It was the Day of Self-Creation. Mark touched his long white robes nervously, carefully to keep them from falling against ketchup or butter as he sat down at the table. Breakfast was eggs with celebratory bacon, which he pushed about the plate until finally offering them to Janey. His sister, only six, had no worries and gobbled his food eagerly. Even watching Janey made him feel a little nauseous.
Is that consideration? he wondered, caring? Those are good qualities to have.
After breakfast, his parents hugged him closely.
“We wish you love and forgiveness,” his father said.
“We wish you courage and passion,” his mother said.
“Have fun,” Janey said, her mouth still full of eggs. “I mean, choose to have fun.”
“You mean humour, Janey,” their father said. “Fun isn’t a quality.”
Mark smiled, pretending that he was not afraid. He tried to imagine that this was any other day, but fears whirled through his thoughts.
What if I choose wrong? Even worse, what if I do not have the potential for what I want to become?
The fears only increased as Mark approached the Living Centre.
Every year there were four Days of Self-Creation, one at the start of each season. Each child, after his or her eighth birthday became an person at the next Day of Self-Creation. Before their eighth birthday, education covered basic skills, such as reading, writing, calculations and arts. However, the focus was always on qualities. As young children they would listen to stories of princes, who were marked by courage, compassion and artistic appreciation, and would go on long quests to rescue princesses who had the complementary qualities of perception, enthusiasm and artistic temperament. As they approached their eighth birthdays, there were tests. Name five qualities that are opposite to careful consideration. Name three qualities that complement humour. All of their studies culminated in this day, when they would create themselves and begin specialized studies and training, which would all depend on who they became as persons.
Outside the Living Centre, twenty children stood side by side, their new white robes neat and clean. Mark stood next to his friend Allison, who looked far more confident than he felt.
“Aren’t you nervous?” whispered Mark.
“No,” said Allison. “I know who I am going to become. Don’t you?”
“Who?” Mark asked, ignoring her question.
Their teacher stepped forward and began to speak. “As you know, this is the most important day of your life. Today you decide who you sill become. You will no longer be children but persons and you will decide how to do this. Other communities are different. They program their children, controlling their qualities, so that nobody ever really becomes a person.”
There was a buzz of whispers among the students, amazed by this new information.
“Here,” the teacher continued, “we have taught you what you need to know so that you can self-create. You all know what to do today, so we will begin now, alphabetically. Allison, will you please step forward?”
Allison smiled at Mark quickly before holding her head high and stepping through the small door that led to the Living Centre.