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is the land a socialist utopia?
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PostPosted: Thu May 26, 2005 9:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hmm, fascinating. I had no idea that the speech was a "fake". The sentiment however, remains both beautiful and valid I think, but I'll freely admit that it must be based on that "romanticised" ideal you mention.

Variol Farseer wrote:
Ownership of a permanently fixed territory (which, I agree, is one step beyond what either animals or nomadic tribes do) came in with agriculture.


And so not necessarily "natural" then, but rather a product of social development?

Variol Farseer wrote:
...Nor do we attempt to keep out all other species of animals, any more than other territorial animals do.


Can't agree with you on this one. Especially if you're thinking about agriculture, and species other than humans. The one thing that any agriculture-dependant society cannot afford, is to allow animals into the crop-fields.

One of the biggest problems today in preserving wildlife in the dwindling areas left to it in Africa, is the fact that subsistence farmers kill animals witout thought for damaging or eating crops, and preying on cattle. Their reasoning is, by their lights, perfectly sound. Let the animals destroy it, and there's a good chance that they will die.

Variol Farseer wrote:
...Agriculture was developed long before 'civilization'. It's true that in the early days, land ownership was a prerogative of the tribe or village, not of individuals; but you had better believe that tribes and villages fought like demons to keep anyone else from taking the land over and stealing the improvements they had made. It was not a question of the strong taking what they wanted; it was the people who tilled the land learning to be strong so they could protect what they had built. Wars of conquest between agricultural nations arose later, when population growth in the settled areas exceeded the supply of arable land.


Fair enough, although I'm not sure that we can't define early agricultural societies as "civilised", I'll accept that simple ownership did not start out as the strong taking what the wanted, if only because at the time, there was enough for everybody. However, as you'll no doubt agree, and as the last sentence above implies, that at some stage, ownership of land did depend on taking it from earlier claimants.

Variol Farseer wrote:
...So much for that. The people of the Land practised agriculture; that is positively established. Why do they not have the characteristic vices and personal faults of agricultural peoples?


Absolutely no idea. Wink

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PostPosted: Fri May 27, 2005 12:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

** MINOR SPOILERS WARNING **

"When he says this, that and the other thing about the Earthpower, he is talking about a thing that he invented, and he has the freedom to make up his own rules. But when he is talking about the behaviour of human beings, he is talking about something that exists in the real world, and he has an obligation to be as faithful to the facts as he can."

I agree with Edge. Why does SRD's portrayal of human beings in the story have to be realistic? The whole thing could conceivably be a dream or a fantasy in Covenant's head. Things don't always make sense in dreams - they don't behave as they do in the real world.

The First Chronicles, moreso than the others, is supposed to be an externalisation of Covenant's mental state. If people are mostly hostile and flawed in Covenant's real world, if his existence is bleak and lonely and miserable, then it makes sense that The Land, which he at first believes is a fantasy, is so beautiful and healing as to tempt him to believe in miracles (such as the healing of his body). This is a manifestation of his anguish - he can't afford to believe, to hope, to let down his defenses, because this would threaten his ability to survive in the real world. The reality, that his leprosy is incurable, means that he must refuse / deny all hope - this drives him to the edge of madness. It makes perfect sense in this context that the people of The Land are saintly, the exact opposite of those in the real world. What better way to depict his yearning for companionship in the real world, the torment caused by his belief that finding people who will accept rather than reject someone such as him (that people can be compassionate) is a cruel delusion that he can't afford to trust?

"And it's odd, isn't it, that the people of the Land are the only ones immune to the normal selfishness, greed, shortsightedness, and cruelty of human beings?"

Maybe not. That multiplies and better illustrates the pain, particularly when he must keep returning to a world in which people ostracise him and put razor blades in his food. Whether or not the characters in The Land are consistently saintly is irrelevant - it may be just a dream and things don't have to work as we would expect. Like dreams, his experiences could be a (not necessarily balanced) mixture of both the real and unreal. When I first read the books about fifteen years ago, the whole narrative struck me as surreal (and quite possibly the best thing I'd ever read).

If you interpret the story solely as reality, or place constraints on it which demand that it conform to the rules of this (our real) world, even in some respects, then you're missing half the fun. This could all be occuring in someone's imagination, it could be a phantasmagoric nightmare...it's fiction. Donaldson has no obligation to you or anyone else, to write in a way other than what he wants. He has no obligation to make anything happen a certain (in this case, realistic) way.

"but nothing says I have to believe something so obviously impossible."

No, nothing says you have to believe it. Nothing says that Covenant must believe it either! That's to be expected, when we're talking about such fantastic, otherworldly events.
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PostPosted: Fri May 27, 2005 2:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Excellent post, paulcoz! I agree with your points. The people of the Land seem sufficiently "realistic" to me within the context of that world SRD created.
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PostPosted: Fri May 27, 2005 4:58 pm    Post subject: Grreeeen Acres is where I want to be... Reply with quote

…Come to think of it, its all in the obvious,or rather, what is not. Socialist utopia?,,I have to now say, yes,,based on what is not present in the Land. Fashion! No fashion due to no bourgeoisie!

..There is no wearage of head apparel . No hats!, just cloaks with hoods. How monastic! Sure the Lords have a little bling bling, denoting their specialty of Lore and the commoners are identified by grouping by their attire in the same vane,,as in the Stoners slightly different tunic patterns from the Woodies, etc, but note the absence of individual fashion. No fedora’s, berets, 10 galloners. No 3 piece, single or double breast, on and on..just tunics and robes,,hooded robes…Don’t even mention shoes. There is so little consideration of shoes in the Land, that Linden makes a mental note to change into her Timberlands before being possibly transported. Touche’! This is not the interior landscape of Imelda Marcos.!

…All are more or less equal in the Land. Well,,at the start anyway. Then things start happening. Strengths and weaknesses are exposed and the healthy compete for sway and persuasion over Thomas and or Linden begins. And by the end of any of the triologs,,what are we left with? The capitol idea of the superiority of Love over despite? Now, not just the capitol idea, but the formulation and building of the infrastructure and execution of the establishment of the superiority of concept is what fills out the story of TC , every time leaving us with the middle class warm and fuzzy comfort in the knowledge of its superiority. So SRD is all over the place. And like Thomas and then Linden ,,when covering so much area, be sure to bring along the Timberlanes….MEL
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PostPosted: Sat May 28, 2005 7:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I guess what I was saying is that, in my opinion, Stephen Donaldson did not cause his characters to behave inhumanly, in order to make his story work. They were all too human, really.
What Stephen Donaldson did was create an unreal world, with it's Earthpower and Hurtloam and Health Sight, and had his people react and adapt to that unreality.
I would argue that, in a magical world, people aren't going to behave as they would in our mundane world, simply because the rules of reality are completely different.

This difference in the fundamental rules of reality not only affected the people of the Land, causing them to behave differently than real world people, but it affected Thomas Covenant, challenging his assumptions about reality as defined by his leprosy.
Covenant attempted to reject the Land and it's reality, in the name of protecting his own reality, in order to save himself from insanity and leprosy and a horrible death.
He found that in his rejection, he was destroying himself as surely as if he had totally accepted the Land (ala Hile Troy.) And his self destruction was made painfully clear in physical terms, both in the real world and in the Land.

But I do not think Stephen Donaldson made his characters act inhuman, to create the altered reality that Covenant faced. He made them all too human (except in cases like the haruchai, who are superhuman, and behave in very inhuman ways, and Stephen Donaldson makes a point of declaring their differences.)
As an example of this, I cite Trell.
After the rape of Lena, Trell went into mental collapse. He abandoned his granddaughter. He had no part in raising her, no part in her childhood. This responsibility he failed in, and Atiaran failed in.
Furthermore, Trell failed his own daughter. He did not take care of her, anymore than he took care of Elena. He went to Revelstone instead, and Atiaran went to Revelwood to study again at the Loresraat. They both abandoned their daughter, in her most desperate hour of need.
This is not lofty or noble behavior, or even nice behavior. It is horrific behavior, appalling, and in the end it had catastrophic consequences, for it helped create Elena's insanity, leading to her death and the breaking of the Law of Death.
You would think the Council of Elders at Mithil Stonedown would have stepped in and aided Lena. But they did not. It is clearly stated that only Triock aided Lena in raising Elena, and Lena was unable to be a fit mother because of the psychological damage of the rape. So the Council of Elders failed in their duties, too. They were not noble or lofty, or even caring, it seems.
The Lords attempted to heal Lena. The Lords failed. They were not infallible people capable of working any magic they pleased. They could not cure the insanity of poor Lena, anymore than they could save the Land.

And Trell did a very human thing when he saw Covenant again, 40 years later. He tried to kill him. I think most fathers would try to kill the man who had raped their daughter.
Atiaran only forebore punishing Covenant because she was attempting to save the Land and thus her people. Otherwise, as she said, she would have slain Covenant on the spot. That's human enough.
Triock reacted immediately, in a very human way.
And as for Elena, she was all too human in her failing. Need I go further regarding her?

I don't think the author created artificial, impossible people to make his case against the reality of Covenant's leprosy. He created a magical world - an artificial world - filled with very real people. Where his people behaved in unreal ways, he made it clear they were superhuman or nonhuman or the like. In no way did he pretend the Bloodguard, for instance, were like real people.

Someone above said: Isn't it odd, that the people of the Land are the only ones immune to the normal selfishness, greed, shortsightedness, and cruelty of human beings?

Ummm ... ok ...

Saltheart Foamfollower became a maniac butcher at Soaring Woodhelven and at Treacher's Gorge. Reasonable? Callindral and Amorine sacrificed themselves - and decided to kill 2,000 innocent men and women of the Warward - to save their dear Revelwood. Reasonable? Manethrall Lithe almost disallowed entry to the Plains of Ra to the Lords because they had caused minor harm to some horses. Reasonable? Elena desired Covenant, her father. Reasonable? Hile Troy killed a third of his army, forcing his men and women to walk until they died from pain and weariness. Reasonable? The Unfettered One decided to kill an injured Covenant. Reasonable?
The Lords accepted the 2nd Ward when they had not earned it, even knowing that unearned power was perilous. This is not greed and stupidity? When Amok granted them the 7th Ward, they accepted, despite the fact they had not even mastered the 1st Ward. This is self-restraint and wisdom?
They refused to bring justice to Covenant for his rape of Lena. They forbad Trell to exact justice. They protected Covenant from Trell. This is kindness? Were they kind to Trell? Or Atiaran? Or Lena?
They didn't search for additional hurtloam to aid Pietten. Pietten grew up warped because of that. Kindness? They accused Manethrall Rue of being a liar and a traitor - even of being a Raver - after she lost her Cords and journeyed 20 days to warn them of Foul's attack. This is kindly and farsighted behavior?
Mhoram refused to share his secret of power with his fellow Lords and those of the Loresraat, when Satansfist approached. Armed with that power, they could have held out much longer and fought back much better. High Lord Mhoram really trusted his fellow men and women, didn't he? He thought really highly of their capacity for service, love, and fidelity, didn't he? Of course, the Bloodguard had already told them all where to go, and left the people of Revelstone to die in the name of their dishonored fidelity. Perhaps he took an example from that?
Oh yeah, the people of the Land are really reasonable, nice people. They only tried to execute Covenant on the spot, without trial or any defense on Covenant's part, when he arrived at Soaring Woodhelven.

Of course there was lofty, noble behavior on the part of the people of the Land. That is a given.
But they were not the unrealistic, artificial constructs that I think some are making them out to be.

Just my opinion.
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PostPosted: Sat May 28, 2005 8:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

And a good opinion it is too. Very Happy

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PostPosted: Sun May 29, 2005 4:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Edelaith... Hail You Rock
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PostPosted: Sun May 29, 2005 4:19 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

???

Anyone want to continue discussion?

I mean, the question - after all - is what kind of society and government can work in such a magical environment, with Health Sight and Hurtloam and Earthpower and all ...

Or if people think the Land comes off as a socialist utopia, why? What did the characters and people do to give that impression?
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PostPosted: Mon May 30, 2005 4:33 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, I'm reluctant to put myself in the line of fire here.

I don't have a degree in economics or political history, I'm just someone who loves the story of the Chronicles.

I do think applying "real world" social/political theories to the Land is a relevant exercise, since Thomas Covenant is a real world person who tries to apply real world rationale to explain his experience in the Land.

So do I think the Land is a socialist utopia? Maybe this term needs to be properly and clearly explained first, either by the original poster, mickwalker, or someone else.

I'm going to say no, the Land isn't a socialist utopia, because the term seems to have negative connotations.
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PostPosted: Mon May 30, 2005 5:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I myself have no special degrees or knowledge. Like you, I'm just a fan of the Chronicles. I just enjoy talking about Thomas Covenant.
I think we tend to think of Lord Mhoram when we think of the Land. He is a character who is more lofty than the rest of the Land characters, but sometimes I think we compare everyone else to him. We elevate them to his level.

Every story I've ever read in which all the people in it are 'happy' has been a horror story of some kind.
For example, Fahrenheit 481, Brave New World, and 1984 featured societies where everyone was happy and perceived their world as a nirvana. I've also read a number of sci-fi novels in which this was the case.
Honestly, I have to wonder, thus, if Utopia is theoretically possible, or if Utopia is only an abstract concept: a delusion if actually achieved.

In the Land, a lot of people are happy. But a lot of people are not happy, also. Everyone does not get what they want. There is not a general perception that things are the best they could be.
And that's even before everyone learned Lord Foul was back, and they had real reason to worry.
So, I could not say the Land was the kind of horrific utopian nightmare depicted in Brave New World or Fahrenheit 481. It is not.
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PostPosted: Mon May 30, 2005 5:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think a Utopia is a disturbing kind of thing. It's an extreme, absolute kind of society, isn't it? Everything must be perfect, everyone must be happy, or else...

Which means there is no possibility of progress, right? Once a state of perfection and happiness is reached, it's either going to stay that way forever (maybe Heaven could be an example of this) or it's going to collapse and regress.

A Utopian Land might indeed be heavenly, but there might not be any interesting stories to tell. Confused
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PostPosted: Tue May 31, 2005 8:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Here is my take on the governmental/social structure of Revelstone, Revelwood, and environs:

I perceive a kind of religious college. A rather strict religious college, with a lot of rules of etiquette and behavior, a formal dress code, and a very demanding and arduous curriculum.
This college comes complete with sharp tongued professors and shy librarians, helpful councillors and snooty elitists. The dropout rate is moderate despite the severity of the curriculum, due to a comprehensive and intensive student aid program; despite that, the courses are still too difficult for some students.
Making high grades in this college gives the student a deeper and deeper understanding of the religion and of the secular reality both, and with these understandings comes access to magical power.
A part of this college is a martial training institute, teaching the lore of the Sword. Otherwise, it is run much like the Staff (magical) side of the school, and much less like a real world military school (that is to say, students here are treated like academic students, not like military recruits.)
Those who earn a PHD in both the Staff and Sword curriculums of this religious school, become Lords, and become heads of the college.

The president of the college is the High Lord, and he or she has an authoritarian role in dictating college policy. The other Lords serve in an advisory role to him or her, and they in turn take council from lesser positions in the college (such as Heartthrall.)
It is the duty of the High Lord to ensure the welfare of the college, it's continued existence, the welfare of the student body, the protection of the campus grounds (Revelstone, Revelwood) and to actively practice the religion of the college ... and see that the student body also actively practices the religion being taught.
That religion is, of course, reverence of the Earthpower, reverence of the Land, reverence of the Lillanrill and Rhadhaemaeral lore, deeper insight into the nature of all these things, and preservation of all of these things. The Lords protect the college and the student body, and they see to it that their religion is rigorously observed and enforced by those who study at the college.

The usual corruption and political intrigue that occurs at colleges (religious and otherwise) cannot occur because of the tyranny of Heath Sight.
Likewise, the usual bad behavior that would occur at all levels is restrained by the tyranny of Health Sight.
The Lords went further than this, in their efforts to regulate behavior at the college, and they implemented the Oath of Peace: required for entry to the college. This binding vow (greatly) further reduces bad behavior, and binds the student body and Lords alike in a rigid code of morality, ethics, and behavior.

The college has an extremely effective and incredibly dedicated police force, for which no real world parallel exists. These are the Bloodguard.
Armed with their haruchai prowess, their eternal vow, and their power of Health Sight, they are swift and ruthless in detecting criminal behavior of any sort, and in pursuing and apprehending the criminal. They are so determined and so ruthless that even flight to the far ends of the Land is useless for the criminal, for the Bloodguard will pursue and find that person wherever they go.
Perhaps an analogy could be drawn from The Day the Earth Stood Still. Even the Lords do not dictate entirely to the Bloodguard, and certainly normal corruption and politics do not exist within the Bloodguard.

So, we have a High Lord, who is the chief executive of the college, high theocrat, and high commander of the armed forces all in one. This person is advised and (somewhat) constrained by the Council of Lords, who act as members of the board of regents, and who have earned the highest degrees the college offers. Authority is also delegated to certain other individuals, such as the Warmark, the Heartthrall, and others who advise in various specialties of the religion.
Then the police force is factored in, lead by the First Mark. They answer to the Council of Lords, but their loyalty is to the college first and the Council second.

There are also a sizeable number of people living on the college grounds who are not students, but who have permission to be there. And they serve the needs of the student body and the Lords. One might call them the maintenance workers of the college.
They ensure the college food supply is maintained, they help in maintaining cleanliness, they help tend the sick and injured, and they give additional help to the students in their studies.
Most of these people are the descendents of volunteers from the founding of the New Lords, or volunteers from the current time, or retired students (who could not pass the courses, or who are elderly and retired from their normal duties.)

Students who pass their classes, but who do not pass all the tests and become Lords, are expected to devote many years of their life to promoting the interests of the religious college, and promoting the religion in general.
To this end, they may be expected to fight, or to engage in hard labor, or in intensive intellectual studies of Kevin's Lore, or other strenuous endeavor: whatever their future, they can look forward to a rigorous life for many years to come.
The exceptions are those who fail in their courses, those who are expelled, those who take the Rites of Unfettering, and those who have served long years and been excused (at their own request) from their duties, religious and secular, by the Council of Lords.
There is no pay for graduates, aside from lodging and food. The religion itself is their payment (if they derive no joy from their religion, they are likely to be excused quickly by the Lords from any service ...) and their lifespan is greatly extended by their intensive devotion.

How does this hypothesis sound, as an analysis of the government, society, and culture of Revelstone and it's environs, including Revelwood?
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 01, 2005 8:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sounds like a good analogy, with the minor addendum that all positions of power and authority are achieved by skill and merit. If you can do it, you do. And whoever's best at it, gets the top spot in any given "faculty". As soon as they saw that Troy was the best tactician they had, he was in charge of the army. Pure meritocracy.

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PostPosted: Wed Jun 01, 2005 9:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Exactly. A meritocracy.
And the tyranny of health sight makes this possible. Lawyers can't exist, in their current form, in a world with health sight. And rule by lawyers is difficult to conceive of (whereas it is common in real life.)
The usual corruption and political shenegans is squelched by the tyranny of health sight.
(Thus, health sight is in itself a kind of benevolent dictatorship.)
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 18, 2017 1:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Here is a reply by SRD to a question I posed in the GI:

Quote:
It appears to me that this whole discussion proceeds from a false premise: that the function of storytelling is to portray societies. While this premise clearly holds true in some cases, it is far from being universally relevant. For many many writers, the society being portrayed is simply a means to an end. Context enables story. Why else do science fiction and fantasy exist? I don't write about Covenant because I want to portray a "backward" society. I portray a "backward" society because it frees me to tell Covenant's story the way I want to tell it. Similarly, I don't write about Angus Thermopyle and Morn Hyland because I want to portray an "advanced," corrupt society. I've imagined an "advanced," corrupt society because it enables me to tell the story of Angus and Morn.
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 18, 2017 1:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

matrixman wrote:
I think a Utopia is a disturbing kind of thing. It's an extreme, absolute kind of society, isn't it? Everything must be perfect, everyone must be happy, or else...

Which means there is no possibility of progress, right? Once a state of perfection and happiness is reached, it's either going to stay that way forever (maybe Heaven could be an example of this) or it's going to collapse and regress.

A Utopian Land might indeed be heavenly, but there might not be any interesting stories to tell. Confused


The society of the Land in The First Chronicles isn't such a society. There is much to like and admire about it. However it is also clear that it is a society in which people in Revelstone and Revelwood are struggling to regain their former lore and to heal the residual damage of the Desecration, in which the Unfettered Ones study and think hard in pursuit of their visions, and in which Stonedownors and Woodhelvennin all do their share of honest toil as they go about their daily lives. There is also the weight of history (real and legendary) which is why Covenant's appearance in the Land causes such a kerfuffle, even before he speaks his message of doom.
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 18, 2017 1:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Insofar as labels such as "capitalist" or "socialist" must be used, the society of the Land is clearly more accurately (or less inaccurately) described by the latter term than by the former. However I think that the deeper point is that the Land doesn't really have an economy as we define it. All production and distribution in the Land occurs as a part of, and subject to, the social relations and the cultural activities and beliefs of the peoples of the Land, and neither the Land nor any part of it is something that its inhabitants would consider parcelling up and owning, or trading for gain.

I think the aghast response of the Ramen to Covenant's statement that "You've got all those horses" encapsulates the differences in attitudes towards nature between the inhabitants of the Land and a 1970s American (or Canadian, or Australasian, or Western European) like Covenant.
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 06, 2017 3:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The Land doesn't really have an economy, does it?

To the degree that it is utopian, this is only a reflection of its inauthenticity. No society in human history was ever filled with so many "good" people; they're about as realistic as the mythical Noble Savage. But even the author himself seems to understand this, because they achieve this inhuman level of "goodness" by an inauthentic repression of their emotions, the Oath of Peace.

Send a man like Covenant to an unrealistic place like that, and sure, he'll lose his shit. It might happen to any of us. But I suppose that was the point. You can't deny your Despiser either personally or collectively. There can be no utopias based on unrealistic expectations of human nature.

That's why capitalism gets you the closest to utopia we've ever been: by harnessing man's natural "greed," his self-interest. It's a society built bottom-up rather than top-down. A society of individuals, not collectives.
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Meaning is created internally by each individual in each specific life: any attempt at *meaning* which relies on some kind of external superstructure (God, Satan, the Creator, the Worm, whatever) for its substance misses the point (I mean the point of my story). -SRD

Remain faithful to the earth, my brothers, with the power of your virtue. Let your gift-giving love and your knowledge serve the meaning of the earth ... Do not let them fly away from earthly things and beat with their wings against eternal walls. Alas, there has always been so much virtue that has flown away. Lead back to the earth the virtue that flew away, as I do-back to the body, back to life, that it may give the earth a meaning, a human meaning. -Nietzsche
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