Roger's Puzzles
Victor Endersby

The young noble, Roger of Albi, experimenting along the Path, came disconsolate to Leon du Nord, who in truth knew much more about these things.

“I find,” he said, “that in increasing numbers my friends, hearing that I follow wisdom, come to me with their troubles. Husbands have grievances against wives, wives against husbands, children against parents, parents against children, and neighbor against neighbor. I had never suspected such secret turmoil. To aid, I have laid out endless time, money, and effort, understanding that the follower of the Wisdom must have ever a heart for the troubles of mankind without regard to his own. Yet now it seems that I have become known as a false friend, a fair talker but non-doer, a simultaneous taker of opposed sides, even a slanderer - surely I am not of that nature?”

“Not at all,” said Leon. “Your troubles are of another origin.”

“Why is this grievous thing?”

“Your heart is warm and of ready sympathy; you trust in the honesty of men as in your own. The tale told, you take in the shape presented, and always one side is of necessity heard first. Thus you mind is overbalanced in favor of this first. Then - either the prior judgement remains to taint what follows: or, finding that things were not as presented, wrath at the deceit rises within you and turns your face in the opposite direction. Thus, in seeming, you favor first one side, then the other. Moreover, the simple listening to a grudge with sympathetic mien convinces the plaintiff that you are with him wholly. Doing thus with both, you who strive to be equal-minded and fair to all, do often appear as a hypocrite to all. Men do not seek you as a judge, but as an ally. Had they the sense to seek a judge, they would seldom have need of one.”

“Why is it that often I find the grievance to be one of simple misunderstanding, or perhaps of equal faults unrecognized in ignorance, so that naught needs but understanding; but when I bring this consideration to the aggrieved one, showing the innocence of the other, he who ought to be glad there is no real cause of quarrel, forthwith quarrels with me?”

“Because, even as men seek advice for the purpose of being told to do that which they are already resolved to do, they come to you in their strife, not for settlement of the strife, but for reassurance of uprightness in the vengeful course already entered upon. For such reasons as you relate, our courts find the judgment seat best filled with hard men unfavorably disposed to all, withal of forbidding mien, so that one daring complaint must needs feel well armored in righteousness.

“Verily this is a brutal business for one who seeks only good to mankind... I have still another puzzle. Often in seeking the basis of justice in these things, I go back and back, and farther yet to find the beginning, some initial point of grievance by which fault may be laid upon the one initially guilty. Never have I found such a beginning. I have traced the killing of a man to the ancient theft of an egg; a family feud to a careless bucket of slop-water a hundred years ago; a war to an arm broken on the wrestling-mat. But always is there something behind; one approaches a cause, but never reaches an origin. How is this?”

“My friend, look over the whole scene of quarreling entities in this age, from pets snarling on a hearth-rug, through children bickering over their toys, unto the multitudinous slaughter of men that pours its red stream down the centuries; unroll the scroll of past lives even unto the Land of Lyonesse, long lost beneath the Western wave. Never will you reach this finality of justice. Ever the causes must and will be obscure; obscure enough by nature, because of the immemorial history of causation; obscured on purpose because each stage of a quarrel brings its new manure of lies to fertilize fresh strife for the ages.”

“And,” said Roger, reddening,”upon occasion it has happened that noble demoiselles, frequenting my company for aid in smoother going with their swains, have hinted that they would gladly substitute me for the swain. This has not simplified the task.”

“It never has,” murmured Leon. Reminiscently.

“Being thus a fool,” continued Roger, “why do these people rely upon me to their confusion?”

“Because there is a Light in you, born and growing. Men feel its warmth and see its glow. But even as in the world each thinks the sun to shine for himself alone, so think they that you live for them alone. Not yet yourself comprehending the nature of that Light, how shall these contentious ones know better?”

Roger thought long.

“This, then, I think, is a cause of my trouble, as well as my impulsive trust. But how, then, is the thing ever to be resolved, the hearts of men to find peace?”

“Full knowledge of Law only can accomplish this. Once a man knows that justice absolute rules despite any act of his, he looks not into the past, save to instruct others; neither does he seek the crusadings of this world. Nor does he resent anything that befalls. Thus is his stream of life let run free and without hindrance, quickly clearing itself of mire.”

“But often his blood runs with the stream also.”

“Such a price must sometimes be paid for the past. But even a man’s blood is on the day; his fate, for evermore.”

“This is a stern teaching. Of course I know it well - in principle. But I find that I cannot help these beings by teaching principle. They beseech me then ‘But what shall I do?’ And if the prescribed doing is one of sacrifice, it is insisted that another precede therein.”

“Like all those young in the Path, you have yet to learn that there are those - countless many - who cannot in any wise be helped. Their purging must run its bitter course, while wise men stand and wait - and prepare themselves.”

“That is a hard business for a soft heart.”

“It becomes still harder if a soft head is joined thereto.”

Again Roger pondered.

“How may one discern those to be helped?”

“When a man comes to you for help in atoning for a wrong done; when one seeks self-purification or pure wisdom; if one desires only to fit himself to be the better able to teach others - then may somewhat be done, and help given without misgiving.”

“And you, my friend, observing my errors, and knowing me as I am without vanity and eager for correction and instruction? Why wait until I come in trouble?”

Leon smiled gently.

Last Update : January 2009
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