reading notes for Seven Surrenders by Ada Palmer
The many mouths of Providence have swallowed up a thousand histories, and could swallow one more.
Tyrants and assassins have a great symbiosis. Assassins are always evil and despised (even when our effects are good, we’re still a bad means to a good end) until tyrants crop up. Then suddenly assassins are heroes, lifelines; suddenly we alone have the power to save the world without a revolution and the destruction revolutions bring.
It’s an important question, fundamental really—can we choose actions that purely make the world worse without any perverse perceived benefit?
“Yes, Məəəer Saneer,” in Mycroft’s signature vague diction which lets you think they’re saying ‘Member’ but underneath it’s really ‘Master’ leaking out.
‘avocation’: a second great occupation that takes you away from your vocation, like a musician sidetracked by acting, a teacher by politics, Thisbe by making movies, or my ba’pa designing dolls, all important tasks but secondary still.
I am a Humanist because I believe in heroes, that history is driven by those individuals with fire enough to change the world. If you aren’t a Humanist it’s because you think something different. That difference matters.
“Masons and Cousins never agree, they’re polar opposites.” “Exactly, they propose opposite plans, then compromise, and reduce any debate to reconciling their two proposals and ignoring everybody else’s.”
Our modern moths have bounced so many times off lightbulbs, they aren’t prepared for torches, and forget that wings can burn.
Deism, the comfortable fancy that all religions are coequal puzzle-piece interpretations of the same Clockmaker God, Who made this universe but does not interfere with blights or miracles, trusting Nature and mankind to run ourselves with the hands-off guidance of His beneficent, rational laws.
“We spent ten thousand years perfecting gender, more: gendered clothing, gendered gestures, gendered language, gendered thought, a hundred thousand tools of seduction, so literally all a maiden had to do was let a glimpse of ankle show beneath her skirts to blind almost anyone with thoughts of sex. Since the worst of both sides in the Church War were also those that separated the sexes most, fear wedded gender to religion’s poison in the survivors’ minds. Suddenly neutered dress and speech were mandatory to proclaim one’s allegiance to the ‘good guys,’ and anyone who used skirts and ties and ‘he’s and ‘she’s—even in nontraditional ways—invited the label ‘zealot.’ So the Great ‘They’ Silence fell, but our ancestors didn’t purge the libraries and history books, didn’t ban the costumes from the stage and screen, and those are enough to teach us gender’s old language, the cues of dress and gait, which even today thou understandeth as clearly as ‘thee’ and ‘thou.’”
“You always say ‘This Universe’s God,’ as if there were some need to specify.”
With time, I began to see him less as a blossom swelling to its proper shape than as a buried statue, waiting for the sand around to fall away.
the unique and absolute philosophic calm of one who has already drunk the hemlock, or already sees his heart’s blood streaming from the wound.
“Except ants” is Mushi’s motto. Humanity is forever boasting of its ‘unique’ achievements: “Humans are the only creatures who build cities, use agriculture, domesticate animals, have nations and alliances, practice slavery, make war, make peace; these wonders make us stand alone above all other creatures, in glory and in crime.” But then Mushi corrects, “Except ants.”
The Mardis thought that three things make wars more or less terrible: the length of the peace before them, the amount of technological change, and how little the commanders know about war’s up-to-date realities.
Kat Typer I know is fascinated by the pseudoscientific spiritualism of the Nineteenth Century: meters to quantify ghostly presences, meticulously catalogued séances, ESP research, but it is not in the supernatural where Kat finds wonder. It is the late Nineteenth-Century mind that fascinates, these scientists who were simultaneously so rigorous and so poetic, so critical and so credulous, so expert and so wrong. It was a unique mind-state, Kat thinks, fleeting, a psychological mayfly possible only in the moment when science was rising quickly in respect and use, but lagging behind in power. Medicine was not yet competent, workweeks not yet humane, so these minds, trying to be modern, still faced premodern trauma levels, and channeled that into the most sophisticated double-think we have ever achieved. That is Kat’s current theory anyway.
In my experience the Furies are a fairer portrait of Fate than any smiling angel. They are not good, not merciful. The sufferings they sow are not steps toward some incomprehensible Good; rather, in this kingdom where the virtuous must suffer, at least the Furies make the wicked suffer more. This I can believe in, Fates who spin and mark and cut our threads of life and hide no benevolence behind their shears; some other goal, perhaps, but not benevolence.
It’s the truth to me now, the way I think, and I can’t stop thinking that way. It’s like how you can’t stop thinking that up is up, even though you know there’s no real up in Space
birdman cities, giant mushroom forests, seas of dark ghosts, anthropomorphized animals striding in armor through medieval castles, and a dozen other teeming worlds
medical conditions, habits, allergies, emotional instabilities, dangerous pets, old ceiling beams, ex-lovers, anything
Papadelias: “Two hundred and forty-four years ago, the Six-Hive Global Transit Network, developed by the two Olympian doctors Orion Saneer and Tungsten Weeksbooth, started using Mitsubishi-trained Cartesian set-sets. They rapidly discovered that set-sets hooked to the transit computers could identify people whose deaths would solve big tensions in world history, or help their Hive. The Mitsubishi and Olympians, later Humanists, made a deal to use this system for their mutual benefit against the other Hives. The Europeans got on board in the twenty-three thirties, forming what I’m calling the Saneer-Weeksbooth Set-Set Transit System Three-Hive Secret Alliance—O.S. for short—which has thus far claimed two thousand, two hundred and four victims, and will claim more if you don’t help me end it.”
Old Town, Spectacle Strip, and Institute; if only the most successful revolutionaries cease to fear their teachers, how better could Brill boast his conquest of Master Freud than to let his capital flaunt its Id, Ego, and Superego so conspicuously?
The Clothing as Communication Movement began in the 2170s, that same stretch of postwar regeneration when Chairman Carlyle proclaimed the Death of Majority, when Utopia launched the first terraforming ships to Mars, and yes, when Cartesian set-sets took Earth’s bloody helm. As we left the Exponential Age behind us, the Clothes-as-Com leaders called for our new modern age to be an ‘honest’ one, where our clothing would proclaim Hive, work, hobbies, allegiance, a glance proclaiming what makes each stranger special. We tend to assume the Brillist sweaters sprang up in that same decade, along with Mason suits and season-changing Mitsubishi cloth, but it was actually earlier, 2162, when a freshly converted Thomas Carlyle was channeling half of Gordian’s budget to the Institute, that Fellows began to home-knit sweaters which spelled out their numbers, the first digit coded by the texture of the knit, the second by the waistline, the third by cuffs, etc. I myself have found the code impossible to master, too unintuitive, like Brillism itself, but I have picked up four things: shorter sleeves go with better skills at math, the patterns on the fabrics get less complicated as a kid grows up, quiet types wear turtlenecks, and a hood on any Brillist makes me feel fear. Whatever Faust could see in his hiding students’ sweaters, it won a belly laugh.
“I don’t mean the next Headmaster, I mean the Brain-bash’. You’re supposed to pick the most innovative and original bash’ you can find, with the rarest number combinations, and put them in charge of picking new political and intellectual directions for Gordian. ‘The guiding light must be one that has never burned before, the spirit of the age personified in its rarest newborn,’ isn’t that what Chairman Carlyle wrote in their memoirs?” Faust laughed. “Have you added constitutional scholarship to your list of hobby strats?”
“Directions? We’re not just meandering?”
“We speak so smugly of economic determinism. We say the French Revolution was inevitable because an expanding population made it untenable for a miniscule nobility to keep monopolizing ninety-five percent of the wealth. We say fascism and Nazism were inevitable because the economic idiocies of 1919 made it impossible for peace to last. We say all this as if past peoples were not only locked into their choices, but were stupid not to realize that they were.” The voice was thin, tired but used to being tired, just audible over the breathy shifting of the gathered crowd that filled the square. “But what did it actually feel like? Did a French peasant wake up every morning thinking about the inequitable distribution of wealth? Or that the Old Regime was on its last legs? Or did they wake up thinking that they were hungry while their noble masters weren’t? They felt uneasy, unhappy, tense, they wanted things to improve, wanted them back the way they were, perhaps, in the imaginary idyllic past. But war? War wasn’t in their minds.”
It doesn’t take a declaration, or an invasion, to start a war, all it takes is an ‘us’ and a ‘them.’ And a spark. You think there aren’t plenty of sparks today?
revenge is dangerous. Revenge has motive dripping off of it, and when your motive is obvious, people will link things to you even without evidence, and more when there is evidence
Never create a personal enemy. Always keep layers of minions between yourself and someone you destroy, it’s safer that way.
“Pythagorean set-sets.” “Yes, their notion of reincarnation is more Pythagorean than Buddhist, well done. How did you know?”
Think of our perversions as topiary. We all had the seeds in us, but it’s Madame who made them art
Silence is harshest when the speaker has no real face
“Not their ideas. The Humanists created this. No one else sees history as composed of individuals. On their own the Mitsubishi would target corporations, Masons governments, Europe nation-strats, me bash’es, the Anonymous ideas. Only the Humanists still think the world is made of individuals.”
What’s supposed to happen to the world after you destroy it?
the impenetrable Figure who seemed more and more the center of this unraveling world
“If God made Man and Man made this, it is still a Self-portrait. And if, as some say, God made Man in His Image, and His Image then made this, it is a portrait’s portrait. And if Nature is the face of God, another Portrait, and Man is the spawn of Nature, it becomes a portrait’s portrait’s portrait. The Nature we see on Earth too is a microcosm, one might say a portrait of the Cosmos, and the Cosmos a portrait of the Laws of Nature, portraits spawning portraits like the spiral chambers of a nautilus repeating the face of God. Such a Creator seems desperate to show Himself to someone. And yet He hides Himself.”
but no finite thing can substitute for lost infinity.
“My universe does not have time,” the foreign God replied. “I find it cruel, like death and distance and misunderstanding, barriers separating that which would rather be whole. I do not yet understand why This Universe’s God would make such things. Space. Time. I met Time at the moment of My birth, but since meeting it, and in My native infinity outside it, I have always known What I Am.” “What happened to your universe when you left and came to this one?” “I have not left,” He answered. “I cannot leave My universe any more than Being can leave this wood”
The sensayer nodded. “If it were true, the existence of another God and another universe, it would be the most important fact in the history of science, as well as the history of religion and everything else.” She buried her fingers in her blond-tinged hair. “I’m trying to understand what you’re describing, but it’s a lot, and, for me personally, at least, belief can’t come before understanding.” “I likewise find Anselm difficult,” Jehovah answered.
Jehovah spent several silent breaths in thought. “I am nowhere near understanding Time. It seems to be a direction in which sentience can only move one way and perceive the other, but it also destroys, and twists, and swallows, making legacies differ from, or even oppose, intent. It annihilates, repeats, erases. It is too alien to me.”
“I welcome questions,” This Kind God replied. “Now that this universe has taught Me what ignorance is, I will never willfully inflict it on a sentient thing, as My Peer does.” “Your Peer, you mean This Universe’s God?”
“You’re not alone there. Everyone asks questions. Why am I here? Why is there Evil in the world? Why won’t the Creator show Themself?
A fideist is a religious skeptic, one who believes that human reason, however lofty its ambition, cannot achieve real, indubitable Truth, and that the senses, however fertile science makes them, are likewise fallible and incomplete. Not to be trusted. Have all your calculations answered what the soul is made of, Science?
If I ask I shall discover whether he answers. Blindly we move. That is how time works
the mad Roman Emperors had themselves proclaimed gods, and inflicted unspeakable horrors on their subjects, but the sane ones were proclaimed gods too, and they did fine.
The Stoics said no man can be called happy until the end of time, for, if all his successes were undone after his death, he would be wretched in retrospect. I think, though, they were too demanding. No one can hope to follow the Utopians to the infinity they aim at, but if I dared ask anything more of Providence, it would be that I might live to know one thing. Will this cold Plan let them take that first step to the stars?
Apollo believed there was no limit to humanity, no world, no transformation, no dream beyond our power to make real, that with reason and ambition in our blood we can achieve anything, become anything! Just not in time.” He gripped me harder. “In time for what?” “Mardi,” I answered. “War day. Mars day. In two hundred and fifty years the next stage of the Great Project will be complete. Do you think a greedy, selfish Earth will sit back and watch the minority they most distrust take sole possession of a whole new world? How many wars were fought over the Americas? Over Africa? Over expansion? In ten thousand years, maybe in one thousand years, humanity will have progressed enough to no longer feel envy or greed or hate the ‘other,’ but in two hundred and fifty? Utopia is optimistic but not blind. When the terraforming is complete there will be war, all the Hives of this complacent Earth united against Utopia.
Humanity has everything now, everything: power, prosperity, stability, longevity, leisure, charity, peace. Vocateurs earn society’s respect doing the work they love, and those who aren’t vokers put in their twenty hours and spend the greater part of life at play. Happiness has taken the place of wealth as our prime measure of success, and envy no longer hungers for rare riches hoarded by the great, but for smiles and happy hours which all Earth has in infinite supply. This is what past civilizations wished for, worked for, what emperors and presidents and prime ministers and kings are supposed to try to give their people. We have. We’re done.” He gave a little hiccup, my first proof that the water on Caesar’s cheeks was more than rain. “Every life has the potential to be a good one, for the first time in history. And everyone’s secretly afraid that it’s fragile, that if we try to make it better, change something, if the Hive proportions shift too much, if science raises the life expectancy too fast, or Brill’s Institute finally figures out how to upload our brains into computers, or make us all into impossible geniuses, it will fall apart. Golden Ages always end with Dark ones. The Exponential Age, from the Black Death to the World Wars, was all about growth, acceleration, future-building, change, recovery first, then progress, advancement, exploration, interconnection, every generation experiencing a new world, different, more advanced than the generation before, a state of constant change, mixed but usually more for good than bad.
Too much change is dangerous. A happy world wanted progress to stop.
Only Utopia thinks the future is more important than the present, that there are worlds that we could make which are worth destroying the one we have here. Or, at least, they used to think that, but if Mirai Feynman would rather stay home with their bash’ and kids than study the first ants on Mars, maybe even Utopia is vulnerable to too much peace. Our happy world has made complacency contagious.
“Apollo asked me once if I would destroy a better world to save this one. That wasn’t the real question, the real question was if I would destroy this world to save a better one. Apollo didn’t just think the war was necessary to keep the next one from wiping us all out. They thought we had to make the world less perfect or no one would be willing to face the hardships of moving on. There are few people left anywhere who are willing to die for something, for their children maybe, but not for a cause, and certainly not for a patch of raw and barren Mars ground. Apollo thought that we need suffering to create people capable of enduring suffering. World Peace does not breed heroes.”
“Freud said all technology is a prosthetic god, a set of tools we weak humans strap on to give ourselves the powers we crave: computers for omniscience; trackers for omnipresence; medicine for immortality; armor for invulnerability; guns for Heaven’s wrathful thunderbolts.
If He was born a God, why not all of us? Perhaps every human being in this world was a visiting God like Him, trained by society not to realize what we are, to think that the universes to which only we have access are mere imagination, not Realities themselves. And if we are all Gods and mortal, do our universes die with Us? Does every human death take with it another cosmos, infinite, life-filled, and better than this one? I could not prove to Him it was not so—can you?
even the best parts of history have had a little violence. All free peoples in every age and every continent have agreed that assassins are necessary for one purpose above all others: to kill tyrants.
The Hives are separate because they stand for separate things. I’m a Humanist. I’m not taking orders from any Mason, and I don’t think a Mason should take orders from a Humanist. Different Hives think differently, and need to be led by people who think differently. It doesn’t matter how wonderful or competent Jehovah Mason was, no one can think seven ways at once. The Hive system made monarchy popular again by eliminating the risk of tyranny, since if a bad Emperor came along, all the Masons would just switch Hives, but free choice requires options to choose from. Combining all Hives under a single ruler would leave this world no better than back when geographic nations gave people no choice.
Asclepios son of Apollo, kindest of the gods, who, in his zeal to help mankind, would even break Zeus’s law and raise the dead.
Change is the enemy here, too many changes, too big, too fast.
“We’re all shocked by what’s happened,” the no-longer-anonymous Anonymous continued, stronger now that love’s threat had been diffused, “and our instinct is to want shocking solutions, to destroy the system that’s gone so wrong, to purge the guilty, and make something new. We mustn’t be so rash. Before you listen to Sniper, or Tully Mardi, telling you a bloody revolution is the only way to make a new world, think about what you’ll be giving up: utopia! Don’t let one Hive using it as a name fool you, the Mars colony they’re building, their space fantasies, those aren’t utopia. This is utopia, right here! Right now! We have everything past generations worked for. Human history consisted of exploring, inventing, struggling, progressing inch by inch through toil and sacrifice to achieve what? Longevity, prosperity, safety, family, liberty, culture, art, the leisure to pursue happiness, the end of plague, the end of famine, peace: we have it all!”
This world is not perfect. It’s scarred by mistakes, past and recent, but this is the utopia past generations worked to make for their descendants, not a perfect world, but the best one humanity has ever had, by far. This is the better world that history’s future-builders dedicated their lives to making. We cannot throw away, because of two thousand deaths, the legacy which billions died building for us. This world is a utopia, not perfect, not finished, but still a utopia compared to every other era humanity has seen. Calm, slow change is what we need, to make this good thing better, not war, not revolution, not tearing it all down. If we all dedicate ourselves to saving this good world, and to improving this good world, we can preserve the good, and make the bad parts better.”
“It makes no Sense that Things stop,”
“You need them to be conspicuousment Outsiders,” the Child answered, “to distract Everyone from noticing ut you’re also Rivals for the Trunk.”
“Either the Trunk is on Earth, or in Space, or Inside with Brain Words. If Either of you is right, the Majority is wrong.” “Majority,”
“Your Mother made a Bet with me when we built this Place, that they could combine de Sade’s and Diderot’s Techniques with Brill’s to raise a Human-Creature more alien and ‘Enlightened’ than anything anyone had imagined Humans could become. I still say you’re not too many Steps past Diderot’s Rameau and Nietzsche’s Zarathustra
The number of letters advocating particular political actions or policies seems to spike or fall primarily in reaction to sudden outside events, the Masons or the Anonymous, or in response to world-famous incidents like the Mycroft Canner murders. These spikes are short-lived, usually normalizing after a few weeks. The information I have seen suggests that, if not for the Anonymous controlling the CFB, the Hive’s core political policies would have been dictated all these years by wild short-term oscillations of opinion, resulting in a chaotic and panic-driven system incapable of long-term stability.
For many things it works well—local issues, disaster response, social protections, health and human services—but it does not work for political decisions, the quick but considered responses to actions by other Hives, or to global crises, that all governments need to be able to make. The feedback system cannot do it, and has only ever seemed to do it thanks to corrupt intervention.”
“In brief, this conspiracy’s effect has been to conceal and protect the Cousins from the fact that the feedback system does not work as a form of government.
“Being a Cousin is all about gender. Specifically about the feminine. I don’t mean anything biological, I mean the old cultural construction. All the eclectic things we associate with Cousins—nurturing, helping, healing, child rearing, tenderness, charity, welcoming the lonely, comforting the sick, tempering the violent—they’re all things that, in olden days, were associated with the feminine. That’s what all the Cousinly activities have in common, but because we’re scared to say the words no one knows how to articulate it anymore. None of you can articulate what the Cousins are about, can you? Not without gender.”
“The old concepts of masculine and feminine were huge,” she continued, “complicated, centuries in the making, and deeply rooted in people, consciously and unconsciously. They facilitated bigotry and oppression, yes, but they had a lot of other social functions too.
The worst cults in the war were also associated with gender oppression, so after the war the nascent Hives tried to purge all gender differences so abruptly that there was no time to come up with substitutes for all the other social functions gender used to have. Imagine if an ancient surgeon, on seeing penicillin work for the first time, had renounced his scalpel, calling on all fellow surgeons to vow never again to cut into a patient when pills could cure without wounds, totally ignoring the fact that there were countless illnesses for which surgery, perfected over centuries, was still a more effective treatment than nascent pharmacy. That’s what happened when we suddenly silenced gender. The broad, vague, cultural concepts of masculine and feminine had served a lot of social functions beyond oppression. Back when half the race identified as feminine it meant that half the race was devoted in some way to nurturing, peace, and charity, and we never developed a substitute for that. Since masculine was the empowered gender, the rushed transition encouraged everyone to act masculine, and all at once humanity went from a race of half peacemakers to a race where those with instincts toward the feminine felt ashamed of the label, or ended up sheltering in its only acceptable modern form.” “The Cousins?”
Andō made fists within his sleeves, the timed dyes of the Mitsubishi cloth just starting to ripen from summer green to autumn gold.
Utopia: “We want the future.”
“We would hardly work so hard for our utopias if we let ourselves live in the illusion that they are already real.”
“Select one to zoom in. They’re things you can fix or improve: stains or damage, litter, blank walls waiting for art, subjects for research, mysteries, hazards to life or health, clumsy technology waiting for a better alternative.”
It’s our Infinite To-Do List. It staves off complacency.
Oh, miraculous chameleon, Science, who can reverse your doctrine hourly and never shake our faith! What cult ever battered by this world of doubt can help but envy you?
The Eighteenth-Century aristocracy seduced, betrayed, and corrupted itself until its world self-destructed into revolution. I didn’t have to destroy you, Cornel. I just turned all of you into Eighteenth-Century aristocrats and let you do it yourselves.”
I love the Eighteenth Century. I fell in love reading about it at Senseminary, that great moment when humanity realized experiments didn’t just have to be done with sciences, they could be done with morals and religion, too. I wanted to do that, run an experiment like the American Experiment, or greater. I couldn’t resist the chance to finish what my heroes started, not just the humanitarians like the Patriarch and the romantics like Jean-Jacques, but the underbelly, La Mettrie, Diderot, de Sade. The Enlightenment tried to remake society in Reason’s image: rational laws, rational religion; but the ones who really thought it through realized morality itself was just as artificial as the aristocracies and theocracies they were sweeping away. Diderot theorized that a new Enlightened Man could be raised with Reason in place of conscience, a cold calculator who would find nothing good or bad beyond what his own analysis decided. They had no way to achieve one back then, but I did it. I raised an Alien.”
Wars get worse when people know less about them. What is war going to be like now that we don’t even have territory? A war of all against all fought in every single street!” She winced at his grasp. “Technology changes between every war. People adapt.” “The problem isn’t technology,” he seethed, “it’s ignorance! In the First World War the first commander of the Russian forces boasted that he hadn’t read a strategy book written in the past century. Germany’s attack plan was based on the Battle of Marathon—490 B.C.! Result: disaster. Well, everything’s Marathon to us now. There haven’t been strategy books written in three hundred years! How am I supposed to imagine sending people into battle? What will they do? How fast will they break? How long should they train? What’s a big enough force to feel confident enough to take on a mission? What’s a reasonable length of time to leave them in a combat zone before they go insane? War makes people into monsters. How do I keep them from shooting themselves? How do I keep them from raping and pillaging? Brussels is in flames—how long until that happens in the capital, and all over my Empire?”
Saladin laughed. “All these years I thought the only thing for a Cynic to do when we realize all the social rules are crap was to go live free like an animal, but Madame’s learned better. They didn’t have to cut themself off from society to keep from getting tangled in the puppet strings. All they had to do was genuinely not care.”
Diogenes the Cynic was our childhood mentor, Saladin’s and mine, the first of our wretched race to realize that honor, glory, ambition, wealth, success, all are artificial things, and that pursuing them only makes us miserable. True happiness is to live as Diogenes and Saladin dared, like a dog by the side of the road, eating when the urge comes, pissing when the urge comes, saving all one’s energy for the happy exercises of the mind, which no tyrant can deprive you of. Legend tells us that Alexander himself visited the wise old man, offering Diogenes anything in the world the Conqueror could grant; the Cynic asked only that the Great King stop blocking the sunlight so he could keep reading.
The Brillist definition of a bash’mate adds to the legal one, not just that you live together, but that you speak the same language, ideally the same group of languages, though mixed-tongue bash’es birth their own pidgin, each member injecting favorite foreign phrases into English. Bash’ by this definition is not just a group of people, but that special group of people with whom one can communicate completely.
“He says,” I continued, “that when He died He left, and existed only in His universe for a few moments, but He still remembered this one. He understands now that in His universe He’s always had the memories of His life in this one as Jehovah Mason, but without being born and experiencing time He couldn’t understand before how to sort those memories linearly, they were just thoughts and opinions to Him, not a continuity. Now that He’s had a chance to pass in and out of this universe and time again, He recognizes the memories for what they are. He’s always had them … well, there is no ‘always’ without time, but they’re part of Him, His Personality, His Self. He says those memories helped form the judgments He used in making His Own Universe. He says living here is what taught Him how to make it different there, better, richer. He used to think it was cruel making Him live here, but He sees now it was the only way This Universe’s God could find to reach out and share the example of His Creation, so Jehovah could respond and grow. The beginning of their Great Conversation. He says … He…” I groped for words to do His feelings justice, but how could I? Imagine yourself a child born blind and deaf, who has spent all your life in pain, but you realize now that that pain, that burn, that stab in the dark that has never let up, was the only means a desperate kinsman could find to prove that you are not alone. I don’t understand why it must be so hard for Gods to reach Each Other. Perhaps because Each is omnipotent within the perimeter of Its Own Mind, and reaching Another requires conceiving something outside One’s Self, not easy when there are no senses, no external world, no hands driven by instinct to grope and reach out, and no ‘out.’ Whatever it takes for Utopia to make First Contact across the sea of stars, a thousand years’ research, a thousand years frozen in flight, a thousand thousand lives, it will still be an expansion of the infant’s first grope toward what lies beyond its reach; this was harder. “He says He’ll return the favor if He can.”
The great breakthrough of our age is supposed to be that we measure success by happiness, admiring a man for how much he enjoyed his life, rather than how much wealth or fame he hoarded, that old race with no finish line.
It’s something else. There is a guiding Principle, not Good, not Evil, not Justice, not even Progress, something else that we can’t understand or name yet, one of these God-sized concepts that even Jehovah can’t describe in all His languages.
I do not ask you to believe, just play-believe, since often things we play-believe in—superstitions, bedtime stories, luck—still make us feel a little better when hard choices come.
if your theology cannot admit that He is more than a madman, at least believe that it is a madness which makes Him Good. By His command I may not ask you to fight for Him. His Wish is only that you look with love—as He does—upon this world, this human race, its many branches, and judge carefully which one you will fight to make the trunk.