A man worried about the world he would be leaving to his children falls asleep in 1992 and wakes up in 2076. Fearing the worst, he asks the people he meets how the major problems of 1992 were resolved. Two weeks later, he returns to his time with the answers. This book, first published in 1994 but still relevant today, is not an apocalyptic nightmare, but a look at a possible healthy future earth.
I remember talking with a friend that day about the kind of world we would be leaving to our children. He said, “The national debt is now four trillion dollars and it is growing at the rate of three hundred billion dollars a year. How big will it be when our children become taxpayers?”
I said, “Unless we change course soon, they will inherit a sick, crowded, and violent world polarized into two camps: the haves and the have-nots.”
I dreamed that night that I was fishing in a deep pool of water formed from a spring. After I caught a fish, I would throw it back into the water. There was another man fishing next to me, but he could not catch anything.
The sound of a door closing awakened me from the dream. When I opened my eyes, I saw a short, gray-haired man and two women standing by my bed. One of the women spoke to me.
“I’m sorry. Did we startle you?”
“Who are you? How did you get in?”
“My name is Mary, and with me are Elizabeth and Edward,” the woman replied. “You should be asking, ‘How did I get here?’”
I sat up and looked around. She was right—I was not in my bedroom.
“Would you mind answering a couple of questions?” she asked.
“OK,” I said.
“What is your full name? When were you born?”
“My name is Lawrence John Brown. I was born on July 4, 1950.”
My three visitors looked at each other, and then Mary said, “We’ve been expecting you.”
“Where am I?”
Edward stepped forward and said, “You are the guest of the First Gandhi village commune located near San Jose, California.” He paused. “Today is Sunday, June 28, 2076. You’ve arrived one week before we celebrate the tricentennial of the Declaration of American Independence.”
I almost fell out of bed. Collecting myself, I decided to play along with them. I asked, “How did I get here?”
“Your desire to find solutions to the challenges of your time brought you here,” Mary replied. Then she said, “We will leave you now, but Edward will come back later to take you to lunch.”
This had to be a dream too, I thought. I lay back in the bed and shut my eyes, but I could not fall asleep.
I spent the morning speculating about the kind of future I was in. Did I awaken to a nightmare—a world where bands of armed men roamed the land, plundering as they went? Where the rich lived in walled towns protected by guards ordered to shoot to kill? Where death by starvation or violence was the norm, and where the old and the weak were quickly trampled underfoot by the young and the strong? I remembered the suggestion Jonathan Swift had made in his essay “A Modest Proposal,” and wondered if it had been adopted. Swift recommended that the children of the poor, at the age of one year, be sold to the rich so they could be eaten for dinner. He said this would reduce theft, the number of abortions, and the public expense of caring for poor children.
My vivid imagination brought forth these thoughts and others too horrible to mention. Fortunately, Edward returned at twelve o’clock to escort me to the dining hall. He assured me that I had nothing to fear. He said that this was a possible healthy future to the world I had left behind, and that I had been called to be a messenger from their time to our present. He also said that I would have to return to 1992 in two weeks. I asked him about our great problems: the destruction and pollution of the environment, overpopulation, war, injustice, unemployment, poverty, the national debt, crime, and the high cost of medical care. He told me to be patient and all my questions would be answered.