Tag Archives: Universals

Anniversary

The sun was bright today Father, and the winds were slow. The heat was high, and the chill was low. And as I sat to write to thee, my heart was calmed, my mind made free.

I smiled to joyous passers-by; I beamed at flitting birds on high. And even to my friend black as night, I offered a hand devoid of spite.

He sat with me and grinned in turn, content to put aside his scorn; and looking up at the great blue sky, we wondered and pondered, “soliloquied”.

Our talk of things brought you to mind, and all the people we’d left behind. And soon we found our thoughts abroad, on home and hearth, on warmth and Words. I saw my father, stout and strong; I saw my mother soft and young; I saw the elders wise and old, and I saw the body, bright and bold. Their hands were lifted up in praise; their eyes and hearts were set ablaze, and their mouths aflutter with chants most holy, giving their all to sing to your glory.

My chest was hurt, my eyes were stung, and my lips began to move with song; for deep inside I remain the same: a child alone, his Doubt untamed. My guilt, my fear, they have not waned; my joy and cheer are still unchanged. I am a Universal child you see; this guilt and awe? They’re baked in me.

And so my smile was turned to rue, and my heart once more yearned for you. My questions, demands, were cast aside; the splendour of home was all on my mind.

I sighed and stood and brushed my clothes, and stared far out at the House that glowed. Glass and steel and gold and stone, its lights a reflection of your throne.

“T’would be sweet,” said Doubt to me, “To return to your House once free from me, for then your smile shall light the skies, your faith immune to all my lies.”

His words rang true to my aching breast, and so I put my thoughts to rest. Though weak by nature I will forge ahead; I will see this quest to its bitter end.

And so this day I give you thanks, for safety, protection, for a friend in my ranks. The year has been rough, confusing and bleak; there are days I’ve ended too fearful to speak . Here’s to another, more fruitful I hope, deeper in meaning and wider in scope. Perhaps I am doomed to never return. No matter dear Father…

Forever,

Your son

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On Truth and Arbitration

Dearest Father,

As expected my quest continues, enriching my young mind in the process. I have met many on this path, both seasoned lovers of Sophia and young amateurs like myself, but it seems none wants to give me the time of day. I do not blame them; I myself am not a very talkative fellow. I am sure a single look at my scowling visage, as my winged companion rambles on on whatever topic he fancies, has served as a deterrent for many a prospective friend. I have been very busy with my regular duties as a human, and the next few weeks promise to be rather hectic. I am approaching a milestone in my training, a point at which I shall finally be awarded a document that states I am worthy to call myself a bachelor in my art, and the days leading up to such a ceremony are bound to be tasking. This perhaps explains why I’ve found myself scowling more often than not. It is certainly not as a result of my little friend’s ramblings; he knows better than to speak on issues surrounding my studies. With matters so pressing I cannot afford to entertain his musings for more than a few minutes.

I will not bore you, Father, with tales of my studies. I suspect you will not find such topics too interesting. On the issue of my quest, however, I must say that it is going rather swimmingly. Now I may not be able to travel very far in the coming weeks – the aforementioned issues have all but captivated my attention – but the progress I have made thus far has been very rewarding indeed.

With regards to Platocrates and his Republic, it has finally become clear to me exactly why the book is called thus. Initially it boggled the mind as to why a treatise concerning justice would bother with the description of a state, but it seems that in order to show his listeners and readers what the true meaning of justice is, Platocrates has elected to construct the perfect city – he reasons that in such a city the most perfect rendition of justice would be all too easily discovered. This is an act I find both admirable and slightly annoying. Admirable, for it shows the immense dedication of the lover with whom I have cast my lot; annoying, because it makes this one segment of my journey stretch even longer. I would much rather he got to the point in short order, but I suspect that his long-windedness will eventually pay off. I have already learned quite a bit from his words so far, not in the least of which is the fact that he eventually bests whomever questions his postulations. I suspect this is because we are passively experiencing his account on the matter, an account that attempts to drive home a point. As the points are being made by Platocrates himself, it would certainly be odd if each and every one was struck down and he was shown to be the fool. There is also the fact that we are reading a one-sided account of the dialogues. For all we know Platocrates did miss a few points that fateful afternoon in the house of Polemarchus, and pride kept him from writing about it.

As I settle in to follow him on this journey into the perfect city, I suspect it will not be long before you start seeing missives from me addressing both these issues: justice and perfection. While Platocrates may seek to join them in order to make a point, this young lover still considers them to be very separate things indeed.

On the Numidian’s Confessions, an almost similar theme is discovered. When I left him, Augustine was lamenting his sinful nature, comparing some of the ways of your children with those of their almighty Father, and of course finding them lacking. He spoke about the deplorable nature of his youth, with his wayward father and his good, but at times misguided, mother. All of this was delivered, of course, with the requisite tone of exultation, as the Numidian never misses an opportunity to praise you and your ways, even the manner in which you mete out punishment.

Perhaps it is because I am also walking the path of justice with Platocrates, but his mention and acceptance of your punishments made me think once more of justice and what it means to be just, especially for one such as yourself. I doubt Platocrates will address divine justice in his dialogue, and so I expect that this is another issue on which you will soon be hearing from me. If I am finally to find and understand you, understanding the purpose and impetus behind the laws with which you rule the universe is essential, no?

Aside from the lessons I am learning from my wonderful teachers, I still have my once little friend to contend with. As I mentioned, I have found it very easy to ignore his mutterings these past few days; my human duties leave no space in my head to entertain him. As you know his questions, per his name, always play on my perceived ignorance. He finds anything that I may have ever questioned before, even in my earliest days, and he brings the full force of his evil voice to bear upon it. It has occurred to me in the weeks past that if I am to rid myself of him completely, I must be certain of the answers I give him; I must be as convicted as the greatest elders in the House, as wise as Sophie’s most prolific lovers. Unfortunately, for one as conscientious as myself, in order to be certain of my answers I must be convinced that they are true, and if there is one thing I have discovered thus far Father, it is that finding the truth is very hard indeed.

The subject of truth is one that I know many lovers of Sophie have battled with across centuries and millennia. One cannot know Sophia if one does not know truth, but how does one know when one has found truth? Of course the very question of how one knows anything is an even more fundamental problem for lovers of Sophie, one that ties directly to my conundrum with Doubt. Once again I find myself envious of you, dearest Father. Such petty questions as how to know what you know have never bothered you; would that I could be like you in that regard.

Now I am sure that countless men before me have tackled the issue of truth in an attempt to settle it once and for all. As an amateur on this path, I cannot even hope to come to conclusions as rich and as complex as theirs. For this I ask your forgiveness, dear Father; whatever you read in this letter today will be but the simple musings of a child plagued by a wily foe…

As a younger man, the question of truth was a non-issue for me. I believed everything I was told by parents and elders, and in my mind those things were true. I did not know any better, you see, and, as you must have observed in your children, in the absence of actual, concrete knowledge, anything goes. If we are not told what to believe we create our own beliefs, extrapolating from whatever foundations we have previously established until we arrive at a worldview. The problem arises when something challenges this worldview. At such a moment we have two choices: change our views, or prove to ourselves that our views are true while the other view, the challenger, is false. Of course I have found my challenger in my companion.

Now a long time ago I believed that logic, or to my young mind sense, was a good metric for determining what was true and what was not. Things that made sense were true, and things that did not were not. Of course this is a very flimsy method of determining the truth, and when Doubt finally came along it was not long before I was made aware of this. On this journey alone I have discovered numerous positions taken by various lovers of Sophie, all addressing the same issues, and yet all diametrically opposed to each other. The presence of multiple Families within the House is another immediate strike-down for this line of reasoning. To a certain extent, as much as my inexperienced mind can discern, the positions held by the chief dissenter at the time of the Great Rebellion made quite a bit of sense. I have often told myself that had I been alive with the German at the time, I may have joined his cause. Many positions put forth by members of the Family of Rebels make sense; in many ways they are logically consistent. The same can be said of the core beliefs of my Universal Family. And while I do not know much about them, I am fairly certain that the Orthodox Family, which broke off long before the Rebels even came into view, also has teachings that are sensible and logically consistent. And yet all these Families vehemently disagree on fine points, and all of them teach that each is the true way to your heart and the Great Upstairs. From this alone it is rather evident that sense, or logic, is not enough to ascertain what is true; after all, even Doubt’s words make sense. Evidently in order to find truth, its essence must be separated from that of logic and sensibility.

After some thought it occurred to me that at its core, a truth is something that is accurate, a fact. A statement such as “John is male” is true in so far as the concept described by male can accurately be attached to the person known as John. Now there is a danger for me to devolve into definitions of “concept” and “knowledge”, and Doubt is whispering dangerous nothings into my ear, trying to compel me to verify exactly what these are. But I am tired, and my mind is not yet formed, so I beg that you use basic intuition to understand what it is that I mean. (Even the word “intuition” causes the creature to smile.) I do not think this should be a problem for you, Father. While mere humans may quibble over the true meanings of these words, you see into my heart; you must know exactly what I am trying to describe.

From the aforementioned definition it becomes clear that every statement that asserts something has the potential for truth, including this one. In fact I can say that most of the sentences I have written to you thus far possess truth-potential; all that is required is the fulfilment of such potential, their verification if you will. In this way the question of logic becomes a secondary one, one that I must admit is difficult to push aside. Whether by nature or by nurture, I look with disdain upon statements that make no logical sense; I am far more likely to consider an inconsistent statement to be false than to consider it true. But if we are to go by our new definition of truth then its logical consistency is irrelevant. “John is not John”, while apparently nonsensical could in fact be true. One just needs to ascertain this fact and harvest, so to speak, its truth-potential.

In the absence of verification, it seems then that a statement simply remains a statement, neither true nor false as far as the observer is concerned. Of course it is one or the other, (or perhaps – senselessly – both) but not neither… or is it? Doubt is toying with me once again. For now we will state that it must be one or the other. The fact remains that it is impossible to tell which until verified. Such a statement, hanging in the nebula of truth-limbo, could then be termed an “arbitration”, a simple string of words whose actual value is yet to be discovered. And as long as this arbitration is logically consistent, newer, assumed truths can be spun from it and entire paths can be forged in its name.

It seems to me that this is exactly what has happened in reference to the countless things that we your children, both within the House and without it, find ourselves at loggerheads over. Regardless of the truth value of the statements made, it seems some great men have made many arbitrations and, assuming them to be true, have dedicated their lives to the logical implications that follow. By so doing their viewpoints appear very attractive to those of us that hold logical consistency in high esteem, or at the very least agree with, for whatever reason, the underlying arbitration. This of course is most applicable to the differences between the Family of Rebels and the Universals, where with the Rebels I believe there are five fundamental arbitrations, listed and championed by the dissenting German elder, Luther. I am neither disposed, nor do I believe I know enough, to tackle these arbitrations and unearth their real truth value, but it is an exercise I am sure I would undertake at some point.

I like this conclusion, Father, because even Doubt is silent and pensive as I write this. To summarise, I believe there are statements whose truth values may or may not be known. When they are known we can safely term them truths, and as long as they are not we must view them as arbitrations and tread carefully in our consideration of them. Of course such a worldview makes you the Great Arbiter, for whatever you speak becomes the truth, immediately shaping the universe to your desires. The world, then, is nothing more than one very long statement spoken from your lips, in an instant both arbitration and truth. Such a realisation, dear Father, is very humbling indeed.

With much thought,

Your Prodigal Son

P.S. Not to be outdone my companion has pointed out that all of this is nothing but verbose arbitration, and I agree with him. I cannot describe my glee at the horrified look on his face.

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On Sacrifices and Their Worth II

Dear Father,

But a few days ago, the Season of the Fast reached its end. Whether or not this was the initial intention of the Family elders when they planned the House Calendar, the end of the season coincides with the birth of spring and this, I believe, carries with it some powerful imagery. In my homeland, once termed the Dark Continent, we do not experience such things as spring and winter. For us, there are two seasons. The rains come and then they go, and they do so on a cycle that has nothing to do with the Season of the Fast. As a result back when I was young and in the House, any significance attached to the timing of the season’s end was lost on me. Not so in the land in which I find myself. Here the rains are beginning to fall after months of snowy skies. The trees are growing leaves again; the birds have picked up their songs, and squirrels have resumed their foraging. As the members of the House beat their drums and blow their trumpets in celebration, so too does the rest of nature. Significant, for the end of the season marks what has been termed the three most important days in the history of House, and by dogmatic extension, the history of the entire earth. It marks the death and resurrection of our brother and saviour, your perfect incarnation among your children.

But a few days ago the Universal Family, and those in the House that have not yet cast aside everything connected with the Family, bowed their heads to mark the Brother-Saviour’s crucifixion.  This, we are told, was the sacrifice of sacrifices, the sacrifice that ended all sacrifice. So great is the significance of this sacrifice that its extent is among the things that caused one of the greatest splits from the Universal Family. The reach of this sacrifice, the permanence of its effects, is a key dispute between my Family and the ever dividing Family of Rebels. Without this sacrifice, all is lost. Your children are eternally doomed, and You-Know-Who has won the battle. With this sacrifice, not only do we have a fighting chance, the tides have been turned irrevocably. Because of the blood of the Brother-Saviour, You-Know-Who is bound to lose. We know not the day or the hour, but we have been assured that when it comes, he will fall once and for all, never to rise again.

But anyone can die, or so they say. The real special thing about your sacrifice was the resurrection, the rebirth, so to speak. It makes for wonderful symbolism when your children’s voices are raised in praise, joy and exultation, marking the anniversary of your resurrection just as the very earth gives new life to the its inhabitants. Perhaps this is why the House elders in the days of yore picked this time for the season. Or perhaps, as some say, they were simply trying to garner the favour of the Outsiders whose lands and hearts they wished to capture. It is of no consequence. Your death and subsequent resurrection mark the very foundation of the towering domicile I have left behind. They give reason to the lives of all those within the House. They bring hope, they bring the good news, and they provide the basis on which the House has spread its message over continents and over oceans, growing its bounds though blood as much as through words.

Sitting, contemplating the significance of these events, with my undesirable friend on my shoulder, I was struck by how foolish, how petty, my ramblings were a little over forty days ago. While acknowledging the fact that the Season of the Fast was to prepare us to appreciate the greatest of all sacrifices, I still had the audacity to wonder whether or not certain sacrifices were worthy of your person. It is rather evident that none on this earth is. So much so that you, purest of the pure, had to take human form and die, in order to show us how it was done. You had to take it upon yourself to demonstrate to us that no sacrifice, however great could possibly match what really was necessary to save us from ourselves.

The sacrifice we celebrate marks why the House is often called the House of Love, especially in the face of other Houses. None other claims to have a Father that so loved his children he was willing to lay his life down on their behalf. None other claims to have a Father that boldly and unflinchingly went into suffering and pain and torture, just so that he could be with his children again. It is among the greatest calls to uniqueness, the greatest points of appeal, that the House has been able to lay claim to over the centuries. Deep inside, dear Father, your children simply want to be loved, and what better way to pull them to your bosom than by erecting a House whose very symbol is the ultimate gesture of expressible love?

But while I sat and mused on the wonders of the season’s end, filled with what can only be called nostalgic appreciation, my little friend, ever ready with cancerous utterances, had a word or two on this very subject. Now I would rather not mention the horrendous things he said; but I promised to write you about our experiences. Such a promise is not one that should be cast away so easily.

Per his name, my winged friend saw fit to cast his deep shadow over the very notion that the Brother-Saviour’s sacrifice, your sacrifice, is in fact the greatest of all sacrifices. If, as I have discovered, sacrifices must be measured by not just what they deprive us of but also by how much they achieve, it seems only fair that your sacrifice be brought under the microscope as well.

To that end, dearest Father, the question is thus: Exactly what were you deprived of in your sacrifice? In the weeks past I have abstained from food for the duration of the sun’s journey across the sky. I have endured my natural hungers, so that by suffering through them my mind may be driven towards you. This entire journey is predicated on discovering you more; what better way to ensure that you stay on my mind all the time than by tying it to something the body cannot do without?

Now when Doubt asked this question I was quick to provide an answer very much like the one I arrived at myself. Your sacrifice aside, the very act of coming to us and taking human form allowed you to experience life as we saw it, to identify with us. And Doubt, the ever wily and disgustingly brilliant little fellow, laughed and pointed out that per House dogma, you know everything. What more is there for you to know, dear Father? How could you, perfect being that you are, not know what being human feels like? You made us, down to the last hairs on our heads, or so they say. It is unfathomable to think that you do not know how we feel. The subject of suffering makes this an even bigger conundrum. What purpose did your suffering serve dear Father? Can one even say that you suffered, in the same way that your children suffer? And even if you did, why would it matter? For a being as knowledgeable as yourself, suffering would simply be experiencing something you have already “experienced”, something that you would not need to be reminded of as you can never forget. No. It seems your sacrifice then was for our benefit, perhaps to make us see you as we see ourselves… to humanise you, so to speak. We are the ignorant ones, not you. We are the ones that need to see the truth.

While this answer seemed to send Doubt flapping away in silent thought, the reprieve was not to last too long. He was back soon, with even more disturbing words. He pointed out that this fact, that the incarnation of yourself in flesh was simply to humanise yourself, had diluted the effect of what was to be considered an amazing sacrifice. You cannot suffer, in any way that makes sense; the feelings cannot be new to you, and you in your almighty glory, were already aware that you were to break the chains of death and rise again on the third day. In fact, this last bit reduces the sacrifice even more. There is, in effect, no sacrifice, for you died knowing full well that you would rise. There wasn’t, at the very least there shouldn’t have been, any fear or uncertainty in your heart. There was no finality. Listening to his words the sacrifice that defines the House suddenly seemed like a small thing, a simple formality. When one knows the outcome of an event, when one knows that it shall go in his favour, does one really lose anything by fulfilling all righteousness? Does one learn anything by going through the motions?

Of course I have heard such musings before, and it seems Family dogma on the full humanity and full divinity of the Brother-Saviour was crafted specially for such purposes. By being just as human as the rest of your children, he was subject to the fears and uncertainties that we feel every day. So even though he knew that he would rise, it did not make the experience any more enjoyable, or perfunctory. I can understand this. But my friend was not convinced, and I am afraid I must agree. Just as the Brother-Saviour is a man, he is also you. And you do not fear; you are not ignorant nor are you weak. It feels safe to assume that in a battle between Fatherly natures and childish natures the Fatherly would win, awesome and mighty as it is, especially when it exists in such great amounts as it did in the Brother-Saviour. So even as he approached the cross, bleeding from back and breast, he must have known all too well how everything would play out, and I cannot help but feel that that makes him no more than an actor on a very elaborate and realistic stage. And actors make no sacrifices, except to sell the act that they are making sacrifices.

Now there is the issue of the justice which must be served. We, your children, abandoned you Father, and made a rift so great that only the death of someone as awesome as yourself could heal it. To that end the sacrifice was absolutely necessary. Of course this raises other questions, such as the nature of justice itself, and punishments and sin, questions I hope to pose as I grow wiser on this journey. But it doesn’t answer the question of ultimate purpose. Per your omniscience, you already knew this was to be done; one can go as far as saying you already “did” it. You gained nothing doing it, and, perhaps more importantly, you lost nothing. You didn’t really die, and whatever part of you one can say perished that day was soon recovered … resurrected. Once again, it feels like everything was nothing more than a performance, more for our adulatory, love-seeking eyes than anything else.

In a final attempt to wipe the smirk off my friend’s face I half-heartedly muttered that perhaps this was one of the many things we could not understand, and he laughed a deep, cruel laugh, his eyes rolling in their dark sockets. Even he could see that I knew (as well as he) that such an answer, such a subdued acceptance of ignorance, would not be enough to quiet him. A quest for truth is among the reasons for my journey; what would be the point if whenever confronted with the tough questions I simply waved my hand, like the wizened and disinterested elders of the Family, and said “We cannot understand.”? The Numidian references such wonderful, unfathomable paradoxes in his Confessions, waxing poetic about how you are “most merciful, yet most just … stable, yet incomprehensible; unchangeable, yet all-changing; never new, never old…”, and for a case like this, I suppose he would say that you are “dying while still alive; suffering, yet unaffected; reduced yet whole”. But while such words filled me with awe and wonder once upon a time, on this day they do little to calm my faltering, perturbed heart.

It pains me to say it, Father, but my little friend does have a point. A sacrifice’s worth is measured by things lost and effects had. I lost some culinary satisfaction, and in return I can only imagine that I was brought closer to you in some manner; I certainly felt so. But your sacrifice, when put against yourself, feels hollow, staged. A being that has everything has absolutely nothing to lose. And looking upon this earth you have made, looking upon the children in your image, I cannot help but feel that nothing has changed. There were wars before your death on the cross; there are still wars today. We died of disease and hunger and pain before your death; we still die today. We murdered and pillaged and lied and stole and cheated and raped before your death; we still do so today, with more pomp and flair in fact. As I sit here and pen this letter to you dear Father, I cannot help but feel that whatever You-Know-Who was supposed to have lost that day must have been trivial, for he carries on like nothing happened. Whatever the effects your death was to have had that day, they must be ethereal, for we are not much different than we were before. We are just as sad, just as fallen, and this realisation fills me with a sorrow that eclipses whatever appreciation I may have felt as I contemplated the joys of spring many days before.

And so, confused and afraid, I ask you my dearest Father: what was the worth of this sacrifice, this greatest sacrifice of them all?

With a heavy heart,

Your Prodigal Son

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On Successes, Greeks, and A Man From Numidia

Dearest Father,

I am proud to inform you that the fast has been a success. If you remember I ended my last missive with uncertainty, informing you of my plans to stick with a food-fast while my irresolute mind struggled with picking a sacrifice befitting a being of your stature. I admitted that my lazy, albeit occasionally busy mind, would in all likelihood simply settle on this choice and not bother to change it, and alas I was correct. They say no one knows us better than ourselves, and this case was no exception. I will not bother you with excuses, Father. Suffice to say that in the weeks that have followed I have spent no more than a few minutes thinking about fast-worthiness, and my initial decision to abstain from food during the sun’s journey across the sky has stuck, just as I feared. To say that this has been a bad thing is, however, is to do it a great injustice, and I will show you why.

As you know, this is not the first time I am engaging in a fast. It is, however, my first since my departure. And while my fast last year was important because it was done largely for the same reasons as this one, this year’s fast has had a much better effect upon my depraved soul. Perhaps it is because I have finally left the House, thus providing myself with the very different perspective of the Outside. Perhaps it is because I now write you with some regularity, forcing myself to communicate with you in a manner that has brought me much closer to you than any prayer has since my childhood. Regardless of reason Father, these past weeks have convinced me that sacrifices are never to be judged simply by attachment, by the pain they cause, or by the pleasures they deny.  In these weeks, every time the short sharp pangs of hunger rose from my small belly, every time the compulsion to eat assailed me, I was reminded of you and you alone. It mattered not that I had felt hunger many times before; it mattered not that with enough endurance and distraction the pangs soon disappeared. All that mattered was that my mind was drawn to you. Each time I felt the need to eat, each time I looked upon a simple snack that lay begging to be devoured, the question arose (and thankfully not from my friend): Why am I doing this? And the answer always came: Because of You. Through the simple virtue of hunger I found myself contemplating you more times than I have in recent months. I was reminded of you in more places, drawn to you in newer ways. I was forced time and time again to face some of the issues that drove me from home in the first place, and to remember some of the things that made me smile while I was there. And while I cannot say whether the fruits of these thoughts will bring me closer or push me farther from you, I think I can safely say that it is good that I am having them. In a wonderful way they are preparing me for the celebration at the end of the season, the most significant in the House; they have provided me with a deeper awareness of you, and with that I hope comes a deeper understanding of everything you and your House stand for. In that manner Father, I believe my sacrifice to be worth every uneaten morsel, however small and insignificant.

In other news, my quest for Sophie continues and I have found myself on an agreeable path. As I mentioned previously, I have decided to begin my lessons with the ancients. Your Book certainly falls into this category, but I have opted not to focus on it at this time. Do not ask why, Father; I have no concrete reasons. Besides I find that my winged friend becomes most annoying whenever I think about things that revolve around you. You do not know how angry I was with him when I wrote my last letter. He seems to feed on my uncertainty, and since my immense battle over worthy sacrifices he has grown bigger and fatter. He now rests upon my shoulder on occasion, perhaps because his wings aren’t growing quite as fast as his body. I am cataloguing his characteristics and am starting to hazard a guess as to his true nature, but that is a discussion for another letter. Suffice to say, for now, that neither your Book nor he is the centre of my attention.

On my quest, I trust you will agree that I am in good hands. I am currently studying the works of two great initiates of Sophie, and one of them is Greek. You must know that if ever a people were credited with paving the path towards the love and discovery of Sophie in a manner most remarkable, it is the Greeks. The insight provided by their civilisation has shaped the way a vast majority of the world has viewed and has come to know the great Sophia. Even those that do not care much for the nuances of her precepts have undoubtedly been influenced by the works of these masters of wisdom, and the House is no exception. Its culture, its very structure, bears the indelible mark of Hellenic influence, as do almost all peoples that have been touched by your House. This always struck me as an odd development Father, as Family and House doctrine has unequivocally stated that all that is good and wise and true comes only from you, and that you deigned to bestow only upon the leaders and elders of the House these good and wise and true things. By all standards the Greeks were, in their time of greatness, in the service of You-Know-Who, and yet even the most ardent of House members employs many a tool devised in their schools. Perhaps the purists within the House have a point. Perhaps the House has been in fact been corrupted, but that is once again, Father, a topic for another letter.

Among the greatest of these peoples is a fellow I shall refer to as Platocrates. Nominally he is called Plato, but it appears to me that the person disseminating his doctrines and postulations is a man known as Socrates, identified by some of the students I have met on this path as his teacher. I cannot quite decipher whether he simply documented the words of his tutor or whether he wrote in this manner to lend authority to his work, but I have decided, for the time being, to consider them a single person. It matters not, really; I am interested more in what they have to say and less in who they are. They are both among the most revered in the Hellenic tradition, and a famous, long dead elder of the Family is said to have been influenced by Plato himself. (Of course, very few lovers of Sophie can claim to have escaped his influence.) On initial perusal it seems the work I have selected tackles the issue of justice, a fact that I find most delightful. You are said to be justice itself, dear Father; perhaps Platocrates would help me come to a deeper understanding of this facet of your being. File this under one of the many things I shall be writing you about, hopefully in the near future.

The other fellow I have my sights currently set upon is one that hews closer to the House and Family I have left behind. Praises have been sung about this man for as long as I can remember; he is among the foremost of the elders of the House, and both current and past elders have been so convinced of his greatness that he has been elevated to the level of saint, a shining example for all we lost and weak children to follow. There is no doubt in the minds of Family leaders that this man is Upstairs with you. He is the great Numidian, Augustine of Hippo, and I have stumbled upon his Confessions. I must say Father that I really like the manner in which he writes. It is filled with the requisite humility of a child that has not only returned home, but has matured considerably in your service. The praise he offers, the questions he asks, all these resonate with this lost child of yours. In many ways Augustine gives me hope Father. I suppose he can be considered among those that strayed from the beaten path and left the safe confines of the House (it must have been so much smaller back then), but found you and eventually returned, transforming into one of your most influential champions. I have only just started to read his work, so I cannot give you full impressions, but as I mentioned, I feel a deep connection. While I have my doubts concerning the state of the House and my place in it, a spark still ignites in me whenever I am made aware of some of the majesty and rich history contained in its walls, and cracking open Augustine’s Confessions filled me with such a feeling. I suppose I really haven’t walked too far from home. It is quite evident from these past few weeks that in many ways I am still your child; from my participation in the season to my appreciation of the Numidian’s words of exultation, it seems to me that there may yet be hope for this your prodigal son.

Between Platocrates and Augustine I have my work cut out for me, but I expect it would be fun. I am, after all, embarking on this journey of my own compulsion and volition. Unlike some I do not pursue Sophie out of some perceived duty; I do so because I want to.

And so armed with hungry thoughts and a reverent heart I will continue to march down this reassuring path. I know not where it would take me, and I implore you, dearest Father, keep a watchful eye on your wayward son.

With a jaunty step,

Your Prodigal Son

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On Sacrifices and Their Worth

Dearest Father,

I was walking on an ill-seen path when I heard the bell toll. The sound was a powerful, familiar one; it was a sound I had heard many times in my childhood. When I left the House I had taken it for granted that I would hear the bell again, and lo and behold, with heaven knows how much distance between myself and the Gates of the Rock, I was greeted with its deep, rich, overtones. The pitch, the number of strikes, meant one thing and one thing only; the Season of the Fast had begun.

As you know, Father, not many in the House still pay attention to the Season of the Fast. Many years after the House was built it was beset by a number of scuffles, and where there had once been simple, amorphous groups, united under the same roof, monolithic Families began to sprout. As with all things, I assume you sat on your Holy Throne in the great Upstairs, watching in whatever inscrutable emotions you possess as your children squabbled over who had the right to make Families and who had the right to break them, each of them claiming authority from your lips and inspiration from your spirit. I, by virtue of birth, am of the Universal Family, a name so given because we trace lineage to the foundation of the House itself, when the House’s purpose was to serve all men upon this earth. I need not tell you how vehemently said lineage has been disputed, even to this day. The Universals, dare I say, are by and large the most popular amongst the Families, mainly through conquest and age, but also because the other Families were for a long time defined by their non-Universalness, and the disunity that came with it.

Regardless of reason Father, many of your children within the House do not observe the Season of the Fast. However, they can by no means ignore it. The tell-tale remnants of ashes on the foreheads of all Universals alert them to the beginning of the season, and the requisite festival at its end is one that no child in your House can claim to ignore. And then there are people like me, who, while no longer squarely within the boundaries of the House walls or the enclosures of a Family wing, still hear the bells and still feel the strong pull of years of instruction and indoctrination. This is the season, Father, the season in which we get ready to celebrate our reason for existence. But in order to fully appreciate this celebration we are told that we must suffer; we must find ways to come in contact with our limitations and our weaknesses. We must give up the things we value most, so that through our simple penance we may come to appreciate the greatest sacrifice of all: your sacrifice.

Per the aforementioned tradition, members of the Family are required to give something up in this season; by and large the most common I have seen is food. As I a child I was spared this choice; I was much too young to willingly give up the pleasures of a full stomach. Nonetheless my good parents made sure to instil the spirit of sacrifice in me and my siblings; the season was, and still is, marked by a universal absence of meat in my home. As a young man however, I am free to choose my object of abstinence, and it, quite frankly, is a very difficult choice. As you know, while I am not austere, Father, I am also not extravagant. I can go hours without food; oftentimes I find that the more occupied I am the more likely it is that I would forget to eat altogether. Sacrificing food, while a tad inconvenient, is by no means difficult.

I had spent the past few days of my journey wondering what to give up, when I was greeted with a message from the winged creature. His question was simple, and is one that has bothered me since: Why must I give anything up?

Now, this question came as I quite nearly discovered an apt item to fast upon in this forty-day period. As you know, my time on this green earth has been dubbed the Age of Networks, perhaps because your children have never been more connected, and in some ways more distant. It has oft been suggested in these times that we ought to give up the tools that facilitate these connections, freeing ourselves from the glut of information and embracing silence and solitude. I have never considered myself to be one of those bound by such admonitions; in fact I have many times looked down upon those that considered such tools fast-worthy. That one could be so attached to the network that liberation from it could take on religious significance is a phenomenon I have always found deplorable. And yet it was but a few moments before I realised that I relied on similar tools for my fill of news and information, which, while not centred around my person, had become intrinsic to my way of life. I immediately rejected the thought, telling myself that my habit was not a guilty pleasure, but a necessary one; it pays in my field to be abreast of the happenings of the time, payments that have come in handy in the past. It would be senseless to give up something that I, in my opinion, do not overindulge in. And in that moment my irritating friend had the audacity to whisper his first horrible statement: The fact I considered my sources important, but by no means indispensable, was the very reason I should let them go. As I turned to the fellow in anger, a random thought entered my mind: Shouldn’t an item’s worth in sacrifice be evaluated by how much said item drives me from you, instead of how much I rely upon it?

This thought calmed me. It seemed I had found a good counter to the irksome whisperings of my pest. My thoughts turned then to whether or not I could give up other things that this network provided, such as entertainment. No sooner had this thought crossed my mind than did the dastardly creature return, in his tiny, high-pitched voice, asking whether or not this consideration was an attempt to find a more palatable alternative to the immense sacrifice of my news sources. I was back in my ugly bind, with a tiny pang of guilt eating at my core. Was I trying to shirk my Universal responsibility by finding an item easier to give up?

I would spare you the back-and-forth between me and this fellow I have been cursed with, Father. As I brought new items that I could give up, he questioned their relevance, their position, and the weight of their sacrifice, each in a harsh and biting tone. Would it be true sacrifice if one such as myself could be made to feel nothing in their absence? Would I have to force myself to constantly wish for these things, only to be reminded that I could not have them, in order for my sacrifice to be made complete? I found myself wishing that the initial thought had not occurred to me, only to have the question put forth on whether or not my wishes were sound and just, whether I had the right to even think such thoughts.

It was at this juncture that he asked me the question I mentioned initially: Why must I give anything up? I have left the House, and while some parts of my being still lie within its confines, my behaviour, and the very nature of these letters, betrays my true position. Should I put myself through the stress and strain of deciding on a worthy sacrifice when the true question of my soul must be answered first, before the sacrifice would mean anything? Last year, when I told a friend of mine from the huge and segmented Family of Rebels about my fast, he frowned in what I felt was pity, asking how the elders of the Universals had convinced me that my place Upstairs was dependent on the timing of a few scraps of food. His pity was misguided, for I did not do it for my salvation, but his question has remained with me, resurfacing from the lips of my unwanted acquaintance. Where does this compulsion come from, and why is it so strong that I devolved into a bottomless argument with my acquaintance about worthy sacrifices and guilty consciences? Is any sacrifice worth it when I know that I will still indulge in other vices this season, when I know that nothing I give up would cause me to turn around and return to the House I was raised in, before my journey ends?

We are five days into the season, and I am yet to make my decision. I am considering simply abstaining from food by default, but even I know that that is by far the easiest of all my options, and that I run the risk of complacency in defining the actual sacrifice. The tendency would be to keep with the food-fast, all the way until the day that marks season’s end, ignoring perhaps more admirable choices for abstinence. If I do decide to fast, it would be for the same reasons that I did last year: in the hopes that by giving something up specifically for this season I would be constantly reminded of your role in my life, and perhaps come to see that to which I have been blinded this entire time, the impetus behind my journey. It is unlikely, in my humble opinion, but at least I would be able to say that I tried.

I will end here dearest Father, but before I go let me leave you with the question that has plagued my irresolute heart since I heard those bells many days ago: What would be a worthy sacrifice from this your prodigal son?

With indecision,

Your Prodigal Son

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