The campfire is moving.

Terry Prattchett, in The Color of Magic, compares the understanding we have of the present as the light cast by a campfire.

It's not that everything isn't happening at once, just that our limitation of conciousness narrows our focus to the things we can see and call 'now', and we chalk up the things that howl and the eyes that peer out from beyond the darkness as our past and our fate, respectively.

If the fire flares but for a moment, we can see our future stretch out before us at the edge of our concious minds, and in that moment we are granted the clarity that comes only rarely to we who are not afraid to let our interests dictate our decisions.

Do we always make the right decisions? No. But at times the campfire flares and despite our knowledge that what we are about to do will not end well, we know it in the very core of our selves, that it will come to fruition, that we can bring our plans to bear and nothing will stop us from carrying them out.

Why do we make use of this latent ability to predict our own futures when so often we can clearly see that the fire has revealed not a fantastic paradise but a snarling and ravening wolf, prepared to devour the first cursed soul to step near?

We make our futures out of our desires, and often let the details be shaped not by our cares and concerns but rather by our ambivalence towards all other aspects of our selves except that which we want most, be it family, home, money, power, or love.

To get what we want just beyond the fire's edge we will climb mountains and swim rivers, corrupt priests and lead whores to purity. We will destroy our friends and crown our enemies the positions of power over us. We will tear down houses of refuge and build up dens of iniquity and vice. And when we look behind us at the devastation we have wreaked so that we might reach our goals, do we shed a tear of remorse for our damaged past, or only for ourselves, that we had to make sacrifices to reach our goals?

How selfish are we, really, as a race?

Thursday, February 10, 2005


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