Saturday, July 09, 2016

And will be more...

     "You have drowned men in your time," she said at last, using her voice, and only her voice.  "And it is that time, now."
     I have drowned men, the water replied, Even our own kin, in the end.  But of them, I kept memory and story and message to carry until the end of time.
     "I desire you to carry no message,"  she told the water.  "No message save death."
     But the water remained where it was.  Will you order me to destroy this human city?
     "I will."
     It is not my desire.
     "I have heard your desire," she said, speaking sharply now, while her kin gathered around her.  "You lie."
     You have heard my desire, but you have not heard all of my desire.  You have heard your fear, my anger, the place where both dwell.
     But I have heard your sorrow, and your joy, you anger and your fear.  You are alive.  The gift of life is not all of one thing or another—you are not only what you hate, not only what you love, not only even what you are aware of.  You are all of these things, and will be more. ~Michelle Sagara, Cast in Secret, ch. 16.

Here, Kaylin is talking to elemental water.  The Tha'alani are a race in Elantra, who have prehensile antennae with which they can read the minds of others.  At the beginning of the story, Kaylin hates them.  She was once read and was terrified by the experience.  But more than just the roughness of what happened then (having broken into someone's office, she was, technically, a child criminal at the time), it is her deep and abiding shame that drove her hatred of the Tha'alani.  She was terrified to be known.

I understand that terror.

At this point in the story, Kaylin found herself talking to elemental water inside the memory of an ancient Tha'alani  because, as she learned, some part of the elemental water was actually the living memory of the Tha'alani  known as the Tha'alaan.  The Thalani are in touch with the Tha'alaan from their birth, understanding it as they grow and mature.  The elemental water holds the history, the living memories of the entire race.  When Kaylan entered the Tha'alaan, she learned of its beginning through the eyes of the Tha'alani first warrior.

If I were not so weary, I would type up the entire encounter, for I find it beautiful.  I mean, Uriel, the warrior, cannot see beyond his anger and pain at the death of his people.  He wants to wipe his enemy from the face of the planet, every man, woman, and child ... guilty and innocent alike.  But the elemental water points out that the destruction will not give Uriel what he really wants, for his people to live.  By connecting with them and begin keeping their memories, their lives, the Tha'alani will never really die.  Uriel agrees, giving up all his elemental powers, his magic, in the exchange.

When the elemental water is talking to Uriel, it defines mercy in this interesting way:  I will not have their odd acts of frailty—the thing you call kindness, or mercy.

Odd acts of frailty.  I just love that.  I think Dr. Brown would define mercy as odd acts of vulnerability.  Still, when I come to this exchange, I often pause over that sentence to both savor and ponder it.

If the Arcanists (these mage sorcerers who are not the best of folk), ever learned that the Tha'alani are connected to elemental water and have access to knowledge of elemental magic in the oldest parts of their living memory, of the Tha'alann, they would be exploited to a man (and child) and the dragon Emperor would be forced to intervene.  Kaylin is fascinated and yet burdened with her discovery.  Keeping what she knows out of her reports and out of her investigation is terribly difficult, especially when Lord Sanabalis, a dragon, is pressuring her to reveal what she knows, believing that a young officer of the law could not possibly know what is important or not when Elantra was, once again, facing destruction (a rogue mage mucking about with elemental powers ... or trying to discover how to do so).

So, the moment following this enormous discovery was burdensome for Kaylin, therefore, but it was also incredibly astounding for she had the incredible realization that if the Tha'alann could forgive Uriel and all his acts of destructive revenge, then there possibly could be forgiveness for Kaylin and the things in her past that smother her in shame.

Studying Dr. Brown's work, I think it is more accurate to state that what Kaylin struggles with is guilt and also shame.  What her society would think of a child who stole food, her new polite society, is very much shame language.  What she did when she fled the fief, the horrifying ways she tried to escape her fear and pain, well, that Kaylin would not even want typed here ... were she real.

I understand being so certain that there could not possibly be forgiveness for what you have done (experienced) and yet longing for just that deeply, in that secret place where there are no words, no light.

But I have heard your sorrow, and your joy, you anger and your fear.  You are alive.  The gift of life is not all of one thing or another—you are not only what you hate, not only what you love, not only even what you are aware of.  You are all of these things, and will be more. 

I like this.
I like the idea of not only being ... my shame.
And I like the idea that I will be more than even that of which I am aware.

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