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 Xartis Psyxis - The Last Confession (part 4)

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nordmann
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PostXartis Psyxis - The Last Confession (part 4)

What is a lifetime Abby? I am testament to the fact that one man can live many. And in any case it is not a temporal thing. A year in the gutter, once survived, is equal to many lifetimes’ experience indeed in more genteel society. My own graduation from that world had aged me beyond death itself, so often had death been my companion in that hellish place. And they say that in hell a day lasts a thousand years. Believe me, they speak truly. All is relative – time, experience and demise. And all are really only facets of the same thing, this illusion of life to which we adhere.

I mentioned before that one other facet of life’s illusion is the string of coincidences of which it is composed. It is an inevitable truth also therefore that life is a succession of ironies. Irony after all is but one way of recognising the contrasts by which our existence is discerned and therefore better understood. One irony that was evident to me even then was that our hope of creating a paradise caused us to delve into hell so often. In hell was found the material required for the job in hand – the men to fight the cause, with the energy to conduct the fight, and the honed wit to continue the fight without deflection. Armies have long been recruited from such places, and we were no different. But we sought more than fighters in the gutters of London.

In a world of turbulence where the fortunes of a man are as vicarious as a leaf blown in the autumn wind, we found what we called our ‘avenues’ in the gutter, in the prison, in the alehouse and wherever else human flotsam gathers to float no further. Men who had been blown there by bad fortune but who, with guidance and the slightest aid could be blown back on course to their rightful roles in the great drama of life. Avenues, useful avenues. That is what they meant to us – access to places we otherwise could not go. And such cheap access too …

…we used these avenues for many reasons. As new wells of information they could prove invaluable, but there were other uses to which they were put. And all the better that they suspected nothing …

A wise man once told me that there are only two mistakes one can make in life. One is to overestimate oneself. The other is to underestimate oneself. All the things we call our errors, or our weaknesses, or our foibles, or even just our bad luck, can be traced to one of these actions. He said that it was as if we walked through life always on a precipice’s edge. Too high or too low a perspective of oneself is a false perpective, and therefore merely increased the propensity to misjudge one’s next step and fall over the edge. It is why intelligent kings of old employed jesters, he said, and why intelligent beggars shun wit. At the time I thought him foolish – he was old and in a predicament, I thought, much as I was, which was not of our making and could not be ascribed to a mistake on either of our parts. That shows how it was I who was the fool. It was I who was in the predicament, not him. He was still walking that cliff edge with poise and purpose - it was I who had fallen.

I mention him because he was the man to whom my avenue was supposed to lead, though not in the way I had anticipated. And at the end of the avenue was meant to lie his doom, not mine. Another glorious irony …





But there was another thing I learnt from him.

There was little we did not try to control, or at least observe. When others decry your father’s baser attributes Abby you can take some solace from the fact that he was at least thorough. I could find good sources, I could bend them to our purpose, and most importantly, I could nurture them as they grew into the form which we most required. But control, that was they key. Without it none of the rest was possible, and without all of the rest control itself could never be achieved. And that was my undoing. A man who seeks control finds himself stoking and feeding a fire which consumes itself even as it grows, and him with it. Even with a thousand eyes at one’s disposal one cannot see everywhere at once. If I had known, for example, what was going to happen that day I would have arranged things so much differently. But we are never the authors of our own destiny when destiny delivers her crueller twists, or so we think.

I was blinded again Abby, you see. The first part of our scheme had begun its slow but steady trundle towards our goal. My avenue was bringing me where I wished to go. I was so conscious of my impending success that I failed to see a crucial flaw in my methodology – the man had a mind of his own. Titus Perry had his own methods, and was driven to try for a goal much more elusive than ours – his own salvation, though he did not know that. He was recruiting, like us, in unlikely places too – and with equally good effect.

But as I said, I did not see that then. I saw only that things were proceeding apace and in the route we had devised. If you are inclined to glean any useful instruction from my journal Abby then this lesson should be within it – beware when things run smoothly. They can run over-well and leave you in their wake, or change direction just as readily and run you over where you stand.

We saw ourselves as gardeners then, or at least I did, as I have said. The greatest tree springs from a single seed. The gardener sometimes must judge a handful of seeds which for all the world appear identical, and from them select the one he deems will grow best. For the most part Abby we guessed well, but some seeds will always grow where logic would suggest they perish and others will enter the garden by a route over which the gardener has no control. And there is one popular parody of the Irish that has a ring of truth to it, and one that I should have taken more seriously then too – they make excellent gardeners themselves.

The same wise man who revealed to me my main mistake in life also revealed to me my abject lack of skill as a gardener of men. He asked me once what appeared to be a simple question. “You are walking through a strange land that you do not know and you meet a river that you must cross. There is no bridge. However you spy three strangers on the bank, two of whom unbeknownst to you will kill you where you stand, and only one who will help you. One man is a beggar in rags, the second, by his dress, is very wealthy, and the third has a boat. To which do you turn for help?”

Needless to say it took me three attempts to identify the right one.
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