The Republic of Letters (Ten Years Hence)

The Republic of Letters (Ten Years Hence)

Postby Glenn » Sat Aug 03, 2019 9:22 am

Sylvius,

I send this to Darkenhold. As such, you may not receive it. That would suit me. I have purposefully not kept up on happenings in Myrken Wood so that I did not intervene prematurely. It is still premature, but life has pushed me further, sooner.

Know that I could reach you if I truly desired to. Know also that the means for me reaching you would be both whimsical and insufferable to you. You would appreciate it as you suffered it and the knowledge that you were found if you did not want to be. Moreover, you would appreciate the contradiction therein. Of course you would.

This aggravates me in a way that many other things do not. At no point previous in my past do I think I would actually admit that to you, but here we are now, both of us, at the end of so much. Different challenges, different losses, different incapacitations, and it is best we do not compare. While I would be loathe to suggest areas where I am your better (honestly; not to think, necessarily, or to ponder, for I am but human and one who was both forced and fortunate to play second to you in a great many things during a formative time, through no fault of your own), I believe you to be one to look backwards in melancholy far more so than I.

I understand the notion, but I have come to see little value in it. Again, I do not wish to compare losses, but mine are incalculable to the point of incomprehension. It is not a person or a thing or a memory or a time that lays behind me, but instead an entirely different state of being. It is simply not productive. If I am haunted, it is by pressures, external and internal, not of my making (but of course entirely of my making, just neither of my intention nor my own Power.

I imagine you'll have found this diverting so far. I intend to return to Myrken. I have plans. They are of a more indirectly sort than those you would have previously seen out of me, ones involving industry and negotiation with those who need us as much as we need them, which is a rare state for both humans in general and Myrken Wood in specific. I possess such bias, such categories of bias, some stemming from loss, some from affliction, some from affection, some from desperation.

I do not expect, or even hope, for you to be a check upon me. Your past maladies and aforementioned melancholy have kept you from being a force for good or ill in Myrken Wood; were you to be such a force, we both know it would not be here. I have nowhere else but Myrken, and I say this on the road back from Razasan with all of its distractions and splendors (though I have found my own distractions, both splendid and glamorous, which is part of the issue at play).

I ask only for one (1) conversation, where you may exasperate me and be exasperated by me, where artificial limits, ones tempered by previous experience more than a lack of faith in your process, my capacity for understanding and enlightenment, or your abilities, will drive our mutual impatience.

At the end, if it is still worth anything to you, I will tell you of my conversations with Farzah, now many years back. I am not one to seek assistance empty handed.

In good faith,
Glenn Burnie
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Re: The Republic of Letters (Ten Years Hence)

Postby Duquesne » Sun Aug 04, 2019 4:56 am

Glenn,

We modern things are not unlike our ancient progenitors – we are beset by an ancestral instinct to hunt, locate, and feed on that bit of victory, be it a bloody supper, a rare tome, or a man who may wish not to be found. Yet finding what few others can is particular work. An art. The shelves of Darkenhold’s library bear witness.

Some of this whimsy you describe does entertain me. Its relationship to that insufferableness or appreciation of contradiction I might expect were you to suddenly appear here must wait to be fulfilled, for on this occasion it is your penmanship, your thought, that faces me now and not your physical self. Nevertheless, you have – even indirectly – gotten me where I may not intend to be found, if indeed I am willfully choosing discretion. Understand, I am not.

“But here we are now,” you wrote, “at the end of so much.” And here we are at the very beginning of more.

Comparison cannot be drawn between our challenges, our losses, you also wrote. On this we agree.

For such manner of discourse – any weighing of balances, from incalculable and incomprehensible losses to maladies, melancholy, detachment from the good or ill of Myrken, or any such personal subject – cannot be sound talk for our like. Certainly not when dire Circumstance has come and gone and Time with it. Perhaps we understand each other less than we ever did, if we ever truly did, so much having elapsed in our respective lives – too much to account. It is clear to me neither of us are what we were, yet it is apparent we are just the same as we were despite all.

A single conversation is what you seek? Perhaps it is already begun in earnest, for exasperation of the order you described commenced with your closing lines. That early whimsy fast fades under the implication of your – unsanctioned – dialogue with my prisoner.

We will speak of Farazh, yes, at the end of this. With respect for you, and for the swordswoman who was or is still perhaps your teacher, I will take care to withhold judgment of your intentions in that matter until we can meet. Some stories are best told eye to eye.

Tell me, then, where do you wish to begin our conversation?

S. Duquesne
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Re: The Republic of Letters (Ten Years Hence)

Postby Glenn » Wed Aug 07, 2019 5:39 am

Sylvius,

There are more laborious letters ahead of me, ones to Aloisius, to Gloria Wynsee. Even with a vague undertone of dread or retribution that seems to dance with your whimsy (and for good reason; it may come up later in this letter and it may not), writing you remains far more pleasant than those. The latter is of particular strain. Have you experienced this situation before:

There is someone who would be of use to your plans, someone that they would be of use to, someone you wish to convince. Your intentions are good. Her intentions are good. Perhaps those plans are not fully formulated and she would be an aid in honing them. On the other hand, if not convinced, or if you are only able to convince by contorting those plans in a shape that would be good for her but not for others, she would oppose. The more you tell her, the more dangerous she would be, good intentions or no. It no longer becomes about the independent merit of the plans themselves, but a more complicated calculus. You must give enough but not too much. You must change enough but not too much. In the end, it's best to seek aid elsewhere, but the door has been opened and the genie escaped.

I've reached a point in my life where I make a metaphor, turn a phrase, and have to double back and clarify that it not a literal genie that has escaped. That's half the concern in and of itself. Djinn. That's what they'd be called in 'r Chyr'laud, no? Is there a difference or is it just a matter of translation?

It'd the wrong folklore, anyway. Too early for the right. It's best that comes after our talk of your unsanctioned prisoner (I found you, but did I misplace a word?).

Allow me to straddle the matter and be boorish at the same time: have you ever encountered a matriarchy? Is the difference one of nature or nurture, do you think? They birth children. Our leaders do not. Does that make them value life more? Is that what matters or is it something else, something secondary fostered over time? It needen't be a matriarchy. It can be a race of near-immortals relative to we short-lived humans.

Our mortality. You've faced it directly. Is it our strength? We grow and change. We face adversity. Everything is hard. Everything is capricious. One bad harvest, one bad storm, one errant animal, the wind blowing the wrong way, sickness in the air. We do not have great powers and endless chances. All we have is each other. Numbers and breeding. Short lives where mistakes inform the next generation. Having only one chance means we must learn from those who came before us. We must learn to choose differently, to take different risks. Do we, though? Do we have the freedom to keep note or are we so oppressed that we can never stop long enough to reflect and so beleaguered that we cannot muster the will to make the effort? Not as a people. Why isn't it a better than it is and how can we make it so?

I do not, anymore, think we can do it alone. I also think it can take generations, but that we must also provide succor for those who will build the road, those who suffer now.

If you know nothing else about myself, about those things that have changed and those that remain, know that I still intend this, even after my mistakes.

Whatever I have learned, it was not in opposition to this aim.

Glenn
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Re: The Republic of Letters (Ten Years Hence)

Postby Duquesne » Thu Aug 08, 2019 8:58 am

Glenn,

The situation you describe I have experienced, in the past. Variously. Navigating those waters must be among the greatest challenges, for no foothold seems secure for long; no negotiation seems anything less than slippery and perilous. Whether outcomes are dangerous or beneficial or some combination of both, this might be the only surety: If you must convince, your integrity and a great measure of patience will serve you.

Djinn, I am familiar. In the ‘r Chyr’laud language, we might call them 'cythreuliaid,' devils, or perhaps 'ysbrydion,' spirits. Yet I think these words may not possess the same value as 'djinn' as we understand it.

I may not speak easily of near-immortals, demigods, but I can say only that the method of governance I observed from the ‘r Chyr’laud matriarchate from boyhood to adulthood was not much removed from the methods of today’s more prevalent patriarchies. My observation has been that the perspective of women in leadership can be as diverse as that of men, that a woman who rules, whether an empire or a household, may be as beneficent or tyrannical as a man with the same power. It may not be a question of nature or nurture in opposition, no ‘either/or,’ nor a question of innate maternal values as opposed to paternal ones; some men can value life at greater levels than some women. In general terms, there may be no real division that separates them in practice, leaving us with only the immense potential for variation among individuals. As you wrote, humans do not have endless chances, only short lives, numbers and breeding, and yes, one another. Regardless of sex, our most fundamental priorities as human animals – we are arguably animals by nature – hinge upon longevity, the carrying on of legacies, and gain, among other things. This is not to suggest we are slaves to procreation and acquisition, but I indicate we inherit certain basic functions when we are conceived and are – despite the higher aspirations generated by our intelligence as a species – at the mercy of our instincts still. Instincts that are heavily disguised by the more advanced capabilities of our cognitive minds, a fact that leads to a great deal of confusion regarding social and personal outcomes.

But such musings do not answer your questions simply and with any satisfying result. My experiences of culture and government and race and gender have been so various as to leave me without useful definition, other than to say that generalizations are inadequate when it comes to understanding people on an individual basis. I will consider it further and perhaps look for a chance at elaboration.

You are right, we must learn from our predecessors, our histories, and learn to cultivate more efficient or more effective practices. “Better Days,” as Ariane has said. But as generations overlap and as power is slow to change or slow to change hands, change itself for the better occurs at a glacier’s pace, slow and cumbersome and over-burdened with erratics, or relics, encased therein. Meanwhile, it seems change for the worse comes rapidly and is more difficult to repair. The young possess energy enough to drive revolutions; the old are weary, having had revolutions enough and resist change. Is the question then why we cannot find a means of being a people – together, as one, regardless of incredible difference of age, of culture and opinion and nationality and more? despite our place in time and space? What obscures the path to the betterment of culture and the betterment of individuals in a place like Myrken and its surrounds, in a place like Lanesse and the sands of the ‘r Chyr’laud – where many foreign and native wants compete, where no middle ground can be cultivated for long?

And you are right to believe we cannot move these mountains alone. I tried and failed time and again, challenging oppression but inflicting it in the same token, rising to the defense of one people only to condemn another. I am indeed the one to look back with solemnity on my past, on what I have done there. Foolish youth.

Islands, we are not, but islands we have been.

Why is it not better than it is and how can we make it so? You ask questions that are themselves immortal, questions more ancient than any society now in existence. Questions that are, I suspect, rooted in the fiber of human consciousness, ones we cannot help but ask.

How can things be made better in practice? States of equality, perhaps; the absence or mitigation of ambivalence. If we might speak in terms of governance, such conditions could promote individuals with merit and honor, those agreeing to serve and preserve a stable central authority founded on basic principles that all individuals of a society, foreign or otherwise, can agree upon. Agreeing, also and most importantly, to lay down personal intent and admit that reform in the genuine interest of all constituencies involved is both dependent upon the cultivation of individual integrity and collaborative in nature. What do all peoples desire? Security, prosperity, health, opportunity, trust, freedom, ownership, kinship. The list of universals is not lengthy, not as some suspect. Perhaps this is idealism; perhaps it is foolish of me, considering my past, to believe such an authority can thrive. Yet I have seen it function and endure elsewhere and know that if others are capable, so too are we.

I believe you when you say you are not in opposition to those aims you outlined, despite the courses of your life so far, those both chosen and inflicted. I believe it because I have lived the dichotomy, have stooped my shoulders to carry its burden, and know what it is to be diverted from noble intention into far muddier waters. It is the semblance of a state I know well. Do not mistake this for comparison. It is recognition.

As for mortality, I cannot say it is our strength. Yet I have peered into the eyes of immortality in the most unexpected circumstances and did not find wondrous advantage there, only more complexity, more burden on the order of tens of thousands of years. Mortality and immortality are matters of time and all that we strive for in life is a race for or against it, while it remains unremitting and insensate of our cares. Lately, my solution – or rather my experiment – for this troublesome issue has been a study of simplicity.

Given our short lives, I wonder if we might not make greater change if we daily consider that adversity consumes our time with fathomless appetite and that to accomplish anything of import in a short span we must meditate on the simplification of all pursuit. A complex choice demanding great effort might be exchanged for a simple choice with less time lost in the end. We do have the freedom to keep note, to choose differently, to choose different gambles. Oppression, while it may be inflicted either from within by one’s own self or without by some external force, is also a condition of the individual mind. People endure it by failing to observe its power; others reject its conditioning by choosing to view it as an artifact of consciousness, something happening to them, not as something innate or inevitable. An “extrinsic” agent, as Farazh once explained. But as I have been so beleaguered in former days, I also understand that drumming the will to change one’s mind in the midst of heavy oppression, whatever its origin, can be orders of magnitude more difficult than the mere articulation of language used to describe such things. It is therefore crucial that we not forget what it is like to be in this state, that we can return easily to it without taking care, and that if we do forget unwanted discord can occur between ourselves and those we hope to convince, or those who yet suffer their yoke.

Despite the exasperation expressed in my previous letter, if your writing to me in these terms is more favorable than the lettering ahead of you, and if I am the lesser of your concerns at this hour, then I am content in the present.

S. Duquesne
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Re: The Republic of Letters (Ten Years Hence)

Postby Glenn » Mon Aug 12, 2019 1:51 pm

Sylvius,

We are all but conditioned creatures in the end. Life has taught us a certain way to be and we respond accordingly. Sometimes this is warped through the lens of our own perception, of course. It always helps when we are provided suitable context by those around us. In this case, know this: I wrote as a man conditioned not to expect a response. Even in my response to your response.

Yet respond you had and now we must face it headlong.

Patience, you say. This is not quite as foreign a word to me as your cythreuliad (and why so long a word for so primal a concept? Do they think that the effort alone will serve as some sort of deterrent?). It is both harder and easier than it once was. Of he many things I have lost, time is one, and this at my own hand, or through my own weakness, at least. Not just, I suppose, but a few months in the labyrinth of Golben should be less of a black mark than three years hidden away in Razasan.

How much did she tell you? Do you know what my lessons cost? Discretion. I imagine she was far less discreet with you (not that she was with me, only that she expected it), but then you were more distant. I saw such things and I do think, you are right to a degree, as it does go back to condition and external stimuli. We are driven by the world around us. If we come from an environment of cruelty, we will develop accordingly. If it is somehow systemic over generations, then it will create a loop of sorts. It is appealing to think nature has no hand in it. That gives us a sort of freedom, if only we can experience enough things, learn enough, grow to a sufficient extent to escape our past. But then you see us dragged us down with our instincts, our base needs.

I am tempted not to generalize as well, but to take each person, each being as not a thing but instead a living, breathing entity. This is a very Myrken notion, I think, though one driven more out of necessity than largess. A broad, wholesale sort of hate is a luxury in and of itself. That said, we, without magic, with only human strength, with our lifespans, have few true protections; of these, one of the most potent is that of classification, organization. We can find commonalities, find patterns, start to make the unknown evident and bring illumination to the darkness.

You said so much more, and I do appreciate it. I read every word and some multiple times. I consider myself fortunate to have caught your attention, at least for now and only regret that we could not have begun this conversation earlier and, of course that we might continue it in days to come.

Your missive does seem at odds with the ideology you share with me: simplicity. That, in and of itself, is not enough to make me doubt you, but doubt you still I do. To answer every small slight and injustice with a tiny, achievable, beneficial deed or justice? It's not enough. It does not balance the scales. You cannot believe it so. There is some value in the idea that doing some small good is better than overreaching and failing to do any good at all, but what you note is the barest of survival. It is surrender. If that is the best we can do as a people, then we deserve the oppression of death, sorcery and pestilence.

Simplicity is yet another luxury we cannot afford.

Glenn
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Re: The Republic of Letters (Ten Years Hence)

Postby Duquesne » Wed Aug 14, 2019 6:21 am

Glenn,

Permit me to clarify myself regarding simplicity. I feel it important, though in writing of it I may not address each of the points in your latest that I wish to, and may also make this letter longer than it needs to be.

I do not suggest, in any shape or form, that simplicity should be treated as an alternative to action, justice, or valor, nor that it can balance scales of social and moral injustices through meager acts of good will. It cannot accomplish these of its own merit.

It can, however, promote the well-being of those who command it. It can bring a cluttered or bewildered mind to focus. It can reduce the complex proceedings of political endeavor.

As you described it in the latter paragraph of your letter, in response to my overt musing, alas, simplicity does look like the barest form of survival—it does look like surrender. This connotation is not intended. You see, I cannot abide surrender in itself, alone without some nobler motive attached. As a tool, as a useful ruse in a binding situation, it is not without its worth, but only under constraint, only when surrender is the smartest and quickest route to the next point of one’s broader plan. Then we might call it something else—a maneuver, perhaps. Having both studied the confinement of prisons, you and I, prisons comprised of dank walls and steel bars, or prisons most metaphysical and terrible, I suspect we are like-minded on the subject of surrender. We do not take it lightly, not by any measure.

The simplification I wish to impress on you relates to the very protections you outlined: classification, organization, commonalities, patterns. These are methods of order, of acquiring and maintaining it. And it is order that lies at the heart of what I desire for us, Glenn, for all of us.

To carve order from a wilderness, this is a core of human pursuit. It is one face of a coin; on the other face lies chaos. Whether our pursuits in life are great or small, order and disorder are binary, in constant flux one with the other. Without tools by which we may mitigate these tides, we are trapped between forces beyond our control. In your sage words, we are dragged down with our instincts and base needs.

And what we create, we later abandon. History, whether inked on parchment, spoken at the fireside, or buried in the layers of earth we tread, shows us this is innate behavior. It cannot be changed, only calmed so that the peaks and valleys of our experience are not so drastic, not reduced to mere wastelands. It is smooth and rolling hills I imagine instead.

To be mindful of our acquisitions and wastes—mindful as a near constant state of being—is to toe the line between order and chaos. A simplification of one’s life can bring calm, if only for relative spans, to the front of this very human combat, and can offer us opportunities to peel back the margins of our terrestrial and mortal plane long enough to supersede the detritus of personal and collective histories.

There, I think, in that white space we can realize the most fundamental elements of well-being as individuals and as societies, where we can alter what we do and what we value at an essential level; at the level of foundations. I use an architect’s words here, unavoidably. We prepare the ground before the foundation, but first, before all, we choose the right ground. Bedrock, one of Ariane’s favored words, is what we seek. Simple bedrock for the complex structure to come.

Simplicity need not be classified as luxury, not that which only the privileged may enjoy—it may be the very root of our experience, accessible by all.

I philosophize. You know this of me—you know that, while it has its uses, this is a maddening trait. Even I find it maddening. Be assured, I am with you in your thinking: It is not enough to envision, not enough to merely survive. It is not enough to merely speculate without purpose. So let us speak of Myrken Wood a moment, if we are to speak of such things. I wish to know your thoughts, if only some.

Lately, I have learned leadership is scattered here and though I have not yet ventured out on tour, having barely arrived, I can imagine from previous experiences the effects this has caused the community, its industry and economy, its health and well-being. In your mind, what does a Myrken look like rebuilt and re-ordered? What elements of this rebuilt society matter most, above all other concerns?

What, in your view, is the first step in repairing this disorder?

Your teacher, she was ever careful of the details she shared with me. She spoke of your lessons together, of some interaction and conversation that I might answer those questions ever brewing in her sharp mind, but never did she betray your confidence by divulging overmuch. Discretion, yes. Discretion and honor. I have long admired her command of these things.

I too regret that we did not begin our letters earlier. I regret not seeking your company in past years, whether directly or by letter. When I returned from my unfortunate attempts at undoing the devastation Farazh’s actions began, I was hollow and distressed by what I had seen and, crucially, by what I had done. Many of those sacrifices were unnecessary and to this day I am unsure I performed any greater good by way of them. Lanessian histories will be my ultimate judge. Regardless, know that in future days, you can expect me to respond, and if you do not receive word, it will not be by choice or, perhaps, because I am dead. Even then, word of that will reach you and you will know.

Time we have lost and by our own doing, indeed, yet we are fortunate to be given another chance. How shall we use it best in the time we have left?

S. Duquesne
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