Sunday, April 1. 2007
Posted by Johnny Elbows in A Defense of My Life, by Jonathan Bicara
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David started talking seconds after I opened my eyes. He seemed excited about things, and ready for a new day. I felt, well, better. I was still scared, and still wondered what things would come out of that dark place, seeking for me, but I was also sure that even in the darkest night there are stars.
Wow. That was a little weird.
"So, where were we?"
"You just said that all of the elements respect life."
"Oh yeah. But not respect. That's important. They don't respect life, they value life."
I looked puzzled.
"Don't worry. We'll get there. Let's get things cleaned up."
We cleared the camp in record time, and were soon on our way. That day, for the first time, we walked side by side, talking as we went.
"Who do you think is the greatest man you've ever met?" David asked.
"I don't know. I don't really travel much in the circles of the rich and famous. Let me think about it."
"Actually, you don't have to. You just answered my question."
"Not the one that I asked you, but the one that I was trying to ask you."
"Oh." Once again, I looked puzzled.
"See, I'm trying to find out what you really respect. Your answer said, 'I respect wealth and fame.'"
I started to protest, but he cut me off. "I'm not saying that's a bad thing. I just want to make a point. See, the greatest man I've ever met was my dad. Someday, I'll have to tell you about him, but for now, I'll just say, he's not rich. He's not famous. He's powerful, but among our people, there are lots of people that you would call powerful. In most ways, my dad's really average. So why do I respect him more than all of those rich and famous people? It's not because I'm right and you're wrong. In fact, there's nothing wrong with us saying that neither one of us is wrong or right about who's the greatest.
"If there were some person who was perfect in every way, then we'd have to agree that he," he paused, and smiled, "or she, was the greatest. But since there's not, we each define greatness in our own ways. The things that I prize may be insignificant to you. And the things that you prize may seem shallow and fleeting to me. So here's my point. The elements are the same way. Nobody can get the respect of all of the elements. Nobody. If you are a merciful person, there will be some who scoff at mercy and prize justice. If you are a cheerful person, there will be some who say that people are only cheerful because they don't have all of the facts. In short, they're just like people."
A light seemed to click on in my mind. "So the whole truth and respect thing?"
"It's just a general rule. It doesn't always work."
"I think I'm starting to get this."
"Good. See, if you'd grown up around magic, you'd know that most questors have a particular type of things that they do well. That's because the elements that they work with most often are the elements that they get along with the best. It's like this. Generally speaking, air elements are cheerful, easy going, and a little bit gossipy. They don't hold grudges, they like to show off a bit, and they enjoy lighthearted pranks. That's why entertainers generally talk about pulling things out of thin air. Entertainers usually work with air because it enjoys what they do. It enjoys making people laugh, and astounding people, just like the entertainers."
"That makes sense."
David grinned. He was starting to get into this, talking animatedly and smiling as we walked. "OK. Cool. So, the problem is, air elements are always here, there and everywhere. They flit about smiling and gossiping, enjoying a good laugh whenever they can. They're very rarely serious about anything, and when they are serious, the mood only lasts a little while. I was really surprised when the air stayed serious long enough to help you find me."
It was my turn to grin. I pictured the air spirits, well, not spirits, more like sprites, bouncing about, in search of a good time.
David's smile turned more serious. "For the most part, the other elements kind of look down on the air elements. They think that the air elements are fun, but they feel like the air elements are like children, and don't think things through very carefully, and aren't very dependable. The sad thing is, they're right in thinking that. Air elements aren't dependable, and they don't think things through very carefully. An air element might swear to be your friend and servant for the rest of your life, but the next day, it's very possible that he'll have forgotten who you were."
"So that's why real questors look down on the people that just do tricks, isn't it?"
"Yeah, it is. We're just like them They look down on air, and we look down on the people who use air."
We walked in silence for a few minutes, but it wasn't an oppressive, angry silence. It was a friendly silence, the silence of two friends thinking separate thoughts.
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