18 November 2008

An epistle from the shardani Lo'Quai to her friend Ja'Arkan

My dear Ja’Arkan,

I am writing to thank you for the stimulating conversation we had a few days ago. I understand that any doubt I may have planted in you regarding your Memnorite faith will cause you two griefs. Firstly, if there is no Authority, then do concepts like good and evil have any meaning? Secondly, why be good if there is no Authority to reward goodness or punish wickedness?

With the first question, good and evil do have meaning, and their meaning derives from our biological and psychological imperatives. Any act that causes a shardan to flourish, physically and psychologically, can be considered good. And the act that causes suffering and harm can be construed as evil. Nowhere in this definition is there a need for an Authority to give meaning to ‘good’ and ‘evil’ independent of the biological and psychological reasons.

As to the second question, the answer is linked to the first, in that the reason for being good lies in our biological and psychological constitution. We are good because to be good is to encourage the biological and psychological flourishing of each and every shardan. And we avoid being wicked because such evil acts eventually lead to the biological and psychological decay of shardani life. Again, there is no need for an Authority to provide incentives for shardani good behaviour. In fact, a shardan who claims that the reason why he is good is because he expects to be rewarded (whether by the Authority or a temporal source) is surely less nobly motivated than a shardan who believes in being and doing good for its own sake.

We shardani are the creators of our meaning and values, which are important not because they come from a source above and beyond us, but because they concern us and apply to our shardani lives. The existence of an Authority as the giver of meaning is not only unnecessary, but also degrading to our own worth as shardani. Instead of being the creators of our own meaning, we have it imposed on us from the outside. Where is the dignity in that? With whom then lies the responsibility for corrupt meaning and harmful values that cause shardani suffering? With us, or with the Authority who supposedly is the giver of all meaning and values? Can you not see the blatant contradiction, that the Authority you and your fellow Memnorites believe to be All Good and All Powerful would allow its creations to suffer so much?

The sort of shardani exceptionalism that the Memnorite faith teaches is an example of shardani-centric vanity. The concept of Guilt Eternal, which only applies to shardani; the idea of the shardani being created in the Authority’s image (somehow a blue-furred, bow-legged, tusked deity does not seem so majestic to me); the belief that the Authority keeps a book in which is written the names of the shardani Chosen, who shall be reincarnated into more beautiful bodies upon their deaths; the tale of the Seven Sisters of Memnor appearing to pious shardani and blessing them. A serious self-obsession is clearly reflected in the stories that Memnorites tell themselves.

Yet in the global scheme of things, our species is but one (though arguably the most advanced) among millions on our yellow planet and its three moons. And on a cosmic scale, the odds of intelligent life existing among the far reaches of the universe are good odds. Perhaps on a distant blue planet with only one moon, there may live a species similar to us with its own indigenous forms of faith-based self-aggrandisement. Perhaps their storytellers are just as imaginative as ours. Would their Authority be the same one as that of the Memnorites? Or are they worshipping a false Authority and are thus misguided? If so, on what evidence do the Memnorites claim that their Authority is the True One? Because their sacred text says so?

These questions may displease you Ja'ar, yet despite our differences I still respect and admire you for your qualities. Your friendship is important to me, not because of certain myths and superstitions we both may or may not subscribe to, but because of your intrinsic value to me as the unique, individual shardan that you are. In all honesty Ja’ar, can you confidently say the same thing of your Memnorite friends? If you were to suddenly announce to them that you no longer believed in the Memnorite teachings, how many of them could you count on to remain your friends? A friendship whose value is largely dependent on a commonly held delusion; is it worthy of the name?

I understand that these words of mine may come as a challenge to your deeply held beliefs and convictions. It is not my intention to insult you or convert you to my point of view. Because I believe in the independence of our minds in creating our own meaning and values, I encourage you to do your own thinking on the matter. If it is any consolation, I want to assure you that you have nothing to be afraid of. Life does have meaning and value, whether an Authority exists or not. And there are many shardani who do their best to be good, to make this world a better place for their fellow shardani, without needing an external power to coerce or persuade them.

Be well, my friend, and know that I shall remain your loyal and stalwart ally no matter what your personal beliefs.

With affection,



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