An Interview with Jahvoy
Section I: Episode 13
October 13, 2014
"It's frustrating," Galavar said, "that we can't simply ask Sourros what he meant and expect a clear answer."
"I think of Sourros as a great teacher," the River replied, his voice still breathy from the awe of his story. "The status of 'God' is not just a role, or an office. It is not something a mate could step into. It is another kind of life entirely, above us. We must accept that sometimes our failure to comprehend the word of God is a testament to our own ignorance, and not any fault of the words, or he who utters them. We are the students of Sourros—closest to him among all the Kindred, most probably aye, but students still. One of the hardest challenges that a teacher faces is the education of entirely new concepts, outside of the student's present understanding."
"What do you mean?"
"It is the idea of history rather than dates and names. It is the idea of mathematics rather than quantities and operations. And how do such fundamental concepts arise? They must suffuse us, often taking many years, beginning with simple rote and play and mimicry, steadily growing into an abundance of individual pieces of information, which then, finally, coalesce in our minds to something greater.
"And that may be what Sourros has in mind for us tonight. If we do not understand his words already, then this was likely some part of his intention."
"But what could be so hard to explain?" Ornithate asked. "Ieik treasures its scholars, and we have many of them. Surely, together, we could understand any idea."
"Surely not," Jahvoy countered. "Think of the Empire, reviled outside its borders. Surely there are one or two wise people among the nations. Surely they have had the opportunity to understand their mistake. Yet the hatred persists. Perhaps Sourros was trying to tell us something that we would not easily understand, even though we are a village of mates who aspire to be wise.
"Consider the question, 'How can I be satisfied in life?' What do you think is the answer to that?"
Galavar and Ornithate exchanged glances, but Jahvoy continued before either could speak.
"It varies between mates, of course. What's fascinating is, supposing you knew it, you could literally and plainly tell a person the answer that pertains specifically to them…and in doing so probably achieve nothing. That's because with harder lessons the recitation of the details is insufficient. Such details must be understood and applied. This entails creating new concepts in our minds, and then changing our behavior in accordance with them. To guide someone in this is one of the hardest tasks in teaching.
"I consider it a logical assumption that Sourros knows exactly what he intended to tell us, and that he told it to us in a way most suited for our eventually understanding and applying it. Had he spoken to us more directly, perhaps it would have been misleading."
"What does that mean?" Galavar asked. "How could being direct be misleading?"
"It's easy to draw the wrong conclusions from answers if we don't understand the concepts that go into them."
"In that case," said Ornithate, "why couldn't Sourros just tell us the comprehensive answer?"
"It is a different thing to dictate thoroughly than it is to teach."
"Are you saying that it is out of Sourros' power to teach us?" Ornithate seemed dissatisfied with that.
"Or are you saying," added Galavar, "that it is out of our power to be taught?" He found such a notion revolting.
"I am not saying either of those things. Nor am I gainsaying them. I do not know either way. I might speculate that there are some things Sourros cannot do—and, if so, then surely there are some things we cannot do. But here, I am saying that perhaps we have something to learn that is not best taught by straightforwardly telling it to us."
"Then it is deeds after all," said Galavar.
"I expect so. I think we have some experiences ahead of us. What those may be, I couldn't suppose. The task presently before us is therefore to determine the next step."
Now Jahvoy's expression changed, and the whole tone of his voice. No longer was he speaking with them, but to them, and all the layers between them fell into place.
"You two are developing fine minds," he said. "Many adults, let alone adolescents, have trouble with speculative analysis. You honor your teachers, our village, and me, to converse so fluently…and, distinctly, you honor yourselves.
"Now let me anticipate the obvious question. I don't know what the next step is. But trust in Sourros to trust in you. As you are the ones who brought such a fine question before God, I encourage you to determine the next step for yourselves. Consider it an additive to your curriculum in the coming year. I will apprise your teachers, and they will check on your progress."
"You mean…we have to find the answer?" said Galavar.
"I would like for you to do so."
"Is it going to be a part of our grade?"
"Only the diligence of your effort. The answer itself, let it come in its own time."
"What about you?" Ornithate asked.
"I'll explore Sourros' words in the best interests of our tribe. And if you would like to speak with me again about this, do come. Just ask my seneschal for an appointment."
"Before bothering your seneschal, do you have any thoughts on this, River?"
That had come from Ornithate, and Jahvoy looked at her, impressed.
"As I chew on my thoughts," he answered, "I can think of at least two plausible possibilities for the meaning of Sourros' words—which I caution you not to conflate with the next step I have asked you to determine.
"The first possibility is that his words may be a prophecy—perhaps for our own eventual use, and perhaps not. I have at my command a knowledge of Sourros' remarks from the millennia, written down and interpreted over all that time. What I conjecture here is consistent with Sourros' way, for, as the great teacher that I see him to be, the lessons he bequeaths to us are sometimes generations in the making. In the past, many of his lessons were fairly simple, and people failed to understand them purely because they were not the ones for whom the lesson was intended. To wit, it was Sourros, himself, who set in motion the changes which eventually led to the restoration of the Panathar Empire, and in turn it was the Empire that reforged Civilization in Relance. To this very age, wherever Sourros does not hold ultimate sway, there is conflict and division.
"But my favorite example is that Sourros long ago set the peoples of the Medity Coast on the path to using yerilweed medicinally, as a simple tranquilizer. That was over three hundred years before the Plague of the Millions, and it was there on the Medity Coast that the plague was stopped. Many scholars agree that, had this treatment not been discovered, Civilization would have fallen yet again.
"One might dismiss this as coincidence, but only until Sourros' own words are recalled, as it is written in The Chronicle of the Salt Kings of Medity:
Cultivate a little now, and ease your suffering. With this plant, the sleep you could not achieve will become the deep dreams of night. You will sleep deeply, and you will dream of great fields of flowers along the shores of the Empire. Then, in your illness, you will dream of a mighty fish, disgorged upon the land to cause great torment. But in your dreams you will ensnare the fish, and return it to the sea, and awaken to a peaceful and dream-wrought day.
"That was centuries before the Plague of the Millions, and at the time the people of the Medity Coast took it for a parable. But, all those generations later, a great and unnatural storm caused millions of terkfish to die on the shores of the Imperial coast, day after day, for an entire season.
"Terkfish are very colorful, and there are accounts from the early days of the die-offs that the beaches and headlands looked like fields of flowers. Those fish were also the carriers of the terk fever, and the instigators of the plague that followed.
"It was only when a thoughtful scholar from the Kingdom of Talismete specifically recalled Sourros' words about the yerilweed dreams that the idea came to try yerilweed to treat against the plague.
"A simple lesson, you see," said Jahvoy, "but one that the people who actually heard Sourros' words could never have learned. Yet, in time, it became clear.
"The other possibility that occurs to me is that Sourros has something even greater in mind than prophecy, that he truly is trying to teach us—specifically us—something new. I want for this to be true, and I can imagine that in his words I see how his meaning pertains specifically to us. But I am aware of my desire, and my susceptibility to bias, and I will resist drawing any conclusions tonight.
"May you do likewise, and speculate thoroughly on these possibilities and formulate others. The 'next step' that I encourage you to resolve…let it pertain at first to the two of you, and not necessarily to all of Ieik.
"But for now," he said, "go back to your friends, and enjoy yourselves. The fireworks will begin soon. There will be time for contemplation tomorrow and in the seasons ahead. Tonight, all of Ieik is called upon to bring this feast to its height."
The River smiled at them, and rose to his feet, the two teenagers following suit. From the warmth of their seats, the chill of the cold desert night caught them all. Jahvoy gestured out at Ieik below them, the festival in full swing.
"What's something that satisfies you about life, Galavar?"
He thought it over. "I love the view here."
"Well, no. I love the view in many places around the village."
This one took Galavar longer. He thought he knew the answer, but the words wouldn't come. And as Koro might say, that suggested he didn't know the answer after all. But he wasn't one to give up without trying.
"A good view kindles my imagination."
"Well said," was Jahvoy's only reply. "What about you, Ornithate?"
She had no such hesitation. She looked out at the festival grounds and searched until she found a bright circle of spinning lamps, then pointed to it.
"The carousel. I've ridden it every year since I was small, and I always look forward to it. I'd really like to paint the horses."
"What will you do to fulfill that ambition?"
"Galavar suggested that I might simply ask the carousels master." She turned to Jahvoy. "I think it's a good idea."
"So do I."
Then the River raised his hand in the most respectful of valedictions.
"One more thing," Jahvoy told them. "You children don't realize how fortunate you are. The ambition of Ieik is to question all things, and grow in wisdom thereby. In most nations you would be clubbed on the teeth for questioning the word of God, or any of the Gods, or those who claim to speak for the Gods. In those unfortunate lands, I am led to understand that the Gods' answers are given altogether as freely as they are given here. Yet there is none but a few fit to understand them."
O day and night, but this is wondrous strange!