Tuesday, November 17, 2009

152 - The Definition of Great

I had never put into written word that anyone else had seen, what I felt this passionately about. But I needed to write this to help me get my tutor on my side in my own – hostile – court. I told Gannara he could go to bed, and I was aware of his watching me from under the bulk of the feather quilt, while I sat down and wrote it, burning with the thought of everything that 2nd Amitzas was not, taking care to write the first drafts on the slate before copying the final for Ailadas onto a precious sheet of paper.

The Definition of Great
In the sight of Muunas, a great man is one who is courageous in the face of danger, gentle with those in his power, taking responsibility for all his actions, concerned that his doings reflect good and not evil. This man knows his own honour and is cognizant of the difference between ethics and reputation.

(Ilesias the Great had written almost this same thing in his essay to Sinimas, but Dafidas and I had discussed ethics and reputation at length one afternoon and I tried to recall all he’d taught me.)
Each of these words requires a full essay to discuss, however a summary of each may be touched upon for the general purposes of defining a Great man. Ethics are your own knowledge of your personal honor and where you stand against your own heart’s will. Reputation is the jangling tongues of other men assuming they know your honour better than you yourself and may be taken accordingly. Cling to your own honour and let reputation slide where it may.

(From the man whose nickname was ‘General Mud’ this seemed particularly pointed, to me.)

Courage is not the absence of fear but feeling fear and proceeding despite it. To be truly courageous one also has to realize the threat as actual rather than imagined. Men fighting imaginary fears and feeling themselves courageous are often vastly more dangerous than any coward. This man, should he have power, will see threat where there is none and may initiate a useless or unnecessary war to defend where there is no need. This is especially important if the man in question has power to command others.  

For instance, when Itasas Tirien, Imperator Regent in the Age, Year 343 of the Past Age declared the Coastal war over an imagined slight by the Tributary King Nishan. Ultimately the northern Coast of the Arkan Sea was won but at great cost and left an economic disaster in place when the Imperator he was Regent for came to the throne. The Empire was more than a generation recovering.

(That was the analysis of at least two historians that I could remember, though I could give no more citation than that. I also thought of Fa—Kurkas, though he more instigated wars more often out of ignorance of how much manpower Arko actually could field, and greed than fear.)

It is more courageous to hold yourself to the same standards as those you command. Do not ask any man to do what you fear to do. For Imperators to no longer take the field as war commanders has divorced the Imperium from the reality of what they ask solas to do. Those solas know on some level they are being sent to fight a battle their commanders could not, or would not and this very dishonesty cripples the rejins of Arko.

(Kurkas never understood this. He told me he was ‘past the use of the sword’ as if it were somehow contemptible for wielding one personally. I’d have to think about why he thought that.)

Fear is a very bad master and to hide from one’s fears and call this courage is deadly. In this sense courage requires honesty with oneself and others.

Honesty is more than the act of simply not telling an untruth. If one allows dishonesty into one’s life it becomes more and more easy to lie to one’s self. You end up building a fantasy world in your own head that actually has very little connection with what is happening in the real world, very much like the immediate late Imperator, Kurkas Aan, who refused to believe the reports of what good generals he had; in fact he would lash out at the men who had the courage to tell him the truth and punish them for it.
(...kicking Joras Mahid to death under truth-drug, calling him a liar…)

This does not encourage others to approach you with anything you may not want to hear, true or false.

(...tell him to pull the Rejins out of his Divine Ass, then!)

If a commander creates a situation where the scouts and solas cannot give true and exact intelligence then one may find oneself commanding rejins that no longer exist and have zero effect on the actual field in the war.

(And lose the entire Empire of Arko.)

The sand-table and the battlefield must be accurate to each other or one is only playing out a fantasy. Lie to yourself long enough and others will either take pity on you and take you away to an Isolation House where your fantasies cannot harm or affect anyone else; or they’ll kill you. Lies to yourself or others are damaging in many small ways that accumulate and the ultimate end to that is either madness or death or both.

(Or the Gods will kill you and put a foreigner who is more devout than you on the Crystal Throne.)

A ruler is often required to bear dishonesty to protect those whose charge it is. Secrets are kept to protect the country.

(Or your own Irefas operatives will end up running a coup behind your back.)

But it is important he never lose sight of that fact that even such dutiful lies are still dishonesty and thus damaging.

(A ruler cannot be totally honest, unfortunately, or he reveals the weaknesses of his people to potential enemies. And even sometimes lies need to be told to protect people within his own court, from each other.)

He must know that they are not reality, they are lies, and accept the pain of falsehood to do his duty.

Duty or responsibility is the knowledge that, as Ilesias the Great pointed out to his son, power is not an absolute quantity. It is given, it is shared. With true power, there is true responsibility. If an Imperator signs a law into effect for the benefit of no one but himself then he is abrogating his responsibility to all those who depend on Him. Power without duty is like a child with unlimited matches and no parents to put limits on what he can burn.

(The Imperial idea of what the Yeolis call semanakra.)

The Imperator’s Duty runs both ways, between the Gods and the people. He is required to be a shepherd, a scientist for His people and at the same time a representative and intercessory to the Gods who made us. Just as the Gods desire prayer and people desire answers, the Imperator who does his duty desires to be the connection, the link between Selestialis and Earth, neither the Hammer, nor the Anvil.

A link is just that, delicate and though strong, gentle. A gentle man.
To be a gentleman is to be balanced. With power comes danger to all those around you.

(The way Kurkas was a rabid tiger.)

If you are in any way powerful it becomes your duty to be gentle.

(Chevenga could hug me and treat me as his son and never feared appearing weak. His strength was in his hands and he never touched me in a way that hurt. Kurkas hurt or pinched me constantly.)

And in this sense politesse is the beginning of the gentleman.  
To be ceaselessly commanding is the Hammer, to be ceaselessly obsequious is the Anvil. Neither is suitable for a great man who is balanced in all things. So to be polite is the beginning of understanding what the virtues are.

(I was reminded again of Dafidas Pasen.)

A good man does not need to be harsh to those around him because he is unafraid. He knows his own mind and his own limits and other people do not frighten him. It is only the bully, or the torturer who delights in the absolute control of other people and cannot afford to be gentle.

(Like any of the Mahid, specifically 2
nd Amitzas.)

These types of men are driven by their fear and this makes them call gentleness ‘weakness’ when it is anything but. People can say dreadful things of a man, saying he is weak or a lesser being, but as I said before, that is mere reputation. If you are comfortable and unafraid in yourself, others may say what they like and it will not matter to you.

People will say things regardless of either the reality or your own opinion. You are yourself, moral and have thought through your own ethics. This is honour as opposed to reputation.

(Chevenga could move 1st Amitzas to mercy, even while completely helpless on the table, almost completely broken. Because his honour was intact, even then.)

Your honour can be entirely intact and your reputation in shambles around your feet at the same time. One does not depend on the other because reputation and what those around you say is often falsely warm as sunshine on snow. As long as your own honour is intact then the rest does not matter. Is it true? Are you being honest with yourself? Is your own fear ruling you? Are you listening to men who are more concerned about what is right or about what they can gain from you?

As a boy, hope one’s parents choose honourable, great, courageous people to surround you with. Or hope the Gods have given you a mind to choose whom to take as an example.
(Chevenga of Yeola-e, Ilesias the Great, General Pasen, even my solas courier, Itzan. My servants Antras and Erleas. Ailadas, perhaps, though I didn't know him so well, having avoided him rather than trying to get him on my side. Binshala, even if she wasn’t a man, she's still honourable.)

If you take an action be prepared for the consequences of that action… or choose the action to achieve the consequence desired. Do not throw up your hands and lie to yourself by saying ‘I am helpless here.’ Then all life will happen to you and you will be neither courageous, honourable, dutiful, nor respectful. Or ever happy.

(Mahid are helpless in the face of their duty. I thrust the image of impaled bodies out of my mind. They are not happy. General Pasen commented on that. Taking responsibility gives at least a chance for contentment, if not happiness. ) A good man has a chance at happiness, if only through the knowledge that he did his best.

(Kurkas never had a chance at happiness because he was helpless in the face of his own spirit… he was lost and never found anyone to guide him out… out of himself. I’d have to think more about that. There was more there that I needed to see.)

To be Great? Find out what you can do. Then do your best. Your absolute best. All you have. Your whole soul. Anything less diminishes you in your own eyes and in the eyes of the Gods.

(I hope Muunas doesn’t take offense at me saying this. It seems almost too much like a prayer and since I’m probably damned I shouldn’t dare to bring my filthy self before the High God.)


  1. >>Ultimately the northern Coast of the Arkan Sea as won <<

    That should say "was won" above.

    This is quite an excellent essay on greatness and responsibility.

  2. Fixed the 'was'.

    Minis says 'Thank you.'

  3. *Applause* Bravo! Bravo! =D