Two men are talking, a monk and a general. The general needs to convince the monk to move from atop a mineral deposit the general needs access to; though the monk is harmless, he is protected by some kind of barrier, physical or figurative, so the general cannot remove him by force. The mineral represents a philosophical rift between the two men’s cultures. The general’s culture wants to use the mineral to return to Eden, a paradise that cast humans out, and the monk thinks mankind needs to invite the Keepers of Eden to return to them by changing their ways while in captivity. Their conversation is as follows…
The Gran Toliar and the General
The general stands before the monk, unable to cross the protective barrier the monk sits behind.
General: You claim you are against violence in all its forms, My Gran Toliar. You also define violence as any action that removes agency from another person against their will; a definition I happen to agree with. Is sitting here obstructing our path, then, not an act of violence?
The Gran Toliar: Is it violent for a mother bird to shield her eggs from the predator?
General: My people and I are not predators. We want to use the resource you are hiding for a purpose that will benefit us all.
Toliar: I have much evidence to the contrary. You have used your own resources—guns and drones and bombs—to dominate peoples and wage wars. Should you acquire this resource, you shall use it to do more of the same, no?
General: I am a general. Violence is my trade. Besides, the Keepers of Eden had a similar trade. They subjugated us, warred with us, then cast us out violently when we dared to disobey their laws. Why do you obey them if they are so violent?
Toliar: They are the exception. They are Gods, whose laws must be obeyed. We, who are beneath them, have lesser permissions.
General: The only laws that must be obeyed are those of Mother Nature. Jump, and she will set you down, no matter your permissions. She does, however, allow violence of all kinds. It is a natural thing to pit force against force.
Toliar: The Keepers of Eden are not subject to Nature’s tariffs. Their divine work is infinite in value. They are the ones who may jump and never come down. The magics are proof of their supremacy.
General: Magics, eh? If the Keepers’s magics are so awesome, why did they not simply expunge any thought of disobedience from our minds? Why did they instead give us free will?
Toliar: Because they are merciful.
General: And therein, the hypocrisy. They gave us the freedom to choose, yet punished us for choosing to diverge from their path. What mercy is that?
Toliar: Simply having the option to do violence does not mean that one should. Your own philosophers, I think, would agree; owning a gun does not mean you are obligated to shoot things.
General: On the contrary. A tool, once invented, is meant to be used. If we had no need to defeat invaders, there would be no bombs. If we had no need to fend off predators, there would be no guns.
Toliar: These “needs” you describe are but selfish wants. You need air, water, earth, and light; you do not need a means of ending lives. This is why we were cast from Eden, General: to learn to separate what we truly need from our selfish desires. And this is why the resource must remain under the ground: it is not a thing you need.
General: Yes, my desire is entirely selfish. So was the decision of the Keepers to expel us. And there is nothing wrong with that desire. This is another permit of Mother Nature, My Gran Toliar: selfishness. Want defines need.
Toliar: The Keepers are allowed to be selfish, for the only thing they want is for us to be healthy and wise. In exchange, the only thing we should want is to be healthy and wise. They do not force this debt upon us, but look what happens when we desire otherwise. (gestures to the destroyed wasteland around them)
General: Health and wisdom are not part of the Keepers’s addendum for exiling us. What they have always wanted is our compliance. Do you remember why the Keepers cast us out of Eden? It was because we invented the sword. It must be that they feared that we would become the ones to supersede them someday. Look at my armies there, and tell me we haven’t.
Toliar: In seeing your armies, I see that their fear was not misplaced. Your new “swords” hold the power to burn down the world.
General: And their world, our former home, if they refuse to share it.
Toliar: Which is why they’ve given us this new home. If we can appreciate this realm, truly appreciate life, then the Keepers shall return to us and shepherd us to Eden.
General: This world is no home of mine. It is a prison which the Keepers of Eden placed humanity in. Let it burn as well, and let mankind make its way to the throne of Eden on its own two feet.
Toliar: You who would tarnish such a beautiful garden, and then destroy the gods that made you, call yourself worthy of the throne of Eden?
General: I call myself strong. As Mother Nature dictates, the strong have the right to rule.
Toliar: When you say such things, I cannot help but wonder: what if you lose? What if the Keepers and their magics are stronger than you and your swords?
General: If so, I shall have no complaints towards them, only towards myself. And I shall strive to make myself better. Another permit of Nature is change.
Toliar: I grow weary of reminding you that the Keepers are above Natural Law. They never change; they are perfect. They do not have to contest with anyone to retain their place; they are gods.
General: They will have to contest with my armies. We deserve a place in paradise.
Toliar: You don’t deserve any of Eden’s laurels. You are selfish. Eden is the home of the selfless.
General: You keep calling them that. These gods who exile the innocent for challenging their hypocrisy. How are they righteous, when I, who seek justice, supposedly am not?
Toliar: The Keepers are righteous because their actions are selfless actions. In exiling us, they have left their children alone to the flame; to the weapons, the wilds, the horrors of mortality. They do not do this for their own peace of mind. Rather, they have done it to show us what the pain of selfish violence feels like, a lesson you have obviously missed. That you cannot endure this pain is perhaps unsurprising, but that you would attempt to return their kindness with further expressions of selfishness is truly astounding.
General: Well, they invited such a response by giving us free will.
Toliar: They invited you to learn your place.
General: And I’ve learned that our place is above them.
Toliar: A violent man is above nothing.
General: (Sighs) There is more than one wall to remove here, it seems; not just the barrier, but the wall of My Gran Toliar’s convictions. This may take a while. Excuse me as I fetch something to drink and a sitting mat.
Gran Toliar: I await you, friend. And I implore that you bring an open mind with you.