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012 Letter 10

To Ottoloc and your many friends, who, we hear, hold good reputations:

 

Having considered your teaching, the community at Kireca wishes to reply.

 

We appreciate your offer to provide us a copy of the Umanon. However, rest assured that we have scrolls of our own that are neither perverted nor altered, and we have compared them with copies to test their accuracy.[1] The people of Kireca would not have concluded what we did without giving the Umanon due consultation. Still, we stand in our conclusions, for we arrived at them carefully and with great reflection.

 

Know that we take your point most seriously, and we would be fools to conclude differently than you if the Umanon stood alone. Surely the Umanon speaks extensively of Qualiae and his acts. Even a cursory reading by a man barely literate shows this, but in our judgment that is beside the point. The fact that words appear on a scroll saying, “Qualiae acts, so he is the god,” does not make him the god.

 

Now youas others have beforemay feel that in saying this, we insult the impeccable character of Uman. Be assured that we do no such thing. Were Uman alive right now, writing divine messages and acting out the great feats claimed of him, we would go to him quickly and say, “you are the prophet, and we are your students. Let us worship Qualiae.” We would submit ourselves quickly and fully. However, we have never seen Uman. We see only scrolls, and any trained person who possesses ink can make scrolls. Do we insult Uman by questioning whether this work was his? Surely this is no insult, for we do not say, “Uman is a false prophet.” Instead, we say, “Uman is not known to us, for we have neither seen nor heard him. What we do not know, we do not know.”

 

If a man walks through the night and, amidst great wind, hears a faint voice resembling his friend’s, he should not say, “I have heard my friend’s request. I shall fulfill it.” That would be remarkably foolish. Rather, he would say, “dear friend, is that you? I wish to make sure, for I would never obey the wind thinking it to be you.” Indeed, he who does not take care to identify a friend’s true will is no friend and does not honor the friendship. He is a friend only of the wind, and wind is not a good friend to have. Therefore, if Uman was a prophet, we actually dishonor him by saying, “look, scrolls bearing his name. Let us assume that they are his.” We have shown him no reverence but have merely empowered the scrolls rather than the prophet.

 

Indeed, many scrolls are among us that claim truth. However, they speak in contradictions. You yourself reject the prophetic calling of Brial despite the fact that the Brialon exists right here and speaks to his miracles and divine messages. We have read this and studied it ourselves, but we understand that you have no copy. How can you reject what you do not know? Why do you reject one and accept the other while the worshipers of Qualiae beyond the mountains[2] accept both? One must have a better reason for such conclusions than saying, “our families and town elders taught us this, and we honor them.” All people have families and town elders, yet disagreement abounds. Families and town elders are not the arbiters of truth, and they make neither you true nor us true. Only truth makes a person true.

 

Therefore, let us discuss truth: one truth in which we take great confidence is that we are finite. Our lot is to exist in a small body compared to the great expanse of the earth and to do so for a brief allotment of time. Most of the world is unknown to any given person, and we will be unaware of most events and experiences in life. This is the nature of things, and each person must accept that.

 

We are weak, and so any deity, avatar, or prophet must make the truth known to us in emphatic ways. We are like the deaf to whom, when speaking, one must yell right in their face and gesticulate strongly. Likewise, any divine message must be yelled at us loudly. The soft whisperings of life are not enough, and scrolls kept on one’s shelf are the faintest of whispers.

 

Now we know your assertion that the acts of Qualiae were very obvious when made, and surely your description accurately reflects the Umanon. From reading it, in those days one merely needed to look out over the Valley to see great signs be manifest in some place or another. If this is true, then the people of that time were most fortunate, for their lives were easy compared to ours. They had the truth handed to them while we must search for slivers of it under rocks and leaves. However, those days, whether true or not, are long gone and lost to us.

 

We know that the human voice fades across space, for if one calls to someone a certain distance away, a person twice that distance might not hear. Thus distance kills communication, and with it knowledge. However, surely time does the same, for time destroys everything. Even the hewn rock, the hardest of substances, crumbles as time passes, and likewise so do messages and teachings. If people forget basic events of their own youth, how much more do we forget the youth of our ancestors? The days described in the Umanon are long dead, for time has killed them. We must accept this, for we are weak and no match for time’s ever crushing hammer.

 

Indeed, he who says, “I know the past,” claims to himself a great power, for no human can peer deep into the dark expanse of the past. Anyone affirming such knowledge claims to be a prophet, for only a prophet can pull one scroll out of the many that survive and say, “it is this one that speaks truly of the past.”[3]

 

We reiterate: it is not just the Umanon that is before us. Many accounts of old days exist and contradict each other in one manner or the other. As you know, the followers of Jaipni and the many gods affirm a very different set of events, and so do the people of Lython. Thus the many scriptures are not records of the divine message, for the divine message cannot say such contradictory things. The scriptures are not the ornate, golden containers of the deities’ will but maggots that have emerged out of the past’s dead corpse, putrid reminders of how time does not guard knowledge but perverts and destroys it.

 

Again, do we insult any deity by saying this? Surely not, for if a deity created time, then, to some degree, it must have knowingly subjugated its actions to time. Would a god really say, “I shall whisper my message to this person so that countless generations later, everyone will understand it crisply and without blemish”? Such a god would almost be guilty of falsely worshiping us, for the god would have had to hold a disturbingly excessive view of our human power and capabilities. A god, we trust, is not a fool: it would not have spoken softly through the recesses of time expecting us to hear as if it spoke face to face.

 

These are our teachings, and we hold to them dearly believing their truth. Therefore, we cannot affirm what you ask. If Qualiae is true, then we ask him to pardon us, for it is our weakness that prevents us from seeing him. If he has revealed himself, it was beyond our ability to perceive, and we shall not affirm what we cannot justifiably believe lest Qualiae himself say to us one day, “you made up belief in me without cause. Is that how flippantly you take belief?”

 

We wish for you peace, for your concern with our spiritual health was made in earnest. We are disappointed that we cannot follow your belief, for we know that it brings you joy. However, in life, truth supersedes joy, so we follow truth. We say this fully aware of our own weakness.

 

We shall speak well of you to everything we meet that is benevolent, and if that be Qualiae, then we hope that he blesses you. You would be his faithful servants.



[1] In reality, other than the remaining priesthood, Renent was probably among the most qualified in Naithan to certify a copy of the Umanon’s accuracy relative to other contemporaneous texts. He may be refraining here from touting those credentials to hide his background from an outsider.

[2] These are the mountains to the west separating the Velian Plains from the Coast. He is referring to the Fricolic Qualiaites.

[3] The reader is left to wonder what Renent would make of people today studying his own writings. The Umanon’s own purported date of authorship was c. 950 AF, about seven hundred years before this letter. Given that eleven hundred years separate this letter from our translation, Renent might have assumed that his words’ informational value would have died long before now. Ironically, although some textual discrepancies do exist, Renentine writings appear to have survived in rather good condition.