Carl sagan — contact. chapter 12 — the one-delta isomer

CHAPTER 12
The One-Delta Isomer

IT WAS a splendid autumn afternoon, so unseasonably warm that Devi Sukhavati had left her coat behind.

She and Ellie walked along the crowded Champs-Elysees toward the Place de la Concorde. The ethnic diversity was rivaled by London, Manhattan, and only a few other cities on the planet. Two women walking together, one in a skirt and sweater, the other in a sari, were in no way unusual.

Outside a tobacconist's there was a long, orderly, and polyglot line of people attracted by the first week of legalized sale of cured cannabis cigarettes from the United States. By French law they could not be sold to or consumed by those under eighteen years of age. Many in line were middle-aged and older. Some might have been naturalized Algerians or Moroccans. Especially potent varieties of cannabis were grown, mainly in California and Oregon, for the export trade. Featured here was a new and admired strain, which had in addition been grown in ultraviolet light, converting some of the inert cannabinoids into the 1? isomer. It was called “Sun-Kissed.” The package, illustrated in a window display a meter and a half high, bore in French the slogan “This will be deducted from your share in Paradise.”

The shop windows along the boulevard were a riot of color. The two women bought chestnuts from a street vendor and reveled in the taste and texture. For some reason, every time Ellie saw a sign advertising BNP, the Banque Nationale de Paris, she read it as the Russian word for beer, with the middle letter inverted left to right. BEER, the signs — lately corrupted from their usual and respectable fiduciary vocations — seemed to be exhorting her, RUSSIAN BEER. The incongruity amused her, and only with difficulty could she convince the part of her brain in charge of reading that this was the Latin, not the Cyrillic alphabet. Further on, they marveled at L'Obe1isque — an ancient military commemorative stolen at great expense to become a modern military commemorative. They decided to walk on.

Der Heer had broken the date, or at least that's what it amounted to. He had called her up this morning, apologetic but not desperately so. There were too many political issues being raised at the plenary session.

The Secretary of State was flying in tomorrow, interrupting a visit to Cuba. Der Heer's hands were full, and he hoped Ellie would understand. She understood. She hated herself for sleeping with him. To avoid an afternoon alone she had dialed Devi Sukhavati.

“One of the Sanskrit words for “vitorious” is abhijit. That's what Vega was called in ancient India. Abhijit.

It was under the influence of Vega that the Hindu divinities, our culture heroes, conquered the asuras, the gods of evil. Ellie, are you listening?… Now, it's a curious thing. In Persia there are asuras also, but in Persia the asuras were the gods of good. Eventually religions sprang up in which the chief god, the god of light, the Sun god, was called Ahura-Mazda. The Zoroastrians, for example, and the Mithraists. Ahura, Asura, it's the same name. There are still Zoroastrians today, and the Mithraists gave the early Christians a good fright. But in this same story, those Hindu divinities — they were mainly female, by the way — were called Devis. It's the origin of my own name. In India, the Devis are gods of good. In Persia, the Devis become gods of evil. Some scholars think this is where the English word “devil” ultimately comes from. The symmetry is complete.