This site has moved
The new URL is http://www.3500years.com
Musings of an immortal being
- Name: Zsallia Marieko
Saturday, April 17
This site has moved
Monday, December 8
There is no good way to bring anything to an end for any endeavor will always leave a gap, an emptiness, when it is concluded and put to rest. This journal is no exception. I noted before that I launched it in order to test the waters and that I had not found things entirely to my liking, but bringing this to an end is only somewhat related to that revelation. I did indeed desire to learn what reaction, if any, my existence might elicit and in that the results were almost universally encouraging; however, by its very nature this journal cannot provide me with a deeper understanding of what I could expect should I publicly proclaim my existence in a more direct fashion. The Internet is too fast-paced and far too ephemeral to provide me with the certainty I had sought. I believe I knew this going in, but as an incremental step it was most valuable.
What have I learned? Most cryptically I have learned that which I needed to learn. It has always been apparent to me that this little exercise had far more to do with me than with the outside world. The reflection upon my past, the episodes I chose to share, and perhaps more importantly those I have chosen not to share, all led me to a certain place within myself, an understanding that has likely always been there, but that I never once visited with any seriousness. Until now. I understand now that this chameleon’s life I have been living is a loser’s game. I always knew I was angry; that the need to pick up, let go and move on was the source of a bitterness that colored my relationships and robbed me of the happiness I felt I had a right to. This sometimes erupted in bouts of truly embarrassing self-pity, and sometimes in an almost pathological misanthropy.
To those readers who have found me an entertaining raconteur with perhaps a hidden softness inside I can only say that had I been less circumspect in the tales I chose to tell you may well have been disgusted, perhaps even horrified. Three and one half millennia afforded ample opportunity to fall in to monstrous depravity: my hands are stained with the blood of innocents.
That is not so easy to admit, here in this space. It has been my existence in this little digital arena that has led me to this. I have so many entertaining and informative tales to tell; glimpses in to lives past and cultures remembered only by graves and refuse. But I have found that the good tales are no longer so easy to tell. The weight of my sin grows heavier with each carefully crafted, carefully neutered tale I tell. The murder of Clayton was a glimpse of that darker portion of myself, but even that was chosen because it afforded me the cover of a somewhat moral act. I dealt out death because it felt good to do so, but perhaps he deserved it, so perhaps it was not so terrible a thing to do. I tried again, describing my eight-year murderous rampage through the streets of Ostia and Rome, but I seem incapable of finding the words to make the horror of what I was in those days clear. I lack the courage to face it squarely.
I am a moral coward.
All of this- this journal, my stories, and this confession: it all comes back to Jeremy. He understood me, both the good and the bad. In the end it was he who set me upon the path I walk today. After Clayton, after feeling the shame that act brought to my heart whenever I thought of Jeremy I came to believe I might be standing at the cusp, at the point of something momentous. The world had already plunged deep in to a whirlwind of change and I was caught up in it, blown upon the bitter storm. Just as Jeremy had predicted in those final days before he passed away. And in the end he betrayed me for my own good. I am still unsure as to whether to forgive him for that. Time will tell.
Now it all makes sense to me. I have now an understanding I had despaired of ever achieving. I know what I want to do. I know what I am going to do.
I am going home.
I am going to make my stand. Watch for me, those of you who are young enough. In thirty, or forty, or perhaps fifty years it will come out- the questions, the little tabloid stories, the speculations. Then some enterprising journalist will decide it is time to rip the top off the charade and will dig deep in to my past. I am looking forward to seeing the expression on his face when he comes to the inescapable conclusion.
Life should become terribly interesting at that point.
I remain faithfully yours,
Thursday, December 4
Money is an odd thing. It is such a measure of power or worth, yet it is intrinsically nothing, particularly in the present day western world. The possession of monetary wealth is nothing more than a representation upon a digital ledger in some bank computer, yet it confers so much upon those who control it.
I am wealthy by any reasonable standard one might care to apply; yet I am powerless. I own my fate, but nothing more. Do not misunderstand- I believe that to own one’s fate is a precious thing, and I remember when (oh-so-very recently) this was not so, and it was the accumulation of money that initially made this possible. Yet when I calculate the sum total of the wealth I either own or control, that value is meaningless to me. I do not feel powerful regardless of what the numbers imply. I cannot relate to that sort of thing- it is an innate failing on my part.
I understand that money affords me freedom to ignore certain restraints. My apartment, for instance- I pay about six thousand dollars a month to call it home. I do not love it, it has no true hold on my affections- it is simply convenient to the places I like to visit, and I enjoy the view. Due to my account balance I may avail myself of this convenience. Six thousand dollars might seem a great sum, but it is meaningless to me- all it represents is a short walk to the rail station and an ocean view. I know that these things are desirable and hence command a high price, but how can that price be paid in something that has no intrinsic value?
I remember the first time I was sold for a handful of coins rather than bartered for real things that could be touched and measured- it was the first time I felt shame at my place in the world. I did not understand money then, and I still fail to fully comprehend it now. I understand that I need it. I comprehend how to earn it through labor or create it through investment. I understand its nature as fuel to the engines of capitalism, but when I attempt to put that knowledge in to some concrete form, to make it real, make it visceral so that I can feel the truth of it as I do other things, I fail.
I am sufficiently knowledgeable to manoeuvre within the framework defined by money, but I cannot believe in the basic precepts that make this possible.
This frustrates me. I cannot escape the notion that this is something I must overcome, and soon.
Sunday, November 30
The desert offers solitude, and a simple mode of existence: mere survival. Granted this is a somewhat moot point for me, but it acts as further guarantor of my privacy, for the desert is both swift and merciless in its dealings with fools.
Modern society has effected sufficient intrusion that it attempts to protect those so unwise as to venture in to the desert unprepared. This is not an act of altruism rather it is simple efficiency. Every preempted lost hiker represents concrete savings in search time and potential bad publicity. That it also saves lives is a secondary, albeit welcome benefit. As a result of this well-developed attitude towards tourists I elected to abandon any idea of walking to my chosen spot, opting instead to pay a young man to fly me out and return to collect me a few days later. Profligate waste, but necessary.
I could have locked myself away in my apartment. I have access to other places, properties I either own outright or have an interest in through membership in assorted foundations and organizations. There is a particular monastery where people are welcome to come and find the solace of introspection amid the grounding rhythms of a simpler, less hectic life. There are numerous parks, forests, jungles, and mountains… all are accessible to anyone who might seek a few days or weeks outside the sphere of the modern.
I prefer the desert. It is something about the hardscrabble nature of the flora and fauna, and the stark beauty of the landscape that suits me when I need to be shuck of mankind. It is dangerous for me- I could set out for a week or two and stay for a decade or longer. Even this little expedition- after three days I found myself musing on the notion of heading deeper in to the wild, finding a cave and sitting out the next fifty years. Fortunately (or not, depending on how you choose to view it) I had left far too many loose ends to merely walk away. It was deliberate on my part for I know myself well enough to anticipate that urge. I may yet indulge it, but not this day.
It was a desire to take some time, put things in to perspective, time away from my normal haunts, away from e-mail and computers and the web, away from the lawyers and that bloody fool of an accountant who is determined to prevent me from doing as I will with my own money. Away from all the yammering, and posturing, and postulating… I needed years, but I allowed merely days. I suppose it sufficed.
I am in love with the night sky- one of the things I truly despise about living in the North East is the lack of any truly clear, dark sky. Civilization’s fascination with light renders the canopy of the heavens a pale mockery of itself. Ever since my earliest memories I have been fascinated with the stars. I ran to the desert so that I could lie beneath them in their glory and seek… something. Balance, I suppose, though that is a poor descriptor.
I needed to know I was doing the right thing. As important, or perhaps even more so, was I doing it for the right reasons? Somehow sitting beneath the stars smoking Camels seemed the proper avenue for pursuing that thought. Warm, sunny days; cool, clear nights with a sliver of moon and a dazzling array of stars- there were no answers, but there certainly was peace.
Tuesday, November 25
Some random notions that have come to the fore as a result of comments, events and other factors:
I am frequently surprised. One would think I should be beyond surprise, but one would be wrong. One would think I would be coolly in control of my emotions, having had so very long to come to an intimate understanding of my own inner landscape, but one would be wrong. One would think that thirty-five centuries would smooth the contradictions from the fabric of my soul, and one would be wrong yet again.
It seems some are convinced that one such as I should be either above human foibles, or incapable of them. They are wrong. There are those who insist that one such as I must view all those about her as nothing more than mayflies, lesser things to be used for amusement and hardly missed upon passing. I would ask them how they have come to such an understanding, and I would tell them their assumptions speak volumes regarding their own private demons, but they say nothing regarding mine.
I protect myself. I protect those I consider to be my friends. Those people are few and thus precious to me.
I am immortal, not indestructible.
I am often asked if I am bored and I always reply in the negative. Boredom is not the problem I face, and no one seems to be inclined to ask regarding what that problem may be. I understand this since it is likely unique in the acuteness of its manifestation with me; however, I still see it in others from time to time. It is not loneliness. When I become aware of the weight of ages upon me, what I feel is desperately tired.
Thirty-five centuries have taught me useful things, but not so many as some seem to insist must be the case.
I understand people- my ability to interact on a personal level borders on the telepathic. This is not some mystic ability, but the simple byproduct of millennia of experience. It is an ability that is limited to personal, face-to-face, situations. This also makes me a rather entertaining bedmate.
Conversing via the written word is an extraordinarily poor cousin to personal interaction. At the same time it offers a separate set of tools, and a different level of nuance that cannot be dismissed.
I am merciless in self-analysis- my ability to delude myself is limited, but when I indulge it the results are usually disastrous. I take no pity upon myself, for I posses the ability to outlive my errors. Others do not.
I understand that nothing ever really ends. Everything that has preceded this moment in time forms the foundation upon which the next moment must stand.
I have noted before that I view myself as primarily a destructive force in relation to those with whom I interact. There are those who disagree with me. They lack my perspective on this subject. This extends to this journal: every post I make, every comment left on any site constitutes an act of almost criminal selfishness on my part.
I never share everything with you. Never.
There is more to say. I choose not to say it.
Saturday, November 22
“I know who you are.”
I said nothing, allowing Edna’s quiet words hang in the air behind me as I gazed upon Catherine’s final resting place. Her marker was large, yet very simple- a granite spire, somewhat weathered as were all the stones in this corner of the cemetery, with just her name and the dates: b 1831 d 1896.
“She was only sixty-five. Even being wealthy and protected, the damned winters were like a scythe, weren’t they?”
“I know you heard what I said, so don’t pretend you didn’t.”
I had been feeling something from her for two days now. It was the only reason I had not left yet- I had to know what it was. Her certainty was so strong and it excited her so. I turned to face her.
“Who do you think I am?”
“Great Grandma hired a Pinkerton man to track down Elaine a few years after the War Between the States. He went to Boston, found her lawyers’ offices, but they were well paid, quite reputable and very tight-lipped.” She paused then and said, “I think I need to sit... could we move to that bench?” She gestured with her cane and I nodded. Edna shuffled over, suddenly looking every day of her ninety-eight years, and settled down with a sigh, placing her cane before her with her hands perched atop. She waited until I took a seat beside her. “Where was I? Boston. You always seem to go back to Boston. The Pinkerton man was no slouch, and you’d a way of impressing people, of course. He found a name: Melissa Burns, and there was some talk of Georgia. It took some doing but he tracked you down to a plantation where you were hired as a tutor in literature and mathematics. Then he discovered that you’d murdered a man named Clayton Williams. You were caught, tried, convicted and hanged. End of story, or so he thought.
“I have to wonder what he thought when Catherine sent him back to Georgia and told him to dig up your corpse, if he could. He went back and started asking more questions, spreading around money and liquor, until he bumped in to these two gents who’d had a near religious experience. Neither of them’d had a drink in years before they ran in to him- reformed men, they were. But his questions shook them up, and the whiskey was good, and the tale they told him… well, he’d never heard anything so wild and unlikely in his life, but he had his orders, and like I said, he was no slouch at his job.
“He tracked you to a border town in Texas. A pretty young redheaded prostitute named Molly, sweet and kind and very quiet, and sporting a hanging scar. Only by the time he got that far poor Molly’d had an accident, took a spill in to the river and drowned. Body never recovered. Of course, it couldn’t have been the same woman, because everybody swore she couldn’t be more than eighteen and Elaine’d have been close to sixty by then, except that Melissa Burns hadn’t been more than twenty-five…”
“He would have had a very difficult time following me after that. Molly was a throw-away…” I stopped there because there was no point in continuing. Edna’s gaze was fixed on me, waiting. “How many people know this story?”
“Just me. It’s been passed down through the women in the family. Honestly, I didn’t really believe it myself until you showed up, and even then I wasn’t sure until just now. I haven’t told anyone; Sarah would be the obvious choice, but she’s such a Chatty Cathy I just couldn’t trust her with it.” She sat up straighter then, and took a deep breath, “So, if you wanted to you could shoot me with that ugly old pistol you’ve got your hand on and the story’d die with me. I suspect you’d be able to get out of town before anybody caught on.”
I snatched my hand from my bag- I had not even realized I had my hand on the gun. I was embarrassed that she had noticed, that I had even unconsciously considered…
And then I was shaking, trembling so violently that I could not even speak. It was not fear, or anger, or joy, but simply conflict. I did not know what to do. Then a sharp pain exploded in my shin and I cried out as Edna drew back her cane after striking me with it.
“Get a hold of yourself! Lord, you’d think someone as old as you’d be beyond this kind of thing!”
I laughed out loud at that. “I’ve heard that before… I should introduce you to the Yeti!”
“Yes, never mind, it’s too hard to explain.”
We sat for several minutes before Edna finally asked, “So, what’re you going to do?”
“That’s the question, isn’t it? It’s not so easy as Jeremy thought it might be.”
“Sure it is. My son had you checked out- you’re loaded. I name you as my successor in the trust and then you can do what you want.”
“Really? It’s not that simple at all. Everything I know is telling me to leave, now, and never come back! I have rules I live by and I didn’t come up with them on a whim!”
“And you married Jerome- what’d your rules have to say about that? Why’d you do that? Seems pretty stupid to me. Be careful what you answer because Catherine had an idea and I think she was right.”
“I fell in love with him. Is that so hard to believe?”
“Honestly? Yes, it is hard to believe. Catherine believed you were just lonely, and tired. Marrying her uncle was almost like trying to kill yourself. Just look at the trouble it’s caused you. Look at where you are right now, honey. Sure you loved him, but you loved him because it gave you a taste of something you couldn’t ever really have. You were trying to destroy yourself. Or at least destroy your life. You wanted an end, and Jerome was just the right man to help you find it.”
She sat back, her shoulders sagging. I could see the exhaustion radiating from her and suddenly I was ashamed again. How could I not see how much this was costing her? To be out here confronting me… Without another word I helped her to her feet and steadied her as we made our way back down the path to my car. She settled in to the seat and I buckled her in, then came around and started the car. Edna had her head back against the headrest, her eyes were closed.
“See, I think you’re going mad. All that running and hiding can’t be good for a body.”
“Do you understand how… how impudent it is of you to presume to speak to me like this?”
She laughed quietly, opening her eyes to look over at me. “Do you think you are wise?” she asked.
I thought about that as I maneuvered down the narrow drive to the cemetery’s exit. “About some things, yes. Others, no.”
“Good answer. I am wise, and about a lot of things. That cemetery makes me wise- I know that’s where I’m headed, and soon, too. Focuses the mind, assuming the mind still works of course.” She chuckled then at her own little joke.
“And that’s something I lack, is it?”
“It’s not just something you’re missing, it’s something you need.”
That was not a new thought for me, so why did it disturb me so to hear it from this woman?
“A cemetery’s not just a place of endings,” she continued, “it’s a symbol, a place of roots. Kids today just don’t understand this stuff; they go wandering off in all directions and don’t give a thought to their family or their history. My daughters… I haven’t seen either of them in five years, or the grandchildren. All picked up and moved off to California and Hawaii… I kept hoping that one of them would get the notion to come home, but it’s never happened.”
“Yet here I am.”
“Yes,” she smiled, “here you are. I’m fit to be pickled now that you’re here. I honestly never believed it was possible, just some funny folk tale, or better yet a practical joke.”
I considered that for several minutes as we drove on in silence.
“So, if I were to say I was merely humoring you…”
“I wouldn’t buy it for a second. I saw the look on your face when you were touching that pistol- you’re first thought was to kill me and run like the dickens.”
“I would never have…”
“I know, but you thought it. So why are you here?”
“I needed to know how much damage… no. I wanted to come, to see what had happened to the people I cared about. I was here a few weeks ago- I visited Jeremy’s grave. I thought that would be enough…” I stopped then, feeling tears coming from someplace unexpected. I pulled to the side of the road and parked the car, then just gripped the wheel, desperate to compose myself. Why was this happening? Why was this woman, somebody who was still just a child in comparison to myself, having this affect on me? Why was I so damned angry?
“Don’t stop now.”
I looked at her, uncomprehending for a moment, and then I asked her, “What would you do if I took you home and then left, and never returned?”
“Nothing. I’d go to my grave knowing that I’d been privy to a great secret. Of course that’s easy for me to say because we both know you’re not leaving. C’mon dearie, stop trying to nice to the little old lady and spit it out- why are you here?”
“Because I was never ready to leave!” It came out so suddenly and so succinctly that it drew all of the emotion out of me in a single statement: I had never wanted to leave. I left because it was my way, a habit, a rule I lived by. It had never been a problem before, but so much had changed since the early centuries of my life…
“Then why leave?”
“That’s enough,” I snapped, my voice dropping in to a peremptory tone that made Edna sit back a bit. I put the car in gear and pulled out again, unwilling to talk any further, or to listen for that matter. Edna attempted to engage me, but I tuned her out so thoroughly that she soon gave up.
What was wrong with me? I had been willing to reinsert myself in to this family so long as I could do it on my terms, maintaining this thin fiction of secrecy, holding myself aloof from them. Why did Edna’s knowledge change things so? Why that sudden impulse to murder and flight? It was clear to me, unmistakably clear that she posed no threat. Even if she did choose to tell her family what she knew, what would they think? She knew this, I could tell she knew this.
I am terrible at snap decisions. Every one I have ever made has turned out to be ill advised in one way or another. I needed time to think. I arrived at that terribly insightful conclusion as I pulled in to Sarah’s driveway. Edna sat beside me, radiating dismay.
“I am going back to Boston,” I told her, making my voice as gentle as I could.
She emitted a quiet sigh of resignation, and then visibly nerved herself to ask, “And What will you do there?”
I paused, unwilling to be short with her again, and then gave her the most honest reply that I could: “Think. Decide. Act.” She nodded at that, and allowed me to help her out of the car and up to the house. At the door something suddenly occurred to me. “You never visited your husband’s grave…”
“Oh, that’s not important. Perhaps next time…”
“Yes, perhaps.” I turned to go, but I could feel her eyes on me, as if they sought to pull me back.
“Genevieve… now that can’t be your real name, can it?”
I paused and turned back to face her as she stood framed in the open doorway, looking small and frail and forlorn. “No, of course not. I don’t have a given name that I can remember, but I chose one, long ago,” and I told her my name, the name I chose that I have called myself for more than two millennia. Then I turned away and walked to the car. It was time to go.
Thursday, November 20
Morning arrived clear and delightfully cool. I took an early stroll about the center of town before checking out and loading my things in to the car, and then I set off for Sarah’s home to pick up Edna. I was not particularly eager to make the visit to the cemetery, but it seemed a small courtesy to these people who had been so willing to accept me- call it recompense for my necessary deceptions.
I have never made a habit of visiting my dead; it always seems so pointless. Even my visit to Jeremy’s grave, so stylized and staged and Hollywood-dramatic was really nothing more than a lark. I was content that I had done it, but I believe I could have found as much closure reminiscing in my own living room with a bottle of brandy to mellow the mood. That I had been drawn back to this place so soon afterward was nothing more than the natural consequence of finally putting that entire episode of my life to rest.
Jeremy is dead. Catherine is dead. I could fill many, many pages with the names of those who meant something to me in some way who were now dead. To visit their graves would mean nothing to me. I understand that graves have meaning to those who are left behind, but I believe I have spent so long watching as one generation after another are returned to dust that any possible meaning has been diluted beyond detection. Cemeteries are packed with the dead and empty past. I choose not to dwell there.
Edna was already up and waiting for me when I arrived. Sarah had departed early so it was just the two of us sharing coffee and light conversation as we waited for the day to warm a bit before setting out. Edna seemed in very good spirits, commenting that she had felt guilty for neglecting her duty to visit her relatives, in particular her husband, over the past years.
“Henry’s been gone over thirty years now, so I suppose he forgives me, but I’m glad you were willing to come. I think Catherine would have been pleased to see that somebody from Elaine’s family had finally found this place.”
We were in the car and I smiled at Edna’s prattling. It is a common delusion of the living that the dead are witness to the day, but Edna seemed to take particular delight in the idea of me standing over Catherine’s grave. I felt better then- I have nothing against making a kindly old woman just a bit happier. We turned in to the gate of the cemetery and she directed me up towards the back, where the older plots were laid out over and about a low hill.
We parked at the foot of the hill and I helped her out of the car, then we began walking up towards the McAllister family’s section near the crest of the hill. As we passed various other collections of stones Edna pointed out families and individuals. I had known several of them personally.
“Surely your husband is not buried here?” I asked, “These are all quite old.”
“Oh, no- Henry’s down by the western lawn. I thought we’d stop up here first. See that tall spire? That’s where Catherine and Jonathan are buried. Why don’t you go on ahead- I’ll catch up.”
This was all so odd, and I found myself just a little more curious than I would have admitted earlier. Edna had stopped to admire the carvings on a stone near the walkway so I strolled up the remainder of the path, and found that brief segment of my past laid out in neat rows.
Catherine and her husband were together. Off to one side were two small markers: young children, neither more than four years old. There were other pairs, more husbands and wives, and solitary markers of those who never wed, or who met untimely ends only to have their loved ones make new lives when they were gone. I knew some of their stories from Catherine’s letters; others were a mystery to me.
I heard Edna come up behind me. We both stood quietly and I began to remember times when such places had held meaning for me: never the same meaning they held for others, but meaning nonetheless. Then she spoke, and everything became deathly quiet.
“I know who you are.”
Monday, November 17
The town bore only a passing resemblance to what I remembered. The old church was still there- I wondered if people still worshipped in those same pews Mrs. Tremblay had gifted to the church so very long ago. When I had paid my visit to Jeremy’s grave more than a month before I had done no more than drive through- I had known then that the land was wrapped up in a dispute so I had come cross-country from a neighboring community. Still, there were enough familiar things and I found the Historical Society easily enough.
The building was easily a hundred years old and not well suited to its purpose as a museum of sorts. This had been some sort of a meeting hall, but I could not be certain, as it had been built long after I had left. The door was unlocked so I entered and found a table by the inside of the door with a small basket labeled “Donations Welcome” the sole decoration. There did not appear to be anyone about. I dropped a few hundred dollars in the basket and set out to explore, making enough noise to ensure that anyone inside would eventually take note.
It was typical fare. Flags, documents, war memorabilia, some pictures, pieces of furniture, all of it documenting the passage of more than two hundred years: the town was older than that- perhaps the oldest pieces were stored away some place. Still, it was somewhat unsettling to be wading through pieces of lives that I might have touched so long ago. Things were familiar by their type and form, but nothing that I might point to and say “I remember that.” Then I entered the main hall.
I felt it before I saw it. Everything in the room was so very, very familiar. There was furniture from the south parlor, the large dining table, my harpsichord… so many things that had been ours. I turned and froze, for hanging on the south wall there was a portrait of a young woman, decked out in Victorian splendor, her hair piled high in scarlet curls and ringlets… me. Jeremy had commissioned that portrait on our tenth wedding anniversary. The artist had paid particular attention to the eyes…
“Mesmerizing, isn’t she?”
I turned to face the woman who had spoke and saw her start nearly as badly as had I. She was older; perhaps fifty or sixty, with dark hair going gracefully gray worn in a very modern style. Her blue eyes were open and friendly, though somewhat startled and there was something about the shape of her mouth and the angle of her jaw… I had to stop myself from commenting on it as her gaze tracked back and forth twice between the portrait and my face.
“I… I believe she was my great-great-…” the lie refused to fall gracefully from my lips, but she interrupted me as I stumbled on it.
“Oh, Lord, I believe it! Just look at the eyes, my dear!”
“Not to mention the hair, of course.” I smiled then, back at ease now that the moment had passed. “I am Genevieve Baker.”
“Baker? Oh! You’re the one who’s got Josh in such an uproar!” She laughed then and the sound passed in to and through me, calling up memories- young Catherine at her wedding, her laughter as she danced with Jeremy. I was in control of myself now, none of this showed on my face. “I’m Sarah, Sarah Jameson,” she turned towards the back of the hall and called out, “Edna! Edna, come and see who’s here!”
“I’m out front!” came a dry, yet sprightly voice, then an elderly woman appeared in the entrance to the hall. She was small, and clearly closer to one hundred than to eighty, but she was spry and her eyes were clear. In her left hand she wielded a cane that certainly had to be a mere prop for her stride was brisk and her gait even. In her right hand she waved a clutch of bills. “Somebody dropped five hundred dollars in the… Oh! Oh my word!” She stepped closer and looked me up and down, just radiating a mischievous delight as she grinned and said, “Well, it’s a good thing I didn’t bump in to you alone in here- I’d have figured I’d finally had The Big One. And that straight hair does nothing for you, dearie.”
They offered me coffee- we sat at a table in the kitchen at the rear of the hall and they both began asking and answering questions. Edna was Edna Carstairs. Josh was her eldest son, Joshua, and co-executor of the McAllister Trust along with his mother. Sarah was Edna’s niece. Edna and her late sister were the great-granddaughters of young Catherine. I felt somehow lacking in the presence of these women who knew their ancestry and their family histories, where I was forced to lie and in turn keep my stories simple and boring. Despite this Edna seemed fascinated with my story.
“And you had no idea about the trust, or your connection to this place until you found Elaine’s diary?”
“That’s pretty much it, yes. Oh, I knew a little about the family history, but it wasn’t until I found her diary and the legal papers that I had any idea what had happened. Even then, the diary only covers the year 1843. I assume she kept a yearly record, but I’ve not found any others.” Another lie- I had all twelve volumes, but this was the only one I could safely share with anyone.
“Did you bring it with you?” Sarah asked, “I’d love to see what it has to say.”
“I don’t have it here- it’s back at the hotel, but I’d be happy to let you look it over after I’ve met with Joshua. I’m assuming he’ll want to see it as well.”
“Oh, don’t let yourself be too concerned with my son,” Edna commented, “he’s really in no position to argue with you and he knows it. Truth is the trust is nearly bankrupt. He couldn’t afford to put up a fight even if you were a fraud.”
“Perhaps we shouldn’t talk about…”
“Oh, piffle! It’s not a secret. Lawyers should never try to be investment brokers. We sank a lot of the trust’s money in to Internet stocks- lost it all. Since then with the town putting the squeeze on us we’ve barely kept up with the taxes. We tried to take a mortgage on the property, but the trust’s got no income to speak of…” Edna trailed off, but I could see the wheels turning in her, thinking about the money in the donation basket. Somebody who dressed so nicely and could drop five hundred dollars in a charity basket on a whim might just be in a position to ease some of the financial stress. She smiled again. “Does my son know you’re in town?”
“I called his office when I checked in to the hotel, but he wasn’t in…”
Both of them laughed at that and Sarah said, “Oh, he’s in, he’s just avoiding you. He’s afraid you’re somebody the real estate developers dug up to try and break the trust…” At the same time Edna was digging through her bag and finally produced a cell phone, which she opened up and put to her ear.
“Joshua? It’s your mother. I’m at the museum with Sarah… yes, I know you’re busy, but I need you to come over right away… Now don’t be like that… I’m not getting any younger and you’re wasting my time and I haven’t got a lot to waste so stop complaining… of course, dear, I know… now don’t dawdle…” She folded up her phone with a sigh, “Don’t misunderstand, Jenny, he’s a good man. It’s just that he seems to think all the problems in town are his personal responsibility.”
Joshua Carstairs arrived within a few minutes. I was seated at the table having a second cup of coffee when he walked in and spied his mother over by the sink. He was tall and handsome, and quite distinguished looking with his thick silver hair and ruggedly lined face. His voice was quite warm and resonant- it must have been quite a boon to him in court.
“Okay mother, I’m here, now tell me what’s so important that I had to hang up on Jim Kelleher up in Boston?”
“Ah, talking with your spy? And what did he have to say? But you might want to turn around before you answer that…”
Joshua turned and stopped for just a second when he saw me, but no longer. Then he smiled and stepped forward, extending his hand. “Miss Baker, I presume?”
I rose and took his hand, smiling as openly as I knew how, “I hope you understand this was not my idea- I had planned a more formal meeting.”
“Oh, don’t worry. I know my mother’s handiwork when I see it. I had intended to call you after I, uh, finished conferring with my colleague in Boston.” He took a seat and Edna brought him a cup of coffee, after which she and Sarah departed without another word.
“Don’t be embarrassed. You’ve done your research, and I’ve done mine. Perhaps we should just lay out our cards and see where we stand?”
“Directly to the point, I like that. Okay, Jim Kelleher seems to feel you’re a legitimate heir, and now that I’ve seen you I certainly agree. You’re obviously not after any money, not with your bank accounts. So tell me: why are you here?”
I sipped at my coffee and read him for a moment. He was unconcerned, actually relieved, which was good. His curiosity was certainly piqued, but he was absolutely unaffected by my looks or demeanor. He had a wedding ring and unconsciously fiddled with it- a thoroughly married and honest man.
“You and your family are well-off, but the trust is broke. You can’t afford to keep it afloat and you can’t get financing. Four years, perhaps five and you’ll have to default on the taxes and be forced to dissolve the trust and sell the property.”
“That sums it up nicely, yes,” he sighed, “I’ve considered selling some of the pieces in storage, both to raise cash and save money- museum quality storage space isn't cheap. But that would be little more than a stopgap measure, and mother would never permit it in any case. Now, you haven’t answered my question.”
“No,” I smiled, “I haven’t. I am not entirely certain what I want to do, but I think I’d like to help save the house. Once the pressure is off we can discuss the future.”
With that we agreed to leave any further discussion until the next day when I would present the trust document I possessed, just to make everything legal. Edna and Sarah rejoined us, having been not-to-secretly listening outside the door and the afternoon ran in to evening as we talked about the past and they filled me in on all the details of the family’s history they had collected. I had so little to offer them I again felt embarrassed, but Edna soaked up every little scrap I offered and was clearly eager to see the volume of the diary.
The next morning I met with Joshua at his office and we signed the various papers that made me an official beneficiary of the trust. I had already made arrangements with my bank so we were able to make a transfer of funds to the trust’s operational account- not a lordly sum, but enough so that Joshua could make the next few quarterly payments without having to liquidate any more of the trust’s dwindling stock holdings.
The remainder of that day I spent with Edna and Sarah, first letting them pour over the diary I had brought with me. Sarah was in heaven- it was filled with all sorts of minutiae regarding the daily activities of the family, both the children of the household as well as the activities of the other adult relatives and their families. Edna was quite please as well, but there was something overriding her happiness at having this piece of her family history in hand. She questioned me repeatedly about what I thought of this passage or that and I had to be very careful to avoid offering anything even remotely detailed, particularly when either of them got some piece of information egregiously wrong. Edna seemed to delight in having an outsider of sorts past whom she could run her historical narrative.
We took lunch together at a local restaurant and they took great pleasure in introducing me to any who happened by. After that Sarah drove me up to the house, Edna choosing to sit out that trip, as she was not up to “traipsing through the wilderness” that day. I had been there just a few weeks before, but it was enjoyable still, as Sarah was able to tell me where work had been done, what had happened to the barn and stables (a fire in 1956), and other details. The house had not been lived in since 1951, but the family had used it as a reunion spot for twenty or thirty years after that time. It had not been sealed up for good until 1985, which explained why it was not in far worse condition.
Sarah and I returned to her home in the early evening and I prepared to take my leave. I would be driving back to Boston the next day.
“So soon?” Edna complained, “I was hoping tomorrow Sarah and I could take you up to see the family plot- Catherine and her husband are buried up there, you know.”
“Oh, why go up there? You haven’t made that trip in over ten years,” Sarah protested, “and I can’t take you- I have to go in to the city tomorrow.”
Edna looked at me and I could feel her anticipation. I smiled. “I could stop by in the morning- I wouldn’t mind visiting the graves if that’s what you would like. I can leave for home after lunch.”
That night I was actually quite pleased with how things were going. I still had no firm idea what I would do beyond helping the family keep hold of the property, but I was already considering making some major investments to restore the house and the surrounding land. Perhaps we could move the Historical Society’s museum in to the house itself- the town had a tourism industry of sorts. A restored Victorian era home might make a nice addition. I took some time to review my cash status and see where I could gain liquidity without drawing too much attention. Then I started packing for the trip home. I hesitated over my pistol- I had been carrying it illegally for the past two days and it seemed silly to do that given the circumstances, but I am always reluctant to have it out of reach in situations like this. I do not like guns, and that makes me very, very serious about them. In the end I left it in the bottom of my purse. When I got home I would lock it up again.
I went to sleep that night with a smile on my face.
Sunday, November 16
What follows was not easy to recount. I have alluded to such things before, but I have never been explicit, and even here I find myself forced to soften the words and the images. I nearly posted this elsewhere to keep it off of this site, but that would be inappropriate. If what follows offends or disturbs I can offer only that life often offends or disturbs. If it makes it any easier to accept, know that I still carry the sickening weight of this monstrosity. It haunts me to this day.
Roughly two thousand years in the past, I was quite insane:
It is a game, nothing more. I slip out in to the twisted labyrinth of the city’s stinking streets and drop my lure- in this case, myself. Naked but for a scrap of linen, or perhaps something finer, a little jewelry, and a pair of sandals I stroll the winding sewers that make up the Eternal City, centre of power and all things glorious. They think me a slave, a prisoner of their power, a thing.
I hate them. I hate their pretensions to civilization; their fascination with blood sport, their arrogant assumption of superiority. The very soul of their culture is warped and diseased and I had allowed it to infect me, to deceive me in to believing that I could become a part of it. Then I watched it destroy the first person I had ever truly loved.
So I play my part, enticing the lust-addled simpletons to my bloated mistress’s wretched establishment where lesser creatures sweat and toil for the pleasures of beasts. I bring a high price the nights I am there, but I serve my mistress better as an advertisement, and this permits me to satisfy my own need. Every day I seek what I crave, some misbegotten fool believing he has a right to my body, to my undivided attentions. I entice him with the easy promise of fulfilling my duty.
It is always the same, yet it is always just different enough. Each is unique in his own way. A dark corner, or a back room, private and unnoticed, a perfect place for his brutish pleasures, except… It is always such a surprise. Private for him, perfect for me- I delve in to my deepest place and produce a work of art. I never use a weapon; I delight in taking my prize with my bare hands.
A soft caress transforms in an instant to a sharp blow to the throat. Perhaps he is confused, not understanding what I have done. Then the panic sets in, the fractured airway sealed forever against the precious release of life-giving breath. Some, the pathetic ones, clutch at their throat, struggling to breathe, thrashing and kicking as I laugh, taunting them. Others are more entertaining, spending their last moments in a rage, trying to lay their hands around my pretty neck and send me to Hades before them- and they learn I am swift and strong and disinclined to die. I take small pity on those, as their strength fails and they fall, easing them to the ground, whispering to them, telling them how they have lightened the day of an ancient creature.
Playful wrestling, a game of chase that incites his lust until that moment when I dance in to that one spot, poised just so, where I have all the advantage and this fool is at my mercy, confident there is naught to concern him in the form of this curvaceous, giggling wench. I slip my arm about his neck and he laughs as I trap him, then stiffens as I pull. There is a spasm of reaction as I apply all my strength in a single, savage wrenching twist. Flesh tears, gristle popping, and bones grinding until the sudden deep, thick crack of separation is felt and he goes limp in my grasp. I let him fall, grinning, gasping as the laughter forces its way up to my lips and I am trembling from excitement and exertion- it is no small effort to break a man’s neck. It lacks the artistry of other methods, but the pure adrenaline, the sudden contest of strength with the certainty that I shall not be denied my trophy, it is the closest this comes to a pure sexual thrill, and it surpasses all in the sense of being suddenly, vividly alive when it is done. Again, I lower my lips to his ear, and whisper the secret I shall allow him to take to his grave. A parting gift he hardly deserves.
“Die quietly like a good fellow, yes? You have fallen prey to a Goddess…”
Let my whispered words mock them and their worthless gods.
The first few become a dozen. The dozen become scores, then hundreds, and then many hundreds. This city is an abattoir- a few extra murders per week can hardly be expected to elicit concern. Still, eventually they come to suspect something is amiss, and even then they have no inkling. My score stands at Eight Hundred and Forty-Six the first time anyone thinks to question the pretty slave seen here and there where the corpses are discovered, and yet all they ask is “Have you seen anything?” I am too small, too feminine, too submissive and far too deft at manipulating men to become a suspect, even when so many things point directly at me. It is a blindness born of arrogance, and fully thirty pay for that with their lives, tortured to death by frustrated agents of the law and other interested parties determined to punish somebody while I add another fifty or so by my own hand.
It had begun slowly and so does it end. Even one such as I cannot ignore the growing scrutiny and my pace slackens, and with it the madness that drives me ebbs, until one day when I draw a man in to my net… and then let him go. He would have been number Nine Hundred and Thirteen…
Eight years of homicidal madness, arguably the price paid for my first taste of love.
Wednesday, November 12
This is proving to be quite vexing. I should put this behind me and think of it no more- let it lie as quietly as it has for a century or more, but it will not allow me to do that. Retrieval of the records was no mean feat itself: a company that specializes in the safe keeping of museum-quality historical documents stored them. One does not simply drive up and haul away cases of old records from a facility such as this. Nonetheless I was able to get at them after some hours of effort.
Thirteen large cases awaited me: the accumulation of over two hundred years of documents, books and letters. What concerned me would be contained in one of two particular cases and I set about the task of sorting them out once I had had them moved to my apartment outside the city. I suppose those who first collected these at my behest had been methodical in dating and storing them, but over the years as they were moved from one place to another they had become somewhat jumbled. Still, my money had been well spent- they were in remarkably good condition.
I started with letters dated after I had ended my contact with Catherine. Even after she was certain I was unlikely to respond she had continued to write in a most conversational manner. I nearly became ill when she mentioned that she had co-opted her son in to the task of ensuring I would be welcomed should I ever choose to return- this was written in 1890. Not once in any of her missives to me had she made any overt statement or even hint that she was aware of my secret: it was clear to me that her son was a lawyer and she had merely employed him in the creation of a trust to hold the family property inviolate for a great span of years, until 2050 to be exact. Unlike her words, her actions made it unmistakable that she had indeed been told, and that she believed.
Her last letter was dated December of 1896. Following that there was a letter from an attorney, informing me of her death and that I or my descendants had been named in a portion of her will. Two further letters followed, requesting a reply, then a final large packet.
Catherine and her son had been quite clever. The family fortunes had apparently grown quite large by that time so they set up a trust to hold title to the house and property. I am no legal scholar, but it appeared to me the trust stipulated any family member could reside in the house at will, but that efforts must be made to maintain the current structure and properties as they were. The trust also endowed a Historical Society for the town with a stipend for a museum. Finally, almost as an afterthought, it was noted that any person in possession of a specific legal instrument could present it to the trust as proof of descent from Elaine in order to take full advantage of the trust and its assigned properties. That instrument was sealed within an envelope in the packet.
It seems Catherine had been quite thorough.
I had already been aware that the property was in a trust- I had quietly engaged two different law firms to look in to the status of the property back when I decided to visit Jeremy’s grave. Now I was faced with having them probe more deeply, investigating the financial status of the trust and the Historical Society, as well as determining the legal status, if any, conferred by the instrument I possessed. These could conceivably be very dangerous acts on my part. They could also quite easily come to nothing. I found it hard to believe that whoever was holding the trust at this time would suddenly agree to surrender use of the property to somebody who arrived with a letter over a century old.
I chose to tackle the simplest task first: the instrument. A few hours huddled with some fine (and expensive) gentlemen determined that the instrument appeared to be valid, assuming the provisions of the trust were properly described and had not been changed; however, to execute it I would have to become personally involved as it could not be done by proxy. What surprised me was how easily I made my choice. I then set them to the task of learning everything they could while I set about making my own preparations.
Common sense tells me I should leave this be. Whatever threat there may have been is obviously minimal- digging in to this can only serve to make it worse. So why am I unwilling to walk away? Why am I so excited?
Tuesday, November 11
Sunday, November 9
Jeremy betrayed me. He told me he had done it in a letter he wrote some few days before his death, but in that letter he made it clear he expected I would not learn of his act for some time:
“I know you, my love. I know this missive shall remain unread for decades, perhaps centuries. It is conceivable you might never read it, and never know what I have done, or why…”
He was correct on both counts. I had only recently begun carrying bits of my past forward, storing them against future need. Oh, I have left hordes in the past, but I have never returned to them- best to leave the past behind, let it remain dead. Only over the past few centuries have I made an effort to change this, with some success, I might add. Thus I still had my diaries from my years with Jeremy.
I retrieved the first volume of that diary some months ago, along with the letter he wrote on his deathbed. At first I had not opened it because my grief was too deep. Later I was afraid to read it and reopen the wound his passing had left in my heart. Finally, I had set it aside as part of the dead past. When recent events lured me in to revisiting that time the letter was still there. Once I had made my peace with my past I decided it was time to read it.
I cannot begin to recount it in its entirety for it is too detailed and I am loath to remake his words for my own petty needs. I am also somewhat at a loss to describe how I feel about this.
Five children survived the fire that took the lives of Reginald, Clarice and their youngest child, Sarah. I have made little specific mention of them for several reasons, none of which I am at liberty to discuss here. The eldest I shall refer to as Joshua, the youngest as Catherine (named after Reginald and Jeremy’s sister). Joshua was fourteen when Jeremy and I arrived in his life and while he respected his uncle he absolutely despised me. His intense dislike persisted until the day Jeremy’s Will was read and he understood that I had been left nothing of the family’s fortunes, and that I had been pleased to have it so. After that day he subsided in to simple irritation with me and with his youngest sister who, along with her husband, inherited the family home and its lands.
Catherine had always adored me, something I am sure contributed to Joshua’s dislike of me. After Jeremy died she insisted I remain with her and her family at the house, and I did so for one year, mostly in response to this odd feeling that she desperately wished me to remain more out of concern for my welfare than for her own purposes. When I did choose to leave, journeying to Boston, Catherine went to great lengths to maintain correspondence. We exchanged frequent letters for several years and when I was ready to set aside my identity as her Aunt Elaine I actually went to the trouble of hiring a law firm to collect any further letters or packages from her and hold them indefinitely until I sent an agent to retrieve them. I then became Melissa Burns and disappeared.
I had always wondered in an offhand manner why Catherine had been so concerned with me. Now I know why.
Jeremy revealed my secret to Catherine just over a year before he died. That I did not detect this I attribute to my foreboding of his coming end. He was still healthy, but he was no longer young. At sixty-one years of age he was now prone to infections in his lungs during the winter and I knew that it was only a matter of time. Preoccupied with what for me was an immanent change I failed to notice or properly account for Catherine’s change in attitude. In the wake of his passing, well, everything had changed for all involved.
His letter explained that he was not content to have me wandering the world, hiding here or there, always lost, always alone. He wanted to provide me with a refuge, a place to come to whenever I wished where I would be known and accepted. He wanted me to have a home. He charged Catherine with seeing to it that our home would always be available to me. He laid that obligation upon her because he knew she was fond of me and because she was such an extraordinary woman herself (a trait he insisted was my doing), having studied literature and law and the sciences at an advanced level despite her youth. He trusted her with my secret because he felt he knew her heart nearly as well as he knew mine. What surprises me most is that she might have believed him at all.
My very first instinct was to disappear: to drop everything and go underground in Eastern Europe or South America. I thought better of that- the secret had been “out” for better than one hundred and fifty years to little or no effect so there could be little harm in taking the time to examine what this meant. Still, I did make certain arrangements against possible need.
Then I returned to Boston to sift through everything I had from Catherine.
On the naming of names, and the placing of places. As I go through my narratives I deliberately obscure certain facts. Jeremy, for instance, was not named Jeremy, Catherine was not Catherine, Rufus was not Rufus… I do believe the pattern is clear. Locations are obscured as well as specifics as to dates, particularly as I speak of relatively recent events. You may take this as an expression of a desire for security, or as simple sloppy storytelling- either conclusion suits me.
Despite this I do pay attention to detail, so the naming of names and the placing of places are consistent within the narrow context I provide. I mention this only because what will follow is rife with names and places to the point of encouraging one to attempt to parse out the truth. I would spare anyone that trouble, if I could.
Wednesday, November 5
Interesting (actually, somewhat disturbing) developments over the past two days. As a result I shall be wading through a sea of lawyers. Posting will be light to non-existent until some time next week. Do take care.
Saturday, November 1
Mr. E asks: can one argue the predisposition to love as being a more likely attestation of evolution or of creation?
You may argue whatever you like, but since you are asking my opinion the short answer is “no”.
I am afraid that I am about to disappoint a lot of people with my thoughts on this subject, as they are by no means original nor terribly unique.
It seems to me that the notion that Creation and Evolution are mutually exclusive is indefensible. Allow me to synthesize the arguments in extremely simple terms. The Creationist argues that Evolution strips Man of his unique spiritual nature, denying him the grace offered by his creator. The Evolutionist argues that Creation strips man of his critical nature, rendering the evidence of science at best a carefully constructed set of fallacies, at worst as a construct of the Father of Lies.
Where can we go from here? How can we reconcile these two viewpoints?
We need to decide if Man as an intelligent creature is unique. Consider the implications if we were to discover that Man is alone in the Universe as a critical and self-aware creature. This is not idle speculation for if we decide that science will answer this question, so far the answer is that we cannot prove that he is not. Before you all tell me- yes, I understand that proving a negative is logically impossible when all possible scenarios are outside the realm of testability; however, lacking evidence of extraterrestrial intelligences we cannot discount the possibility that Man may indeed be unique.
There was a time not very long ago when writers of speculative fiction used a certain hypothetical formula to suggest that the idea of Earth as the only inhabitable or inhabited planet in this galaxy was patently absurd. I believe the calculation was similar to this: There are approximately 400 billion stars in this galaxy. If one one-tenth of one percent of them has any kind of planetary system, and one-tenth of one percent of those has a possibly habitable planet, this results in 400,000 possibilities. Expand this to include the billions of galaxies that comprise the Universe and it seems absurd to think that there is no life anywhere else in the Universe.
It seems reasonable, yes? The problem with this calculation is that it makes broad assumptions that are quite unwarranted regarding the nature of stars in general and the observable requirements for the existence of life. Where just Earth-like planets are concerned it turns out that the possibilities are becoming more and more limited as Man’s understanding of those requirements expands. We can all speculate on the possibilities of forms of life that might exist outside the sphere of the carbon-based water band; however, such speculations themselves face their own limits as the unique nature of carbon becomes more and more apparent. Proponents of alternate-chemistry life forms refer to this “carbon chauvinism”, but a catchy phrase does little to lessen the reality that carbon does seem to be unparalleled both in its ability to form long chains of complex molecules and its ubiquitous nature in the Universe.
What we face here is a lack of sufficient discreet subjects to form a baseline of scientific knowledge. You and I have only a single instance of an inhabited planet from which to draw conclusions. We have only a single race of beings possessed of the gift of rational thought and a demonstrated ability to manipulate their environment. Given these limitations science is unable to provide concrete answers to questions such as mankind’s status in the Universe. Hints and trends and possibilities yes, but no certain answers. Nothing even close.
So, science has nothing to say regarding the uniqueness or lack thereof of Man, but it has plenty to tell us about his development. We have growing mounds of evidence that Man is the product of an evolutionary process set in motion by a confluence of near random and highly unlikely circumstances. While there are those among us who would argue that the picture is by no means complete I think most of us probably can agree that the image is there for any who are willing to see it.
And here we are, right back where we started. Science has plenty to say about evolution, but very little to say about Creation. And here is where I generally get myself excommunicated, assuming of course that the Catholic Church would have a creature such as me in its fold.
The idea that God, if he exists, created the Universe in seven days is nothing more than metaphor. Any creation myth is metaphor, a construct of minds too primitive, too ignorant to have any understanding of the nature of the world and the Universe beyond that which served their very practical needs. They had imagination and they had a thirst to know, but they had no tools sufficient unto the task of answering their questions. So they fell back on myth, on metaphor, because they had to have an answer. Men are quite stubborn that way, you know.
I have no difficulty eschewing the Creation as described in Genesis in favor of a far more complex, far more miraculous act where God sets the Universe in motion several billions of years ago, setting the stage for the eventual ascent of Man from the primordial ooze of a tiny planet in one spiral arm of an unremarkable galaxy amongst billions of galaxies. That seems a much more impressive feat than simply willing it all in to existence over a week. It also puts to rest the need for God or the Devil to have put in place all the evidence of evolution, geology, chemistry, biology, physics, and astrophysics for Man to discover and puzzle over as some test of faith. Any God I might be tempted to believe in would be above that kind of foolishness. In this context since Evolution is merely part of God’s plan it cannot separate Man from God’s grace, and accepting that Evolution is God’s plan in no way robs Man of his critical nature since science becomes the primary tool Man uses to read the Gospel According to Physics. Finally, since we cannot prove that Man is not unique in the Universe our critical nature requires that we at the very least consider that Man indeed may indeed be unique. We do not have to accept it as fact, but we must admit that it is possible. Failure to do so in the face of a lack of any evidence to the contrary risks replacing one myth with another.
All of this leads me to the conclusion that asking whether Man’s predisposition to love is more indicative of a Creation origin or an Evolution origin is an exercise in futility. My opinion is that they are one and the same.
Bearing in mind, of course, that I have no firm opinion on the existence of God to begin with. And of course my own existence within the framework of this argument could be somewhat problematic. My faith rests on my observation of Man and my belief that Man does indeed have a destiny that is beyond mere propagation. Whether or not Man fulfills that destiny is pretty much up to you.
Thursday, October 30
In response to Mr. E’s comment on a previous post:
If I were insane, how would I know? You and I could sit over coffee and have a nice chat and at the end of it you might be tempted to tell me you were fairly certain I was off my rocker, but would I be able to believe you? In my case I have lots of history to look back on and that gives me some perspective on myself. I can look back and say “Oh, my! I was certainly not thinking too clearly, was I?” It is all relative, after all.
So what about love? I have offered a few paragraphs here to describe my understanding of the nature of love and its effect on Man and I know I have mentioned that there is a difference between this love to which Man is predisposed and the Romantic Love that is the source of such joy, such excess and such sorrow. I understand that first love- I rely upon it when I try to understand you and everybody else surrounding me. The second love, let me spell it Love for clarity’s sake, is something I try to avoid. It is dangerous to me. It is madness most raw.
Just so that you do not begin to think I am talking nonsense, please understand that what follows applies strictly to me and not to others.
Love is an invitation to pain and despair. When I allow myself to fall in Love I am guaranteeing myself a painful ending, one that is not possible, but inevitable. Tell me, please, what is rational about willingly inviting such horror in to my life? Given that, is it at all surprising that I have only had Love in my life four times?
Each time, I fooled myself in some way.
The first time was easy- when I confessed to him that his slave was immortal, he nodded and pronounced me Diana for he had encountered me as a huntress in the wilderness. Somehow my lack of chastity did not deter him in his conviction. When over the next few years our mutual foolishness made itself clear he ordered me bound hand and foot and forced me to watch as he opened his veins and bled to death. He believed he was doing the right thing.
I was none too eager to repeat that experience, but I did, three more times, the last being my Jeremy, whom I have discussed at some length. Each time I told myself that I could grasp those brief years of delirium, that the pain waiting at the end would be bearable, that this time I was far too mature to allow the inevitable to scar me so. Each time I was wrong. Oh, to be certain with the passage of time the pain eased, to be replaced with a certain rueful recognition of my own foolishness, but the memory of those times…
Only the last time came close to breaking the pattern, but I begin to suspect that there is more to play from that episode in my life. Jeremy is not through with me yet.
So, Love lures me with the promise of decades of joy and blinds me to a century of pain in payment. Self-delusion indeed. Do not seek to find flaws here, instead recognize that what I say of myself does not apply to all- it cannot for reasons I do believe I have made explicit.
Monday, October 27
Well, this has certainly been an invigorating twenty-four hours or so. I must express my thanks to Dean Esmay for his kind words regarding my thoughts offered here- praise is always that much sweeter when it comes from one you respect. As for the readers he has sent to this humble site, I believe their comments speak for themselves. Quality shows, people. Of all the accusations hurled at me over the years “I would suppose that you have a doctorate in either philosophy or history” certainly takes the prize for most unexpected and delightful.
I am not usually a political writer, but I find the subject immensely seductive due both to the immediacy of the topics and the fervor of those who willingly delve in to the debate. Somehow I doubt I shall be able to remain silent on these topics as the season progresses.
Saturday, October 25
I am so terribly sorry. I did promise no more politics until the new year, but that persnickety Dean Esmay has been posting things that make me go "hmmm." So, with that said:
These assorted assertions regarding lying to the public and the reflexive disdain for the current President are unusual only if one fails to take in to account the unique nature of the approaching election season. Consider: this is the first election in three decades or so where you have both a state of war and an incumbent seeking reelection without even token opposition within his own party. Throw in the spectre of the Florida fiasco and we have set the stage for an interesting (i.e. contentious and divisive) election. Add to that the unprecedented access to broad audiences that until recently were essentially denied to the extremist fringes and it becomes certain that a circus is in the offing.
It seems to me that in the long run this process of extreme rhetoric could conceivably transform itself in to a positive outcome. Let us be honest and admit that the fanatics on both sides of the spectrum have become essentially interchangeable. This was not always so easy to discern as the fringes were so effectively marginalized in the past- they made their voices heard at the political rallies and in the caucuses, but otherwise held no firm political power. The information age has made the sound-byting of the outrageous profitable for the media companies and the political entities seemed to be content to allow the hot-heads to take to the airwaves in excoriating their opponents, assuming that the old dynamic was still in play and that their words would not have any method of sticking to the eventual nominee or his party. In doing this the parties both exposed their ugly underbellies to the light of day and could now be forced to deal with their Anti-American, Anti-Constitutional and Anti-democratic elements by either openly embracing them and admitting that their causes were concomitant with their own, or by openly marginalizing them.
It seems to me that the conservatives got a head start on this process and have been slowly isolating the worst actors on the religious right from the centres of power. They still have their problems, and by no means have overcome them; however, with the advent of the war those close to the President have had the opportunity to make an even bolder move to increase this separation, the current anti-abortion legislation notwithstanding. There are those who see the upcoming procedural ban as the “nose of the camel” and fail to understand that while a majority of their countrymen support the ideal of a woman’s right to choose, they also see the need for some sort of line to be drawn and they look to the government and the courts to draw it. Taken in that light this current affront to leftist sensibilities becomes nothing more than another small step in the completely American process of defining a consensus that both sides will eventually be forced to live with and within.
The liberals in this nation are facing a far more acute problem; however, the benefit of the acute is that it can often be dealt with swiftly. Whereas the conservatives are incrementally marginalizing their fanatics, the left may yet be able to excise theirs in a single political season. Unfortunately, the cost of taking advantage of this opportunity is likely a humiliating defeat in 2004. The danger is that the more rational elements of the left might fail to see that opportunity and act upon it in which case they are doomed to the political outlands until either the economy once again succumbs to the business cycle or the conservatives egregiously overstep themselves. One of the necessary elements of a recovery is to stop fearing the defection of the Greens and their ilk. Those fanatics have already left the party and will continue to field candidates who theoretically sap strength from the Democratic candidates. The Democrats are not capable of placating that faction without thoroughly alienating the centrist voters they need to win the Presidency. By attempting to straddle the fence they achieve the worst of all possible outcomes, hence their current sorry state. The same logic applies to the other fringe groups that have been categorized by commentators on the right as the “victim movements”, or some such. The left in the presumptive form of the Democratic Party must find a way to separate themselves from these factions and return rhetorical control of the political argument to more reality-based hands, or else must face the unpleasant prospect of a long stretch in the wilderness likely ending in the dissolution of the extant party structure in favor of something more workable.
I understand that the above seems particularly harsh in regards to the left whilst affording the conservatives somewhat of a pass; however, both analyses have bearing upon their opposite numbers. The fanatics still exist within the power structure of the Republican Party and there is no guarantee that this gradual marginalization will continue. One of the requisite factors for success in this endeavor is a resurgent and credible force on the left, shorn of its fanatic fringe elements and capable of bringing a coherent and believable message to the voters. The same is true of the Democratic Party: one of the reasons it faces such dire straights is that for some time the Republicans were essentially no threat. The lack of a credible political opponent let the poison of factionalism and fanaticism scar the soul of a great and majestic institution. Had the right been unable to articulate a message that resonated with the bulk of the voting population the left would still be ensconced in the throne room, and the rot would have continued to spread.
The thrust of all this is nothing new: in America the left and the right need each other to survive. The American people need both to be viable, honest and trustworthy. Both parties must abandon the deplorable practice of assuming that their own failures are the result of trickery on their opponents’ part. And finally, both parties must learn to trust the people.
That final requirement is likely to be the most difficult. Throughout the extraordinarily brief history of this nation the various iterations of the political opposites have harbored a foundational distrust of the voters. This was not always so blatant, particularly when the vote was restricted to male property owners, but it has always been thus. This distrust of the voters has been the driving force behind the various manifestations of the parties that sought to shape the course of the American Experiment. This is the paradigm which must come to an end, for failing that this interesting experiment in self-rule could very well collapse, and what replaces it is doubtful to be to anyone’s liking.
Follow-up: Dean Esmay replies
Sunday, October 19
I need to say something, to explain something, but I find myself reluctant. No matter how many attempts I make at putting this in to written words it comes out as somewhat arrogant and condescending. Would that I could meet with every reader who happens across this journal, sit down and explain in person- that is my personal strength. I can communicate with a gesture what I cannot describe in pages of text.
Complaining of the inadequacy of the only medium afforded me is pointless. Arrogant and condescending are all that are left me. So be it. Here is my gentlest iteration:
Do not attempt to understand me. You are by your very nature incapable of understanding me. This forum is woefully ineffective in providing you with what you would need to understand me. If you believe you understand me you are mistaken. All you have are fragments, musings, disjointed pieces and tattered remnants of the tapestry of a life too long to be fully described in a few dozen pages of digitized text. This is not your fault, nor is it mine. It simply is.
This does not give me satisfaction. It brings no joy to my heart. I began this site with the expectation that I might somehow make myself known- to test the waters as it were. I have tested those waters and found them not entirely to my liking, mostly for the reason that the waters were not what I expected them to be. I need something more concrete, more visceral, and I fear I know exactly what that something may be. I wrestle with that fear for I am above such things and they should have no hold on me. In this particular struggle I shall certainly prevail.
Finally, what I attempted to do when I began this site eventuated to be the opposite of what I seem to have accomplished. Rather than make myself known to others, I have made myself better known to me. The mirror of others’ regard is a powerful thing indeed.
Monday, October 13
The bottle sounded against the rim of my glass, a single clear ping, and then gurgled quietly as I poured. I took up the glass and brought it to my lips, tilting it back to let the clear brown liquid burn down my throat and in to my belly.
“What’s with you and whiskey?”
I turned to face Gregory and found him sitting on the bed wearing his boxers. He is young, just twenty-one, barely sentient by my standards. His hair is brown and short with golden highlights and he wears thin sideburns that cut over in to an angular fringe along his jaw, meeting a neat, severe goatee. His mouth is stern without being narrow, set in his angular jaw below his fine, straight nose. His hazel eyes are likewise quite intense; dominating his face with his high forehead- in short he radiates the aura of Angry Young Man, yet his voice is surprisingly soft and resonant, and when he smiles all that angry intensity leaves him. It is quite becoming.
“Whatever do you mean?” I replied, grinning as I refilled my glass yet again.
“I’d be on my knees if I drank as much as you.”
There was a note of concern in his voice, not overarching concern, just that little bit. It was sweet, and it made me giggle a bit before I drained the glass again. Alcohol makes me giddy, not drunk, and anything less than a steady flow of liquor has no effect on me at all. But when it has me in its grip I can be quite… impulsive.
“It fuels my madness,” I laughed and strode over to the balcony, throwing open the sliding door and stretching out, my feet and hands at the corners of the doorway, letting the cool breeze of the autumn night slide over my skin, drinking in the sight of the harbor below. “I love this view.”
“Not bad from here, either… and I’ll bet the neighbors like it, too.” He came up behind me and slid his arms about me, drawing me tightly to him. It felt wonderful, his head resting atop mine, his body warm and firm behind me, his hands tracing lines of goose bumps up my belly and over my breasts. His timing was impeccable- the warm rush from the whiskey suffused my body and I let my arms fall, melting in to his grasp as I turned to face him. I licked his chest, letting the salty flavour of his skin and sweat mix with the smoky aftertaste of the Crown Royal.
“You taste so good,” I murmured as I lifted my face and then found his mouth with mine. He was surprised. Surprised at his powerful response, at my animal hunger, at how quickly a casual gesture escalated in to forty minutes of exertion, sweat and pleasure. Such is life with one such as I.
“No,” he said, seizing my wrist as I reached for my bottle, “every time you open that thing we wind up in the tangle again, and I’m starving.”
“I’ll call room service…”
“Oh. man, no more steak, no more lobster- I need real food… pizza. I know just the place.”
I let him shower first as I drained the last of the Crown Royal and called the desk to have the room serviced and the bar restocked. I love good hotels- twelve-thirty in the morning and they did not even blink. Of course, they knew me at this one. I slipped in to the shower while he was getting dressed and took it first at full hot for a minute, then warm for a quick wash, then dead cold to rinse. In and out in under five minutes. My wardrobe was limited, but a pair of jeans, a t-shirt and my jacket seemed just the thing for a pizza run.
Gregory watched me tuck a half-litre of Jim Beam inside my jacket and drop five one-hundred-dollar bills on the table. I saw the disapproval there, but I countered it with a grin, and we were off.
It turned out he not only knew where to get pizza at one in the morning, he also knew where to find his friends. That saddened me; because I knew that it was likely Gregory and I were now done. I seldom survive contact with the peers in situations like this, but I was well fueled, and quite mad.
An hour later I was deep in to the discussion of Marxist theory with a child who had no clue what Marx was all about, and thought that Stalin was simply misunderstood.
“Marxism can work,” he insisted, “if it is properly applied. The Soviets and Mao were too concerned with the maintenance of power to make an honest attempt at true Socialism.”
“That’s the problem, honey,” I replied, “you don’t seem to understand that it’s all about the power. Can’t make a Marxist Utopia without holding on to the reigns of power, and it becomes the center of everything.”
“That’s an old argument,” he rebuffed me, “in a modern society…”
“You can use technology to keep tabs on the untrue,” I interrupted him. I paused to drain a glass of Stoli on ice, then continued, “It’s like this, boy: you think that Marxism can work if they just give you and yours the chance to do it because this time you’ll do it right, but, not to be crude here, that’s the political equivalent of promising not to come in my mouth. You may mean it, you may be sincere, but once things get rolling and you taste the power, all the soft caresses and teasing will turn in to a fist behind my head. Only in this case the aftermath is not a funky aftertaste and a stain on my blouse, but a mountain of corpses and a population in chains. Been there, done that, got the t-shirt, and fuck you if you think we ought to try it again, capice?"
Gregory intervened at that point and I let him defuse the situation, but his friend gazed upon me with eyes alight with the fire of fresh hatred. Poor child, he had no idea whom he was dealing with. I have no real political persona, but I know balderdash when it is laid at my doorstep. We left his friends and he walked me back to the hotel, but when I reached the suite, I was alone…
Sunday, October 12
I have been dreaming of late, dreaming of the sea.
I have a confession to make. Nothing earth shattering or terribly revealing, just a quirk… or perhaps more correctly a phobia: the sea terrifies me. It is not a fear of water, for swimming pools and lakes offer no problem, nor does swimming at the seashore, rather it is the open sea that contains horrors for me.
There are easy theories as to why this should be so, but the reasons run deeper and are not all clear to my understanding. I remember the first time I crossed the Atlantic, on a contract bound for the Virginia colony as an indentured maidservant. The smell is the first thing that comes to mind, but fast on the heels of that is the Sea. The certain knowledge that beyond the hull was the cold, deep, gray and merciless expanse of heaving water, like some malevolent beast hungry for my very life- I remembered how eagerly it had claimed me before, how grudgingly it had given me up. Ever since then the idea of being lost in the open sea has sent shudders down my spine. Suffice it to say that when we reached Virginia I was never so happy to be sold in all my life.
I spent seven weeks in that stinking hold, clinging to a post or huddled in the bunk I shared with four others. One of the women would force me to eat or take a little water from time to time. I doubt I slept more than an hour at a stretch. I hardly noticed that a third of the crew and half the human cargo succumbed to disease, or that I had so callously broken the neck of one young tough who thought I could benefit from his special sort of “comforting”. I cannot even begin to accurately describe my state of mind- I have never been in such a deep and prolonged state of irrational fear. Suffice it to say that since then I have ventured on to a ship only three times, and never for long voyages.
Yet here I am, dreaming of the sea. Not just waking in the morning and remembering dreams (which is something I never do), but waking in the middle of the night shaken from slumber by vivid images of the sea and myself. And I am left longing for the sight, the sound, and the smell: I ache for the Sea. Yet the sea still terrifies me.
Someday I am sure I will understand it.
Thursday, October 9
E-mail seems to be working again, though Hushmail still has their disclaimer up. I have received two messages today, though not from Loren or the Yeti. As I noted a few moments ago- you get what you pay for.
Tuesday, October 7
I am slipping in to insanity. I can feel it stealing up behind me, stray thoughts and desires, those things that make up the normal background chatter of an active mind are beginning to press their way to the fore. Irrational urges I am unable to ignore. The other day a realization that a young man had made a habit of admiring me as I took my morning latte mushroomed in to a ruthless seduction I was helpless to stop. He did not deserve this, to have me sweep in and out of his life like an emotional wrecking ball. He should have spent the weekend with his friends, spouting his silly politics, chasing after some doe-eyed freshman girl, not crashing about a hotel suite with me.
I expect better of myself, but such things have happened before. My grasp over my emotions slips, and it snowballs out of control, sometimes destructively so. At least this time it is only sex.
Monday, October 6
I encountered a new blog yesterday, and I find it quite intriguing. He moves me, deeply, because his writing is so intensely personal. Go visit The Beast.
Having had time to review everything I do believe I have been timid in my recommendation. Allow me to redress that now: Travis seems to be unwittingly engaged in the task of defining the art of being Man. That his words are so wrenchingly personal is testimony to his courage and generosity. I wept when reading his offerings, and not out of joy, or sorrow, or pity, but out of gratitude that he chose to share so much of himself. I am willing to consider that it is perhaps just a personal preference on my part, but I believe that not to be the case. I believe Travis and The Yeti and Etherian could have quite the correspondence. Would that I were a fly on the wall…
Sunday, October 5
Somebody who shall remain nameless insisted I take this personality test(Be aware that this site repeatedly asks you to install various not-so-friendly plugins- ignore them). These are rather difficult for me as I generally approach tests of any kind with the intent to obtain a specific outcome. Furthermore, several of the questions either provided no method for me to reply truthfully (Age being the first one), or simply did not apply. Still, the result was interesting, if generic.
Like just 4% of the population you are an EXPERIMENTER (Dominant Introvert Abstract Thinker). Although you're slightly shy (admit it!), you love control. When a problem comes in your way, you stomp on it swiftly and decisively. You are bothered easily by failure in others and failure in yourself. You don't like people that you don't think are intelligent. Rather than arguing with them, however, you would just as soon ignore them altogether.
In relationships, you have a strong heart. And because you're introverted, people take you as someone they can trust. But the fact is that in addition to solving problems, you like to create them. So there's a decent chance that you'll cheat on a loved one. If you do, you'll likely get away with it.
You're a good person at heart, but then again, who isn't?
I suppose I create problems simply by existing...
Saturday, October 4
Regarding Love, Hope and the nature of Man. What follows is a synthesis of two letters which are my end of an on-going correspondence with another blogger, whom I quote here only briefly as I never requested his permission to post his letters entire.
It pains me to think that my tales here might be cause for consternation amongst others- I have always assumed that I would be taken as a fanciful diversion. That I allow mystery to surround myself could be defensive, or a necessary part of the fantasy. Either way, it serves my needs and I will never make a definitive statement on it.
Regarding the nature of Man: the view of Man as animal, slave to a genetic imperative and playing at games of morality and civilization has always seemed a desperate ploy to legitimize the despicable in their own eyes. I have read your site, watching you cast out questions of moral weight, and I have refrained from commenting as I felt that by the very premise of my identity I would be somehow impure, contaminating the flow of the debate.
Modern (and by that term I refer to post-Renaissance) morality seems overly concerned with concepts of life, death, and the right of one being to place bonds of obligation, consensual or otherwise, upon another. This has become immensely intensified in the past century, as the religious and political spheres have separated to some degree. In America it is quite acute and has been for some time. This serves to de-focus the understanding of morality and how it relates to everyday life and the choices made by sentient beings. By casting morality in political terms it becomes simpler to eschew it.
Let us consider love. You recently questioned your readers regarding the relationship between sex and love, with somewhat predictable results. The problem, from my perspective, is that you muddied the real question (What is Love?) by casting it in the context of sex. A recipe for unsatisfying results. I would have asked simply this: what does love mean to you?
Let me see if I can offer a cogent answer to that question.
Love, in its simplest form is a recognition that others matter. That their tragedies are your tragedies, that their triumphs are your triumphs, that their sorrows and joys are yours as well. Love is the fundamental connection between human beings, beyond all other things. It takes many forms and it hides in many places. Suggest to your local police officer that he engages in his profession out of a fundamental love for his fellow man and he may scoff, but inside he will recognize that there is a grain of truth to it. These are small relationships. Should we be tempted to blend emotion and physics we might call this the Gravitational Force of Humanity. This small love is what makes it possible to live in towns and cities, and to pass strangers on the street without fear or confrontation. This small love fails sometimes, tragically, but overall it seems to prevail.
Let me approach this from another perspective: do you on a daily basis desire to harm others? Do you seek to place your fortunes always above those who surround you? Would you deliberately harm a man who was looking you in the eye for petty personal gain? I submit to you that a significant majority of people would not. I understand that there have been psychological tests and experiments that might seem to bear out the opposite, but put the question in the terms in which I have stated it and ask yourself honestly what the answer would be? Then ask yourself the most important question: why?
The answer is again, love. Not that you love the man you might harm, but that you yourself seek to be loved and that such an act could not only harm the love you feel from others, but that which you feel for yourself. Self-love is powerful- just ask anyone who lets it get out of control. Look at those who do abuse others, those who would take the advantage that casual harm might gain them. Look at those who clearly place themselves above others in all things. They have common traits, not the least of which being that they find themselves surrounded by people who pretend to love them, people who are motivated by the same thoughtless need for themselves as the man or woman who has clawed his way to the top across the shattered lives of his betters.
What to make of this? Nothing more than that mankind seems to be as hard-wired for love as he is for procreation. If there is no hope for you in that statement then I doubt we could profitably continue this discussion.
Love manifests itself in many ways. Sacrifice, either of a lifetime or of life itself, is the most visible manifestation. The religious leader who gives up the chance for a wife and family in order to answer to a higher calling- he acts out of love for his faith, and that is by extension a love of Man. The clichéd soldier throwing himself upon the hand grenade to save his fellows, is that not an expression of love? The doctor who daily grinds against the depredations of nature upon the human body, what motivates him? If you think lucre is all, then you do not know many doctors. And what of engineers, electricians, carpenters, dressmakers, pastry chefs, cobblers, stevedores, drovers… it is the satisfaction of being part of an overall good that drives them far more than simple greed or need. It is the understanding of that basic connection that lets one take satisfaction in a job well done, regardless if that job entails shaping the foundations of a nation or merely stacking those bails in the barn.
In the end, just about every profession practiced by men is a manifestation of that overreaching force of love: none of it direct or even truly presenting itself openly to be seen, but I submit that it is utterly essential to making civilization work. When that love is sundered, civilizations fall.
Romantic Love is a construct of modern civilization, a mixture of the carnal with this smaller “l” love I have been discussing. That it can usurp all common sense, bring down the mighty or elevate the base shows how powerful it can be, but it is not the driving force of civilization. It is not at the heart of what it is to be Man. It is the advent and the elevation of Romantic Love that provides the despicable with their wedge to separate Man from Morality- pointing to this beautiful confluence of the carnal and the spiritual and calling it the mere satisfaction of genetic imperatives. If one must find the Devil whispering in the eaves, this is where he lurks: it is that which points to the underside of civilization, those dark and festering swamps where Man and love often fail, and calls that the norm, the nature of Man- there is the true voice of evil, the antithesis of love.
My point is that love is deeply written into the smaller parts of day-to-day life. Love is a basic function of human existence. As such it lends credence to the idea that there is an overall purpose to that existence. Not proof, just another hopeful sign.
I oft am concerned by the reactions I engender in folk, even when I cloak myself in the guise of the ordinary. I dislike the way my existence can warp the lives of those who stray close. Another scientific metaphor: my life as naked singularity for the human spirit.
Enough of that.
The question of my existence seems almost inconsequential to this discussion. I feel certain that the notions I presented could as easily have been born of a life in which one’s own demons had been unleashed, confronted and eventually overcome. This is germane to the reason I noted for declining commenting on your posts directly- the stated nature of my existence tends to distort the discussion. Either my words carry added import due to my immortality, or they are rendered suspect by my charade: a classic example of Catch 22, and another reason why I am enjoined against ever answering the question in an even remotely dispositive manner. Mystery makes me what I am in the virtual world. This pains me, but my choices in this matter are nil.
I hide from the world, my only exposure a web site upon which I spin tales and occasionally opine on the nature of Man. What would be the reaction were I to become publicly known as a verifiably ‘immortal’ being? That my freedom would be forfeit is a given. That my destruction would be sought is to be expected for my existence would threaten too many hide-bound ideologies. You would likely be surprised to see how many people considered rational and thoughtful and committed to the scientific pursuit of knowledge would become irrational when presented with the certainty of my existence. I would become a symbol and a tool claimed by every faction as proof against others, or denounced as an incarnation of evil, some diabolical manifestation to be eradicated as a test of faith.
Could the Devil not dangle eternal life upon the mortal Earth as a lure to damnation? Do not misunderstand- I do not believe in the Devil, or in Evil as some coherent force, rather I use the terms because they are easy and recognizable, despite their ability to fracture the discussion. Nonetheless I believe my point is valid: there are those who do believe in Evil as an active force and my existence would be an intolerable outrage to them. I know this from bitter experience. Furthermore, there are those who would stop at nothing to possess what I have, my warnings as to being careful what one wishes for notwithstanding.
All in all, I am again left with no choice.
It was noted that I dwelt on the darkness without considering the balance of light; however, I believe my position is consistent with the idea that love counters evil, that hope counters fear. I find it odd that in my recent spate of bitter unhappiness I still seem more disposed towards taking a kindly and optimistic view of both the nature of Man and His prospects, than are you. Perhaps I misunderstand? My comment that you should be able to find hope in the statement that Man is as predisposed to love as he is to procreation was offered in the smug assurance that there would be no disagreement with the premise. That you might disagree with the fact is another issue entirely, for I am in no position to expect that anyone should accept my words as indisputable. My arrogance does have its limits.
As for the nature of man, I must disagree. There are many people who might justify their actions on the basis of simply being animals. The question is not their intentions- but rather what “despicable” could possibly mean if there is no greater purpose. If we are animals, then all we can do is follow our instincts. If we are hardwired towards behaviors, then how can we follow a construct of morality that is not completely based on pure utilitarianism or genetic success?
The argument becomes circular, and for most the only escape from the circle is faith. Faith is a lovely thing to behold for it provides courage in the face of hopelessness and stands as a bulwark against fear. In the age of ignorance it was sufficient unto itself; however, in the modern arena of ideas the critical thinker cannot easily dismiss the evidence of science. Being a person of faith the fear is that science is merely a tool of damnation, seducing one away from that which has served him so well for so long. It is a frightening dilemma and for those who fall prey to the idea that Man is naught but a somewhat more ingenious animal the slide in to darkness can be short and steep.
That there are those who justify their perfidy on the basis of the animal nature of Man does not lend credence to the notion. If Man is naught but a clever beast why does he possess a sense of right and wrong? For he certainly does. What purpose does it serve? Is it truly just a construct designed to give institutions such as the Church or the Prince control over the populace? How so? Why would a moral sense be required when the threat of death is as easily at hand? It seems to me that the question to be asked is not why so many are capable of such evil, but why any one man would eschew the practice of evil when all around him embrace it? Furthermore, why would any nation elect to abstain from the Empire of Power, why would any collection of peoples elect not to slaughter their foes en masse upon victory in war? Ask not why there is Evil, for the answer to that is the submission of men to the notion that their acts have no consequence beyond the pleasure they obtain and need no justification other than the ability to commit them. I include in this those who commit evil in the name of their faith. Ask instead, why is there Good? That is the difficult question, and the one worthy of the thinking Man.
Hope for Man can be found in a single man, and be valid for all Men. The Christians out there would be nodding in agreement; however, I see Jesus only as an example of something I see manifest all about me. Hope for Man does not require that all men be capable of choosing Good over Evil, just that some are, or even one. For if one can, others can, and that is the essence of Hope.