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 Xartis Psyxis, Chapter 1 - The Last Confession

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nordmann
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20120415
PostXartis Psyxis, Chapter 1 - The Last Confession

Stowecroft, April 14th 1724

To Mrs Abigail Soames, my beloved daughter, I dedicate this journal. Herein I commit to posterity my recollections, my confessions and, not least, the last will of this wretched and aged sinner who, though he departs this world with his faculties intact, finds this in truth more of a curse than a blessing, and proof if proof is needed of God’s intention that His justices be administered first and His mercies second. For when an alert mind has aught to remember in old age but the steps its owner took to his own undoing, and little more to deduce therefore than the bitter truth of his own inadequacies, then can the owner of such a mind be excused his envy of those whose wits are lost to dotage ere their bodies are lost to death. Such a blessed release from the memory of my failings has the good Lord not seen fit to grant me, and this document is the evidence of it. I make no secret of my wish that much of these things remembered by me here should have been lost to mind and conscience, thus sparing me the pain of their recall and contemplation. But then of course I would not have been the dutiful custodian and interlocutor of them, as the good Lord has decreed in His wisdom that I should be. He knows me as a sinner, and has thus ordained that the memory of my crimes should haunt me to my grave and cause me much anguish, no doubt that I may begin the expiation for my sins ere I am transfigured to His realm, where my atonement begins in earnest. Nor do I make a secret of my forlorn hope that by dedicating this document to my only kin, and in it these most final and profound of my secrets, so then may I in some small part atone for what I now know was my greatest sin – that the one person most deserving of my love never did receive it, but instead was left by me to grow into adulthood without the succour, guidance, support and affection that is a daughter’s right.

I therefore commit this testament of my life into your hands to do with as you will, my daughter. It is your judgement and yours alone as to whether its contents merit the perusal of any other living soul, or if instead these words, like their author, should be shunned altogether. And such a fate, though I pray to avoid it, would indeed be meet. After all it was he himself who most cruelly shunned those nearest to him, profligate as he was with others’ affections while being so miserly with his own that he managed to make enemies easiest of those who should instead have been closest to his heart; and none more so than she who now holds this, his only legacy, in her hands.

So let me firstly reassure you, lest you suspect me, through my belated familiarity and this even more belated confession, of claiming a recognition and respect that I know I am not due. Should you choose to read it not, and therefore usher my life into the void without even the merit of one soul alive to remember it, then such is no more than I deserve. Know you that I forgive you in advance should this be the destiny you decide for my manuscript, and for me. If such is what you feel is appropriate, then so be it. I can understand fully why you would think so.

I pray, however, that you will not, and here then is my first plea. I find now, at the end of my days, that I have made myself alien to almost all of the manners designed by man to ease his soul’s traversal from mortal flesh to the void beyond. I have but one recourse left to me, and that is to reach out to the last person left on this earth who might give this fool a fair hearing, even should she hate and mistrust him. Then can the fool die knowing that even just the once did he state a case for himself, albeit a sorry one such as this may be, and that it was at least heard and understood if not accepted. It may not sound like very much, but to a man like me who otherwise must submit to the oblivion after death that is the lot of the friendless, then it would be like a last sweet draught of spring water proffered to the parched lips of one dying from thirst. It may not cure him, but will succour him greatly in his passing. So, dear Abby, should you consent to read these pages just once through to their end and then discard them, I would consider it not just an act of exceeding compassion on your part, but a reward well in excess of my due, and a balm indeed to my tortured soul in the life beyond. There is nothing that will shrive a man’s guilt-ridden conscience like a thorough confession, but a confession unheard is as good as unmade. By reading my words will you have at least afforded my soul that service that is the right of every Christian, but which I find has been denied me through the nature and magnitude of my crimes, and the paucity of clerics willing to provide it.

And, as if I have not trespassed enough on your good graces, I admit that I have a second plea, though I know full well that what I ask is the height of impudence on my part. But I shall still ask it, as your eyes yet peruse my words and I must assume therefore that you have decided to set your hatred of me to one side, at least until I have finished making a complete fool of myself with my presumptions.

So here is my last request while I still have your ear, if not your sympathy – and the most presumptuous of them all. Should you find it in your heart not only to read these pages, but indeed to keep them (not because you value their author, but for the purpose indeed of referring to these words in the spirit in which they were written - that of belated guidance and explanation when hard times ahead might necessitate such assistance and none else may be forthcoming), then, oh joy, will my soul exult and sing with happiness, even in the cruel inferno of damnation into which it has been consigned. For then will I know that my life has not been in vain, and that through your compassion has it been honoured with a decency such as its own author squandered most wilfully in his time. That you might allow me to be of service to you after my death, even if only in that small way, would mean much more to the salvation of my soul’s dignity than any absolution could ever bestow upon it, be it from however divine a source. I may die in the abject hope of receiving my good Lord’s compassion, but I die craving yours.

However I have long since learnt to understand the difference between expectation and hope, just as I have that between hope and desperation. So believe me, I write this journal not in the belief that it must by right of our kinship earn a place on your shelf, dearest Abby, let alone in your heart. Nor indeed do I expect you to place much value on its words, save in that they might merely convey to you the true measure of the man who called himself your father.

On this note I must now state that I know you will be rightly annoyed, and even more justifiably disgusted no doubt, by my casual reference to our kinship as if the neglect of nigh-on two score years and five can be simply reversed through a much belated assertion of paternity, but know you also that I lived and died a man for whom a day did not pass, nor even an hour, in which he did not realise how abjectly he had failed in that most natural and simple of obligations. Of course, as you are aware, neither that realisation nor the pain that accompanied it can diminish my crime in your eyes, or in the eyes of the good Lord. For, even knowing my error, I then did nothing to correct it, and therefore will undoubtedly stand doubly indicted before my maker on that day when no excuse or clever sophistry contrived on this earth can save any man’s soul from the fate that it merits, and we will all be judged as equals before the highest tribune. So for my crime of neglect, and for my many other crimes besides, will I thus burn in eternal flames, and even the most compassionate of Christians (despite their folly of a belief that all crime is mitigated by unfortunate circumstance and that all evil is tempered when it has a distant origin in good intention) will yet agree that such is as much as I deserve.

And so do I. Mitigation for my crime cannot exist in the fact (albeit true) that I truly wished only happiness for you from the moment you were born to the moment my own life expired, and will do so for as long as my wretched soul survives. Such a wish must be judged as worthless in the face of my actions and omissions, which have ever only contrived to cause you ill.

And it matters little, if at all, when I assure myself, as I often do when I contemplate our estrangement, that I never intended that things should ever be so, but that life then intervened to my own detriment as well as yours, and that it was therefore a cruel combination of eventualities that led to our division. Such may be true, but it is of no value whatsoever in the absence of pains taken by me to ensure that my own intentions should instead have won out to become the reality. As a man who fancied for most of his life that he could shape reality to his will, this was therefore my most damning fault, and most revealing of my true character. That I allowed this omission to last a lifetime, while blinding myself to its obvious implication, would be sufficient to consign me to eternal damnation, even were it my only sin.

But it was not. I have sinned against others as much as I have against you. And worse, I have sinned against God himself. By wilfully and knowingly corrupting His instruction that we all be servants to His goodness did I delude myself into applying it as a convenient definition for my own chosen role in life, and as a justification for the heinous acts that I then committed in the name of that greater good. And my conscience can no longer find honest sanctuary in the false belief, though it served me well as a refuge for many years, that no way existed for me to right these wrongs. I believed, you see, that I had chosen a life of servitude to harsh masters who bound me to perpetuate the injustices of my actions rather than address them as I should, and who encouraged me to see myself as beholden and enslaved to a cause greater even than that of repairing the shattered bond between father and daughter. They were wrong, and I too. There is no cause greater and never was there. Bonds forged by the good Lord are not made to be sundered at the whim of mortal men. They are at once proof and example of His love for us all, and therefore to tamper with them is to deny that love, and to break that which is the most fundamental of His commandments, to hold Him as our Lord and God and to let no false idol replace Him in our hearts. I foolishly thought such falseness synonymous with evil purpose, and therefore conveniently chose to ignore that my own base idol, while contrived from good intentions, had been forged in the minds of mortal men. It was false, not because it strived to cause ill, but because it strove to supplant that which it emulated and corrupted to its own ends the words of our Saviour. It was evidence therefore of an unforgivable arrogance and as rank therefore as any diabolical scheme to deny His authority over our souls. I know that now, as I know also that avoiding that truth involved a huge deceit on my part, not least to myself and most grievously to you. For that proud deceit I crave your forgiveness, but I am not so vain as to think myself worthy of it. After all, a man who has not the courage to apologise in person to those he has wronged may write his confessions as skilfully as he likes, but he will still ever be merely a literate coward, no matter how well intentioned are his motives, or how well composed his words.

That said, I implore you to read on, dearest Abby. You see, my aim with this journal goes further than simple apology. There is much in my life to be confessed surely, but there is even more that simply merits explanation, if only so one person at least might understand the life that I led and therefore save it from being not only sinful, but worse, meaningless. While I accept that I have wasted much of it in false pursuits, I have also salvaged some truths along the way, even if they are few in number and took too long to procure. Yet they are my legacy, and I think not a poor one. I beg you therefore, though you have every reason to mistrust both the words and the hand that wrote them, to at least see these words to their conclusion. Then you may find not just a mere attempt at atonement, for which the time has long since passed, but perhaps something that will be of more worth to you; an insight into a man whose search for truth and wisdom led him to live a life of deceit and stupidity. You are of my flesh and blood after all, and if it is true that the child inherits her parents’ qualities, then perhaps this insight might also serve you well as a guard against the pitfalls into which otherwise you might be led should nature, in her cruelty, have decreed that you must share some traits with your fool of a father. Even if you have been spared such a burden, and I pray that you have, let it merely serve as an insight therefore into how this world can make fools of us all, especially those of us who are so delighted and bedazzled by the luminous clarity of an ideal that they therefore fail to see what must inevitably lurk in the shades it casts.

And even if you are beyond such lessons (if you have inherited from your mother her wits and sense then so you surely are), may you then at least see these words merely as proof that your father admits the lie of his largely wasted life, and hereby records what truth remains for posterity, should posterity care to consult the record. That is why you read these words after their author has left this life, and why he begs you from his grave to treat them less as a confession, which by its nature must be insufficient to the point of insult, and more as a mere testament to the life of the man who committed the deeds that he did. The life requires such a testament, not because it was a worthy one, but because the deeds committed in it deserve an explanation. You already know the nature of their perpetrator, but the nature of the events that surrounded, prompted and were subsequently caused by these deeds is a story that has yet been told, and unless told by me, may never be at all.

So let me now impart one truth that I have learnt. History is written by the victor, they say. This is so, but it is equally so sometimes that the true victor of a war is invisible, and wishes least his story to be recorded. He would not be recognised by his opponents, nor even by the troops who fought his campaign, for he knows that true reward on this earth is gained only by employing those more visible elements at his disposal – be it men at arms, wealth, politicians or simple rhetoric that bellows loudest because it is often empty – and aligning them to his own benefit. He is neither the craftsman nor the architect, but the one who employs both to build his palace. While others might glorify its builders and commemorate those who died in its construction, he is content to avail of the luxury of owning it on its completion. He knows therefore that his victory, while absolute in effect, is ironically therefore an effect derived not least from its invisibility and is therefore consequently fragile. His success was achieved through a dependency on others who did not succeed in kind, so it suits him now that they draw their satisfaction from the recognition that he avoids, and that ultimately his own part should even be forgotten completely, lest those who put him there realise the swindle and work as hard to remove him as once they served his needs. His status therefore is much like a beautifully intricate marble statue run through with a flaw so severe that the merest tap will convert it to rubble. He fears all reminders of what transpired just as the sculptor fears the faintest blow to the flawed construction which he calls his success, and like the sculptor will take great pains to protect his creation from destruction. It is in his interest indeed not just to re-write history but to abolish it altogether, and we live in a time when he has largely had his way.

I say this for a reason. Much that I know to be true, not least because I saw it with my own eyes, is fast disappearing from the records. Soon, unless I attempt a salvage, will all knowledge of my time be consigned to oblivion, and me along with it, as if neither I nor the truth ever existed, or indeed ever even mattered.

But I ask you; what are we here on this earth for at all, if not to seek out these truths and strive to understand them? If I have done nothing else good with my life and if even my best attempts were as inept as I suspect they were, then at least I die knowing that this was ever my motive, even when this curiosity served only for me to be basely used by others. I die a deceitful and vain man, but a knowledgeable one, and this knowledge must now be recorded; if not as an aid to my redemption, at least as a proof against the falsehoods and contortions of fact that pass now for a history of my time. Let my last act therefore be a meaningful one, even if its meaning is shared and understood by only one other. My gift to you Abby, if gift is the term, is a share in those truths that this old man has gleaned, seen their proof, and has sworn to defend, or at least remember. I hope against hope that you choose to uphold that defence on my passing, if not as a service to me, then as a service to something more worthy by far – the idea that life has no meaning, save as a repository of truth. A dishonest soul is an affront to its creator, indeed to natural law. The love of a lie negates, and ultimately forfeits, the right to life itself.

My last vain hope is that by understanding this, so too might you find it in your heart to judge less harshly then the fool who allowed himself to be so much a pawn of circumstances, even while he selfishly fancied that he shaped them. But if I fail in this hope, though I pray to God for success, then be assured, dear Abby, that I do not condemn you for your loathing of the man that I was. It is a reasonable and logical judgement on your part, and no more than the truth in itself. I am, and ever have been, a loathsome man.

You might ask what right this man has to speak so knowledgeably of truth when even he admits a life of deceit and for whom truth was almost an enemy at times to be defeated, or at least avoided. To that I have no answer, save that one must know one’s enemies as well as one’s friends, or better if one plans to survive. While I might have left it late in life to embrace the concept as an ally, it was ever one that I intuitively understood. Of course, that is not to say that my familiarity with truth is such that I will always recognise it, or indeed employ it well. Even what I write here, though all of it I believe to be true, might well in the end be merely clues to my own life and my reasoning, but I make no apology for that. A truth arrived at subjectively is no less valid than that deduced by objective reasoning, and personal experience and understanding are the unavoidable tools with which we excavate these truths. The man who tells you otherwise is a liar, or else one who misinterprets his subjective adherence to empirical deduction as objectivity itself, ignoring the fact that only he can have lived the life that shaped his powers of reason, and experienced those things that prompted his mind to deduce what it did. And even then he is a bigger fool if he precludes the possibility that any deduction, however sound the logic that produced it, is set as if in stone. Truth may be a constant, but our understanding of it changes like the seasons.

And just as those seasons will one day themselves end, so too has this wretch’s tenure on His earth. I no longer have the luxury of time to await further understanding of what I know, and barely even time to record what I understand now. Had I longer to contrive my views and my words I might have chosen different and more concise representations of these truths, but alas I do not. The passage of many years has obscured many things, but I record these words with as much accuracy as my old mind can muster. I pray then, that when you judge my character upon reading them, you do so in the light of what I hereby reveal as much as by what you already know, and that you are conscious throughout at least of my own antiquity as I write them, so that you might forgive the odd recollection that has been warped through age. But I also pray that you trust and share my own faith in their validity. At least then I can be assured that you judge me as I judge myself, harshly but with correct and accurate reason, and that you judge also what purports to be true with equal rigour. It is no more or less than what I, or indeed the truth, deserve.

Of course, where trust has been destroyed can nothing fertile again be expected to grow, and I know only too well that the seeds I am attempting to sow with my words are falling on the most barren soil of all. But again I entreat, having heard this old man out thus far, that you persevere, my daughter. Should you not, then at least allow me to impart one small seed, which in itself encapsulates all that follows and may even be the only real truth that this journal contains. A man whom I loved, and whose love for me was so undeserved on my part that I chose to doubt it, told it to me at a time when he might have been forgiven, even rewarded, for running me through with his sword, so great was the wrong that I had done to him. Fool that I was, I failed to truly understand it until its lesson was too late, at least for me. But I will pass it on to you, so that you may possibly derive benefit from its sentiment. “Only a very vain man,” he told me, “takes the credit for any good which results from his actions. One can precipitate, but never own, the consequences of a deed. By the same logic therefore, it is even a vainer man who feigns to take full credit for the ill.”

I will begin my story with a disclaimer of sorts. It has been said that I was a man who could not see the truth were it to assail me on the open highway, though indeed that was where I at last found it. It has been said that I profited in life through absence of principle, but you can see from this journal that though this method did indeed earn me a profit, it was not the one I originally sought. It has been said that I kept faith in no man, not even in myself, and careered through loyalties and ties like a rudderless ship on a swell, yet the core of my contrition is founded on a faith I held in two men, as you will see. Of course, all these assessments of me are true also in a sense, and I do not therefore deny them. But they are not the complete truth, nor can they ever be. They address the fragmented shell but not the substance of the man, and indeed such fragmentation was the sum of my parts for many years. This is the price one pays for trying to be invisible, and for much of my life that is what I strove to be, in emulation of my masters and in my effort to serve them. I fashioned for myself a mask and congratulated myself on its effectiveness, which did indeed increase over the years it was worn, much to my delight. Of course in truth this was due most likely to myself being fooled by my own mask and adopting the manners implied by the face that had been originally intended only as a deflection from my true character. But at the time this seemed a small price to pay. The important thing was that the man whom people claimed they knew was never the man within, or so I vainly thought with the pride of one who has reckoned too much on his own cleverness and too little on the insight of others. It was over-late before I discovered that the mask I wore actually hid less and less as time went on, not because it was ineffective, but because there was indeed less to hide.

I have spent the last while retracing my steps from all those years before, in the hope that perchance I might retrieve the better portion of my true character that I know I have left behind along the way, much like anyone who loses a thing in their house might pace its rooms again in the sequence they did when last they knew they had it. The exercise was largely in vain I fear, though I have at least recovered what I assume to be my conscience. Much of where we walked then had vanished completely, replaced by a new world where the physical changes wrought were as complete and utter as the changes wrought in the minds and characters of its occupants. The more I retraced where I had been, the more I realised that one can never truly walk again land once trodden. Even if the geography of the place has not changed, the geography of the mind most certainly has. My futile sojourn therefore brought me in a circle, back to contemplation of the man within and with only my memories still to lend structure to the world. Therefore, as I have said, I can only set forth here the facts, such as they are, according to myself, if I can invoke that sentiment and not invite your cynicism.

Before I do however, let me state at the outset that I have been accused of using one man more than most to achieve my ends. The inference is that I cared not for the man ever. This is a calumny of the truth, though it is based on accurate observation, and an injustice to him even more than to me. No finer man have I known in life, no better friend would I have wished for were I true myself. Life rarely if ever affords us the chance to make amends for past wrongs, and a true friendship extinguished by one friend’s betrayal is the hardest wrong of all to right. When that same friendship has already been debased by the circumstances of its inception then the wrong is compounded. I have few, but deep, regrets in my pathetic life. My long absence from your life represents one dearest Abby, and Titus Perry the other.
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Xartis Psyxis, Chapter 1 - The Last Confession :: Comments

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Re: Xartis Psyxis, Chapter 1 - The Last Confession
Post on Sun 15 Apr 2012, 10:55 by ferval
OK, I'm hooked now. To be honest, I wasn't sure if, after reading the prologue, this would be my kind of thing but it's becoming truly engrossing and challenging. Not just the the story line, I'm sure that will be involving and look forward to its exposition, but in the density and expression of ideas; amongst others there's a truly insightful critique of the process of historical interpretation.
Science or art? Art, Nordmann, art; you are proving that.

How long has this been gestating? Anyway I feel privileged to be present at the birth but I hope the fairies don't make off with the baby.
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Re: Xartis Psyxis, Chapter 1 - The Last Confession
Post on Mon 16 Apr 2012, 05:31 by Islanddawn
My thoughts too ferval. By posting it here, how can you ensure that all your hard work isn't pilfered Nordmann?

That is not to say that I am not enjoying it, I am, immensely.
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Re: Xartis Psyxis, Chapter 1 - The Last Confession
Post on Mon 16 Apr 2012, 08:06 by nordmann
Thank you for your comments, MadNan, Ferval and ID. The story "proper" begins in the next chapter which is in the process of being re-written but I'll plonk the unrevised version here just to keep things rolling. It's long. Be warned!

Not sure who'd pilfer it, ID. A masochist most likely, if they want the same problem resolving the narrative as I faced.
 

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