilling cold.
I tell you bluntly that humankind is incapable of being a responsible custodian of these metals, even if he wanted to be. In the first place, he does not live long enough. Moreover, the institutions, which he might set up to act as a custodian of these metals, do not last long enough, because man is too given to war. The civilizations which he erects rise and fall like the tide on the shoals of human history. Any commitment to maintain custody over fuels so long since spent will fade quickly in the memories of the sons of man. And, in the end, man is primarily concerned with himself, and not nearly concerned enough for his neighbor. To think that man has even the remotest chance of bringing such an awesome commitment to term is the height of hubris.