Thorn of the Rose Issue 22: Sparking the Rose
What do you trust in names?
While Petal taught everyone equally, she let those who could move ahead on their own and then simply gave them guidance. When Thorn was 10 and had seen the Greenhouse grow over two summers, and Stem was 12, but had been there only a few months longer than Thorn, Petal pulled them aside. “I named both of you after famous Rosers,” she said. “I name kids after the dreams they might be able to achieve. Seems I might be right about you two, this time. Do you want to become a Roser for real?”
When they looked at each other, unsure, Petal plunged into her explanation. For to be a Roser was to also be a Spark—to pitch an idea that would help humanity out of this darker place. Energy was limited as coal and oil became rarer and rarer, the crushed bones of the past mined to extinction. Sun, wind, and water became the holy grails, sources for a new life-blood into the economy. Plastics and trash choked the oceans and landfills, creating dead zones where nothing could live. Stashes of potable water were shrinking, and few people lived in places that could claim to have enough water to slake the thirst of humans, plants, or rivers. As places grew hotter or where less rain fell, you could see the bathtub rings grow larger as reservoirs evaporated. In other places, more rain fell, but it fell in the wrong areas, carrying huge torrents of tainted water that destroyed everything in its path—including oil and gas fracking wells, swirling more and more chemicals into its toxic mix. Even the water that had fallen for millennia and was now trapped underground between unforgiving stones ran dry—wells either tapped out or were contaminated by plumes of pesticides and other chemicals needed to maintain the modern way of life.
To address these issues, Mark Devaillier, a video game designer, poured all of his funds into the MD Foundation, to be the doctor for the earth. Profits and Prophets, was the tagline for the Foundation. They encouraged ideas to cleanse the earth, feed the people, treat the water, and improve the net. “The internet is the safety net of humanity,” Mark was fond of saying. “Spark the net and you spark the entire world.” But fueling the Sparks required proving that humanity, proving your passion. So to enter a Spark for the MD Foundation, you also needed to show your passion in the only language developed to test your thoughts, to stretch your mind: the Rose language.
Thorn Rise N Shine, Petal explained, had been one of the first Rosers. She had figured out a way to recycle plastics into a 3-d printer ink—using some very basic materials. And thus many now made their living scavenging the plastic (for plastic never died) and creating the ink needed for these printers. Stem Victorian Beauty’s Spark was less dramatic—a new method to extract pharmaceuticals from wastewaster using clathrates. Even though this saved fish and others from ingesting human medications and becoming deformed, but the effects were not so exciting. She won the first Rose Essay with her explanation of why speed mattered within communication.
These, of course, Petal told them, were not the real names. Stem was the first to take an alias, and only the MD Foundation knew who she really was. She set the pattern for others who wanted to remain anonymous: a Portion of the rose as your first name and then a variety of a rose as your last name, your family name. If you wanted to band together with other Rosers, you simply had to choose the same family name. This identified you as a group. The aliases also helped protect you in real life, to guard your registered name and identity so that others could not ask you for the money you hoped to gain through the Foundation’s funding of your idea, nor for the jobs or other hopes that knowing you would bring. You were free to let people know your real life, registered identity, and many did, either entering the Spark Prize with their true names or revealing themselves later on—after they had succeeded.
Petal then gifted them with her last name, her rose variety: Peace, for the cream yellow peace rose that held orange and red fire at its tips. “You can do this,” she announced. “I’ll teach you. Even without the net, even from these old books”—and here she gestured to the library—paper books which she and Sister Mary Magdalene had painstakingly gathered from abandoned schools and libraries. “You can learn everything you need to know to spark your own ideas. And I’ll teach you how to think in Rose, how to expand your mind, so you can light fire to those Sparks.”