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Yeesha Reflects on the Art

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Yeesha sat bathed in the glow of her Father's warm oil lamp. How lovely this living flame, thought she, that keeps me such pleasant company. Then smiled silently at the inadvertent rhyme. She was inspired by her reflections of the deep past this quiet night. For a long time she had loved all the delights of the new, the quick, the amazing. The thought that she could take part, could DO so much, as those who had gone before her. perhaps more. The flash of electric light, the flying travel machines, the powerful books, glowing firemarbles of her D'ni heritage gave her pleasure, yes, but also made her proud of who she was, who they had been. And so she had sought to learn more of them. Do more like them, only mindful that it could go badly wrong. She had not seen the evil growing from the small seeds, those proud moments when she would not have wanted to be anything other than a D'ni. It had taken much for her to at last comprehend her father's warnings of the seductions of rare wisdom, of power above the least


But as she grew older she began to realize that much of the joy of her early years came from the simplicity her father embraced ~ she had seen it when she was young. His delights and love were simple. uncomplicated.

He heard wisdom whispered on the wind, in the soft rustling of the trees, in the skittering of sand over the dry land....and so he listened closely, humbly, and learned great things.


Wisdom came from the small more often than that which would be great. From the small and the intricate workings of the Maker in the smallest parts of his creation. This was where the amazing advances were always made. Listening to that small voice.


She set down with a sigh the book she had held all evening. It would, perhaps, have been easier to have read these records in the comfort of her parent's home ~but ~ it had seemed fitting somehow to study these records close to where so many of the discussions had taken place. She seemed to see their faces shifting in flickering shadows beyond the pillars. Sometimes she thought she could see D'ni's very fall, could shift to be where these stored words took her mind. It did not seem a great gap, such travel, from what the Art already did. Words of imagination ascribed to real worlds provided a link between what was before the author and where his mind and body could go in the books. How much more real, then, would the words be that recorded a scene that had truly been? The place and time were freshly engraved on the memory of the author, now linked by ink to the keeping of the book. Not merely hoped for (not all books worked) but already known to be real. Where could the mind travel if so enabled by the Art?


And why, when so much great wisdom and power came from natural sources, did these words need to be bound before they could fly? Electricity waves without wires, and will form without us. We make machines to catch some of it, attach wires to harness it to our use, she thought. So it is with all the powers. Water flows where the Maker leaves a path, flowing down, seeking the lowest level, asking no advice to fulfil the wonder, the beauty, the joy of its creation. Seeds planted became life from death, a wonder every season to all the lives dependant on it but so did
seeds planted in the wild by birds, wind, beasts, and water. All life, all energy had a way, a gift, a path to follow beyond men. Surely ~ so must the Art. It was the way of all nature, of the designs of the Maker as reflected in His work and writings. But these authors seemed to believe that the Art needed the words, the ink, the puny pages of a
journal simply to Be. It puzzled her.


And so Yeesha had devoted much time to look through the histories for the mystery of the Art ~ wondering how the guildsmen had become certain of so many things, some of them she now knew to be wrong after her experiments with her father.


The general belief that the Art was a purely D'ni-created thing had begun as the pleasant conceit of an elder philosophizing Writer. At the time, it was a comparatively minor heresy in a lifetime of otherwise solid work by an honorable man. He had been taught in his history that the Art was specifically given to the D'ni as a direct gift from their Creator. He knew that the great responsibilities had been mentioned in connection with the use of these talents (as well as great punishments) if they should break the compact). He didn't think he was arguing with any of that.


Initially, he had simply expressed amazement that the Maker would allow such power to be grasped by imperfect beings such as himself without direct oversight. Later he had simply presumed this was the case. He believed the Maker held them responsible for their use of the Art but essentially left them in control of its effects on the worlds it
contacted, perhaps as part of the cost of free-will. At the end he speculated on how new D'ni words might change the face of the Art..and the universe.... or multiverse, as some believed it to be. Then he died, a bit younger than much of his generation. His sudden departure in his sleep had not been greatly remarked upon at the time.


To some his notions implied a D'ni creation of the powerful Art ~ and this had pleased the Proud. Much was built upon this foundation. At length some would come to doubt that there was ever a Maker to transmit the Art to men. Authors at the end of this process often thanked this 'innovative' thinker for being the first to question the traditional basis of the Art ~ 'freeing' them from the old conventions.

But the comparatively new belief that their rules, their words, were the only controls upon the Art had, in truth, limited them. If the words were purely mechanical controls, if there were no controls beyond the effort of the author, small changes might have disastrous effects. The cross of an ink line might 'short circuit' the the reasoning ran.

A premium was placed on exceedingly neat handwriting, and thus encouraged a particular kind of personality for recruitment and/or promotion. Experiments became increasingly careful, for many D'ni still understood the worlds were not created but simply 'found' by the connecting descriptive books. (The pre-existing histories of native peoples they encountered staved off even worse heresies.)

The arrogance that caused them to take up this responsibility of the Art itself, instead of merely their intended effects, crushed many of the more conscientious writers with a heady, horrible sense of burden. It stifled good men to do only what was known to be safe. Only the bravest, the proudest, the most ruthless or the half-trained, like her father had once been, dared write as they dreamed ~ most believing themselves the epitome of D'ni knowledge. The success many of these enjoyed in finding new sorts of places, instead of demonstrating that the freedom of the Maker's gift was still there, had been taken as proof as the greatness of these men.


Thus these leaders instructed their new members year after year, generation after generation. They became increasingly close-minded, intolerant of any who dared hold any but the theories that had taken hold in a consensus heavily influenced by pride and a powerful few.

Other errors crept in as well. Ideas that had been politically expedient, personally pleasing, or particularly acceptable to the kings, lords, and learned pundits of a particular day soon became enshrined into books and texts...along with the real discoveries. These were soon imbibed by the impressionable young guildsman, who would in turn form their theories, works, and refinements in this shade. Theory was believed to be fact, bolstered by a bigoted consensus, time, and much repetition.


As generation gave way to generation, even refinements of refinements had their supporters and opposition. Cliques, like political forces, argued over details. Only a few stubborn guildsmen dared question even sections of the current understanding for the general good. Such voices were rarely heard and never respected ~ unless they had popular backing. Sadly this was often on the side of the Proud. And, given the security concerns, beyond the Writer's Guild no official discussion of the basic theories took place. Thus no spiritual reflections, no surprising
insights from young or old leavened the learned opinions of the 'experts.' Only leaders within the guild, trained by the guild, who thought like the guildsmen before them wrote the textbooks, trained the new minds. They had forgotten the lesson of King Ri'Nerif. They had forgotten so many things.They had become like wine left too long unstirred unaware of any dregs at the base.


For according to the records, Ri'Nerif had been an 'outsider' in his own time and guild. The stories depicted the gifted writer as a wise but stubborn man who valued truth, humility, and generosity. But even in his time there had been a split between those who thought as he did, which was only a remnant, and those who believed they were given the amazing gifts they enjoyed to rule the least for their own good. Ri'nerif seemed to fear that the desire to rule would soon oust any desire to serve. He sought a a sense of smallness and so he took them to the belly of a beautiful world, not to rule but simply to Be the water, the flowers. and the wind Are before their Maker. Ri'Nerif wrote beyond himself, for reasons beyond pride, desires, or fear....and he wrote true greatness. Ri'Nerif himself had few doubts as to why the Art worked as it did. His faith had played a large role in the freedom the Art
expressed through his hands. The Proud among the D'ni had forgotten the most important things.


So many thoughts. So many new things to try.


And they thought they knew all there was to know about the Art.


Yeesha shook her head in gentle disbelief at foolishness of men..and at her own foolishness.


The lamp was burning low. Soon she should replenish the oil if she wished to continue her studies here. Yeesha picked up the lamp and blinked into its heartwarming glow for a while, then went home and hugged her gentle father.