Shortest synopsis ever …
Meet Roger, the seed collector.
One of the richest men in the world, but a world falling apart around him due to climate
change, over-population, widespread regional wars, and the rise of authoritarian rule. Rodger
Visser — think Elon Musk of modern times, or King Roger II of Medieval Europe; only not really
— has a plan, however. Plans within plans, actually.
But first there is that murder his fingerprints are on …
A little taste …
Rodger entered the room, a once-elegant dining room now nearly void of furniture but
now moderately crowded with 20 to 25 people, almost all standing in front of Aaron, who, while
being one of the first to arrive at the massive historic residence on Rua Agostinho Pacheco,
repeatedly moved to the back of the crowd. Always wanting to be early, but not too early, Aaron
had a little wasted time in a nearby urban park, the Jardim Botânico António Borges, but he had
no trouble finding the house, as others complained of as they arrived and he overheard them.
Rodger entered from the back of the room after being escorted in from somewhere off to
one side and brushed past Aaron, close enough for an aroma of the fresh, salty ocean to linger —
Rodger swims, he took note, maybe in the bay, at the city beach, with the now small gaggle of
old-school local businessmen.
No, more likely his private pool is salt water.
Rodger said nothing to Aaron, to anyone, as he walked slowly, in almost measured steps,
to the front of the small ballroom, near the front of the small temporary stage but did not actually
step up onto the stage. He didn’t need the riser to be a head above most of the people in the
In the same precise steps, he walked back and forth, just once in each direction, just long
enough in duration for everyone to notice or be whispered to notice, to quiet or be whispered to
quiet. Then he stopped by a small, low table near located on the stage, center at its front edge,
which was left alone by the crowd due to it having a small sign on it with the words “Reserved
for Rodger”. Other than the sign, the table contains only a single, tall lamp of stained glass and
metal, and a glass decanter filled with an almost clear liquid, its lid a drinking glass.
Rodger looked as if he, too, were made of stained glass and metal: bronzed face, stubble
of silver hair forming a facial beard and a bowl of receding hairline; a black long-sleeved T-shirt,
shining, probably of silk instead of cotton, but a scarf of bright reds and blues — a deep blue that
matches his electric eyes.
With his desired attention, and quiet, attained, he spoke.
“By a show of hands,” Rodger said, scanning the crowd as if we were a theater audience,
or a boardroom full of investors. “Who of you have read Jürgen Habermas?”
Glancing around the room, Aaron saw only other glances around the room, and murmurs,
until one young man raises his hand.
Near the back of the crowd, in a knot of other young people, his head stretched up as he
raises his hand, his face now stood out — shoulder length hair hanging limp, half covering his
face; intense eyes glued on Rodger.
“I feel sorry for you,” Rodger replied.
The crowd laughs in varying degrees of humor and sincerity. The young man’s hand, and
face, quickly faded from view into his small crowd.
“No. No,” Rodger said. “Never be ashamed of learning. Please introduce yourself.”
“Peter,” the young man said, timidly. “I am a builder.”
“A builder. A builder of dreams who has read Habermas. Excellent,” Rodger said. “We
need more builders of dreams. We will talk soon.”
“Again by show of hands,” Rodger continued. “Who of you have ever even heard of
A couple other people, now made brave, raised their hands. He looked disappointed as
continues his theatrical scanning of his audience.
“Well, I have read Jürgen. Extensively. Met him once, just before he died. Very intense
man. Very deep, intellectually. Very difficult to understand. I will not pretend to understand the
depth of his thoughts, but I do understand the simplified versions some of his thoughts, his
philosophies, translated and explained to me by talented people I hired to do so. I have always
believed in gathering people around me, of hiring people, who are talented in ways I am not.
He paused, either to collect his thoughts or for dramatic effect.
“We will get into my hiring practices in a moment, but first Habermas.”
The only sound in the room was the breathing of a hundred or so people at rest, and the
sound of an air conditioning system at work.
“He used a term, Lifeworld. Lebenswelt. A state of being, a universe of mind, built on
what is self-evident, not argued with an agenda. A world that can be experienced together. The
concept’s origin is based in cultural Protestantism — not necessarily the religion of
Protestantism. The concept focuses on human reaction to the world as it is experienced, as it is
lived. And the resulting, accepted facts, and, most importantly, personal actions based on those
Rodger took a piece of paper out of a back pocket of his slightly faded bluejeans, reads
“In his own words,” he cleared his throat, continued. “To the degree that the
institutionalized production of knowledge that is specialized according to cognitive, normative,
and aesthetic validity claims penetrates to the level of everyday communication and replaces
traditional knowledge in its integration-guiding functions, there is a rationalization of everyday
practice that is accessible only from the perspective of action oriented to reaching understanding
— a rationalization of the lifeworld.”
Rodger again paused, for a moment, again for effect, as does a good actor in command of
“Have I lost everybody yet?” he said, finally, followed by a broad smile to the crowd.
There were giggles, some laughter, mostly quiet murmurs.
“Mostly, I believe in my own interpretation of those beliefs,” he said, after gaining the
response he expected.
“I believe that he believed in the unfinished work of the Age of Enlightenment. He
believed in the value of ethics and democratic theory. He believed in achieving mutual
understanding of tasks and goals rather than simply the success of those tasks and goals. He
believed in the emancipation of human thought from the shackles of modern technology but he
believed that increased rationalization, increased understanding of technology, coupled with
technological innovation, could, would, yield human emancipation.”
Again, he paused.
“I believe in Habermas’ belief in a post-national world of political self-determination and
transparent governance, a society of personal commitment, collective identity, and allegiance to
shared principles and procedures of a liberal democratic constitutionalism facilitating public
discourse and self-determination.”
Again, he paused.
“And now I know I have lost everybody.”
This time there were no laughs, fewer giggles, about the same amount of quiet murmurs.
“You are here because I believe in each of you, that you are needed — your skills, your
ideas, your spirit are needed — for me to achieve my own self-determination, for each of you to
do so as well, and, most importantly, for our species to avoid extinction.”
He then turned to the small table, poured a small glass of liquid from the decanter. Picked
it up and held it in the air as if offering a toast to the crowd.
“Some of you I have already had the pleasure of meeting,” he said. “I look forward to
meeting all of you, soon, as we go about our work here. Many of you have no idea what the hell I
am talking about, of how you could possibly fit into a post-national world in a time of universal
crisis. But I want all of you to know it is important, maybe essential, for you to become part of
the collective future we are assembling here, on this beautiful island in the middle of nowhere.”
Rodger paused, knowing he has his audience in the palm of his mental hand.
“A few of you probably think I am full of shit.”
A few giggles, laughs and murmurs, but mostly just silence.
Rodger took a sip from his glass, then: “I prefer to use the word compost.”
He then finished the content of his glass.
“Porto Branco,” he says. “They used to make the best white port wine in the world on the
island of Pico, not all that far from here. But no more. Pico is a ghost island now. Enjoy the porto
tonight, while we still have it. Eat. We will talk again soon, I hope.”
Rodger then walked off his self-created stage and out of the room through the same side
door from which he entered.
Aaron, standing near the back but seeing, hearing everything but forbidden to talk photos
as he was want to do, watched as half a dozen people — men and women — walked among the
crowd with trays of small, fluted glasses filled with the Porto Branco.