Thursday, October 1, 2015

The Measure of a Man

Coal lies within easy reach; diamonds may be had,
if one chooses to risk the threat of burbling lava.
There are days, weeks perhaps, when I mine solely for the meditative comfort it affords me. Perhaps this sounds strange, to you of my civilized brethren, for whom society has been forged and tweaked for the surplus of creature comforts and convenience, and you cannot understand my sentiment. Generations prior, men reaped modest benefits commensurate to the sweat of their brow. Integrity was quantified by the effort an ambitious laborer plied to his trade.

This is no longer true, as merit is gauged by how many menials and slaves one may indenture toward one's own riches, and somehow the whole of a nation has been finagled into compliance with this horrific estimation. But on my island—or on my secondary island—yet may the purest estimation of a productive being be evaluated strictly by productivity. No one does my work for me; I hire no one, I commission no one to labor for my profit. I stake the estimation of my worth not on any corporation of desperate lackeys and subservient drones.

The author has seen you before, "lady."
The author will pick you off from a safe distance.
But me, personally, I have to confess to some contradiction. I dread this, but if I must be perfectly honest (and what gain is there in lying to myself?), I find the shaping of Nature to suit my needs a meditative practice. Whenever I fall into a new section of underground caverns, yes, I feel an imperative to explore and navigate these tortuous subterranean realms. I construct a grip or two of torches, and I march into the nether regions, throwing flaming brands upon the right-hand walls wherever I go (to help me find my way back!), and I illuminate the darkness in which, otherwise, the maleficent beasties of this incomprehensible world would generate like so much fungus.

It is my stringent desire to leave Nature to its course. It is the role of the Human, as I see it, to explore the faculty with which it has been blessed, and thusly to estimate, appreciate, and venerate all of Creation about we mere humans. From rocky caverns to towering redwoods, from plunging oceanic depths to the slowly spinning stars, the obligation is upon humans to appreciate the world around us. This is non-negotiable: the mineral formations are beautiful; the wooded communities are wonderful; the oceans are vast and impenetrable, but what little we've seen of them is miraculous.

Enough of that. I'm sure you've heard all this before, and if you cannot appreciate Nature by now, you have no business poring over my piddly amusements.

What alarms me is how peaceful I find it to shape the subterranean caverns to my liking. It is not my place nor my privilege to pass judgment upon Nature. Yet when I enter a new cavern, and I set up my workbench and furnace, and I stash my treasure chests to secure all that which I find valuable, my implicit obligation is to begin to protect a realm of resources outside of myself. It was much easier when I had a sandwich in my pocket and a sword in my hand, and this was the scope of all my cares. Now my interests have expanded, potential rivals have formed. I have to evaluate my own potence against the unknowns of those who would sap me of resources.

What the hell is this? This isn't real. C'mon, guys.
Does this seem reasonable? Because it sounds insane to me. How does one shore up against unknown factors and influences? How does one possibly?

One does not. One cannot. One can only lay out a shelter of brick and masoned stone; one can only store roots and tubers, and one might salt or smoke pork, mutton or beef. This is the best one can do, and yet Nature will churn out some other unimaginable horror to defy one's preparations and challenge one's sanity.

In support of this wild claim, I call to bear: the carnivorous gelatin. I don't know what this is supposed to be. I cannot guess at its origin or evolution, for nothing of it makes any sense, unless one is particularly enamored of and favorable toward the evolution of slime molds and various fungi. That is what this is: a great, quivering mass of digestive gelatin.

Strike down one, and two more
appear in its place.
I was minding my own business, as I am prone to do, throughout the caverns when it happened that I should hear a singular noise. Discrete from groans, clacking bones, hisses or explosions, I heard the wet slapping of material mass against stone. Where once I might have been curious to explore further, lately has the introduction of novel noises led directly to disaster: rather than rushing headlong into discovery, I hung back with one arrow nocked and slunk around the perimeter of my current cavern to assess the threat.

Eventually I found a large mound of living gelatin, green in hue and insatiable in appetite. It leapt, slapped the ground wetly, and heaved its bulk in this manner to cross meters of cavern floor in pursuit of me. Evading this dreadful creature was no great feat: I stood at some distance and peppered it with arrows. It split, split again, and split again to become a swarm of smaller gelatinous blobs accosting me. But I have taken out large crowds of A.C.M.s mobbing me, demanding I employ the full extent of my cool to dispatch these horrors. To be confronted with a monster that resembles a Lutheran assembly's dessert was no task at all.

All the same, I hope this is the worst this world has to offer me.

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