Section I: Episode 22
December 21, 2014
From out the Bore of the Fateful Well arose a stream of glittering light, gold and blue. It wasn't straight; it curved and bended around, spiraling and looping, twisting back upon itself—not with any orderly pattern but sheer caprice, achieving the appearance of a peculiar tree, playing all by itself the parts of the various boughs and limbs, before defocusing into a crown of pleasant white haze.
The Service of Recitations was already underway as Galavar and his friends arrived at the top of the amphitheater. They heard the voice of the lector booming off the rocks, and well over a thousand people had already gathered in assembly. Most were dressed in the same colorless finery as Galavar wore. White and black alone together represented clarity, one of the highest virtues among the Ieikili, and its pursuit one of the highest ambitions. On the Day of the Dawn, clarity was considered paramount.
Shuffling together with other new arrivals, they descended a good length of the way down, the rest of the world slowly disappearing below the ridges of the Fateful Well, down below the line of the sun, down into cold shadow, leaving only the clear sky overhead. There they found accommodation, and sat upon the jellant stone, bleeding warmth from their rears. The bleachers were carved into the relance itself; its reservoir of cold was endless. And cushions were not allowed in the Fateful Well. Galavar had always thought that daft, but he conceded that, eventually, one would acclimate; no doubt such was the purpose.
At the base of the amphitheater, just ahead of the Bore, was the torzaykeos. Seven mates garbed in heavy robes stood there, and behind them, against the balustrade, stood Jahvoy, the River, and Surgesten, the High Cantor, who would lead the assembly in song. Their tiny bodies gave proportion to the stream of light as it surged in silence behind them, twice as wide across as the two mates were tall.
The berobed ones were the lectors. Every year the town chose seven of them for Recitations. Their robes were very heavy and almost all white, but for clean lines of black forming patterns of letters across the torso and sleeves. The current speaker stood leftmost of the other six, which meant that Galavar and his friends had not missed any of the lectures besides this one.
"I thought we were later than that," he whispered to Agram, who hushed him immediately. He looked over at Miatysacis instead, who shrugged.
"Long speech, probably," said Boon.
The lector continued:
"How many people have stood where I have stood, wondering whether capturing ideals will make ugly rote of their precious will? How many times in the pursuit of absolute truth have seemingly wise people doubted themselves when faced with the possibility of knowing that truth? Who among us has said, 'If I were freed from my ignorance, every decision would be no decision at all'?
"All our lives we seek to become enlightened, and yet the Enlightened speak with certainty—even if they use it to proclaim their ignorance. Surely their words are not inherently wrong. Does this mean their minds are flawlessly closed instead? 'No!' we cry. 'Not that!' Surely there must be something above that, just as the hubris of fools is a horrible perversion of the confidence of sages. But what?
"It would seem that closedness is the perversion of something better…and the only thing that could possibly be better than an open mind, is a mind without ignorance…an all-knowing intellect that would still be capable of openness if some cosmic external truth were to emerge. A closed mind would thus be a perversion of pansophy, the subjective form of omniscience.
"But the question of personality remains, in a more insidious form. No one is perfect, no one is all-knowing, and yet the Enlightened still speak with certainty. Are they wrong after all? Does not every speculative insight point to a mature personality as the thief of an unlocked, unbarred, open mind? For, rather than robbing the mind, a maturing personality would seem to rob the openness itself. How perfect a crime, to steal something without ever touching it…to destroy uncertainty by filling it up with convictions. Is personality wrong, and a mature personality a riper form of wrong?"
Miatysacis shook her head, leaned over to Galavar, and whispered, "What is she talking about?"
Galavar was so tempted to answer as the philosophaster, yet against such compulsion he resisted.
"I don't know."
"Yet," chided Agram.
Boon said, "Give me an hour and a bottle of wine, and I'll explain it."
The lector continued:
"Is it true that for each right choice there is an infinitude of wrong alternatives? Are wrong choices chosen only out of necessity or ignorance? Could God make a wrong choice? Now we have two problems: The imperfect mature personality, and the mythical 'perfect' one.
"Closed-mindedness is a very comfortable prison. Open-mindedness is a prison too, but one where all the boundaries are farther away than we can ever hope to see. All the universe is ultimately a prison, and Kindred nature, being what it is, is to wonder whether prison might not be the wrong word.
"Does Illumination reveal our deepest shame, being that sapient will is only a figure of speech in the language of cosmic realism? If personality is the taint of perspective upon the light of Illumination, and one then extends the metaphor to imply that a mature personality casts a very distinct taint, then is it not the sad truth that pansophy, being howsoever less repugnant, is still just as harrowing an accomplishment as closed-mindedness?
"Perhaps not. You might note that I still haven't gotten to the thesis with which I began. The inverse of personality is impressionability. The absence of personality is a void. As we mature in personality, not only do we move away from the void, but we diminish in impressionability as well. The uncommon converse of this gradual fact of life is when our convictions are shaken, typically by some traumatic event or moment of epiphany, at which our personality retreats very suddenly, and impressionability is left in its place.
"'She who is certain, is certainly wrong.' That's a maxim I made up just now, but which no doubt has been spoken many times before. The point is that, excepting anyone with a perfect personality, whose taint of perspective would be transparent to the light of Illumination, we are all flawed, and thus prohibited from possessing certainty…and yet certainty is what personality is all about. For instance, I value honor. That is a certainty. I value open-mindedness, which is also a certainty even though the conviction itself is a special case where the object of the conviction is antithetical to the notion of certainty that sustains it. How can it not be that personality engenders a closed mind?"
The lector paused and called for a drink of water, whereupon murmurs of discussion erupted throughout the assembly.
"She has lost me," Miatysacis said.
"I think she's having diarrhea of the mouth," said Agram.
"No," Galavar answered, "it's beginning to make sense."
"How do you figure?"
"Eh…it's hard to explain." He clawed at his words. "I think she's saying that certainty, and personality, even though they can lead to a closed mind, don't necessarily do, and that both are actually necessary for Illumination."
"I'll still take that bottle of wine," said Boon.
The lector raised her arms, silencing the assembly, and continued her speech:
"At this point, I must admit to playing a trick on you. This debate is your debate. It is the necessary conditioning for anyone who wishes to understand what I am about to say:
"Personality is indeed a taint on the light of Illumination. However, personality is also the only essence within us that is sensitive to that light in the first place. Without personality, there can be no Illumination. It is our certainties that bind to the absolute truth, howsoever twisted these certainties are…even to the point that a dark personality blocks out most light and twists the rest beyond any semblance of reason, no matter how elegant the personality itself may be. Be that as it may, truth is the particle of Illumination, for Illumination consists of knowledge, awareness, and understanding—these three things each vital and distinct…the object of truth, the condition of truth, and the action of truth. Yes, Illumination is more than truth while being entirely comprised of truth, just as the cosmos is more than particles while being entirely comprised of particles. We call that holism.
"The point, then:
"A mature personality may not be Illuminated, but an Illuminated personality is always mature.
"So, it takes a personality to achieve Illumination…and the riper the better. But doesn't Illumination, the freedom from ignorance, still narrow our decisions into no decision at all? As I speculated before, wouldn't the development of opaque personalities lead to closed-mindedness, and the transparent ones to the mortal derivative of pansophy, which I will call sapience? In that sense, a mature, opaque personality would indeed lead to closed-mindedness…except for one problem: Semantics. How can an opaque personality possibly be mature?
"Ah, yes. I have burst the bubble…for I have played a word game. I can feel your elation crash to the relance. Personalities can become very elaborate and very fat, but that does not make them…mature.
"So here is what we have:
"The absence of personality is nothingness, while its inverse is impressionability.
"Personality is our bond with the light of Illumination.
"A personality may grow to be very fleshy and intricate, but without the transparency of broadmindedness, it cannot be called mature.
"A personality opaque to the light of Illumination, as it develops, approaches closed-mindnedness. Opaque is another word for 'closed,' no coincidence.
"A personality very distinctly transparent to the light of Illumination will approach sapience as it matures, which is the mortal form of pansophy, which is the subjective form of omniscience.
"Ergo, a mature personality does not engender a closed mind…
"…and that is because a mature personality engenders the true form to which closedness is but a mockery…and because a personality that does lead to closedness is not mature. That's one part Ieikili wisdom, and one part Ieikili cunning.
"So where does all of this leave you? Perfectly free to do exactly what you know she want—if you are an Illuminated mate."
The lector fell silent at last, and the crowd resumed its chatter.
"If you're right, Galavar," Miatysacis said, "she took a long time to say it."
"That's what Recitations is about. Long ago we destroyed Civilization. It mustn't happen again, and we each must learn that for ourselves, in our own way. Every lector strives to share the underpinnings of their own personal epiphany with us, but it's up to us to make any use of it."
Boon laughed, in that soft, gleeful laugh of his.
"You give a lot of credit," he said. "I think maybe she was just trying to take up time."
O day and night, but this is wondrous strange!