This is the part that has me all churned up

By Flyss. August 2nd, 2010

Yeah, that part’s interesting, I guess, especially for a scientific dude  like you. But I was talking about what came next. I’ll paste the text in here, like you did, because, yes it’s hard to point to a forum post.

This is Oxadrenals writing on the forums at hiddenimmortals.info. First he says something, then he quotes someone, then he speaks as himself again. I use italics for the guy he’s quoting.

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“On the other hand, I know a Hafeem who’s so compassionate and noble it makes me want to cry … Part of what made him that way is that he’s so often known himself to be wrong. I’m going to quote him here. (If he sounds like a sourpuss, please read my comment at the end.)

I have never possessed the gift of easy pleasure, a quality I recognize as unfortunate in a man destined to live several thousand years. My character is such that it requires a focus, a goal, a sense that my effort further some worthwhile purpose. Alas, I have by now outlived too many purposes to believe in any.

In the second century AD, I studied medicine with Galen, believing it a noble profession. However, during a later interval of apprenticeship with physicians in China, I learned to view the accumulated medical wisdom of my previous period as no more than miserable superstition. I suffered still another revolution of this kind when, in the 18th century, medicine became (as was supposed) scientific, and I learned to discard worthless herbal remedies in favor of mercury and arsenic. Yet, as I now know, this last phase was worst of all, for with my mercury and arsenic I killed many, many people, and helped not one.

All my other efforts to pursue good works turned out to be equally mistaken. In the 17th century, I risked my life among “savages” in an idealistic quest to provide them the benefits of Christianity. History now characterizes my efforts as the arrogant, colonialist oppression of primal peoples, and I agree.

I think with even greater disgust of my fourth century moralistic phase, when I whipped women for adultery, stoned men for homosexuality, and slaughtered Mithraists and Manicheans for their heresy.  At the time, I’d seen my actions as just, even merciful; I’d meant only to serve God.  But as subsequent centuries passed and my moral compass grew, I came to view that epoch of my life with profound loathing.

I now knew beyond a doubt that I lack sufficient wisdom to properly construe a higher purpose, much less serve one. Only, lacking higher purpose, what is there to live for?

I know he sounds like a depressing downer guy, but he’s not, at all: All his disappointments have turned him into the loveliest soul you could ever want to meet.”

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This has my thoughts all churned up. I can imagine trying to do good and having it backfire. And that’s what the guy’s saying in the first part, about medicine. There’s nothing so special there. But the rest of what he says is horrifying: that something he thought was good at the time now looks like evil. And that this has happened to him a lot!

What a petrifying thought. How can you even try to be a good person if you suspect that pretty soon (like in a century or so) you’ll hate yourself for what you even wanted to do? — Flyss

[NOTE: Oxadrenals is now posting a full version of this story here.]

2 Comments

  1. styx says:

    Dualism of life, good/bad, light/dark, corrupt/innocent, hero/villain, saint/sinner. What one may see as one may in fact be the other. In reality, we are both, and neither.

    The only ‘truths’ we really have are the ones we create for ourselves. When we lose these truths, we lose our drive, our purpose in upholding these self-appointed truths.

    The more we think we know, the more we later recognize we never really knew at all.

  2. Passer By says:

    Do you have many accounts of hafeems living much past 500? Even so, with a few centuries, or for that matter, even several decades’ observation, one can see the supposed facts of one generation to be patently false, leading the hafeem to distrust even a new understanding of a particular phenomena, such as the art of medicine. One must fall back on simplicity and humility, a universal lesson of old age. On the other hand, sometimes you were right and the current opinion is wrong. As arrogant and colonially suppressing as it might sound, a savage is a savage not by lack of technology, but by the end to which he applies the means. Colonists were wrapped up in cultural conflicts that had gone on long before Plymouth Colony.

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