The Scrolls of Xee - Evil

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A speech given by the High Priestess Xaviera on the occasion of the Third Amian Sharessan Feast.

Ladies and Gentlemen. Please all be seated, and then we can begin. The sooner we sit, the sooner we party!

I thank you all for coming together here today, and I would like to offer you an experience that I trust you will enjoy and will carry away with you when you leave - one that I hope will bring a smile to your face when you think of it in future. I would like to welcome you with a prayer to the Lady.

O Beautiful Sharess, we are here today to celebrate this festival in Your honour. We are here today to enjoy that great gift You have given us - the gift of pleasure. Without pleasure, our food would be as ashes in our mouths, our wine as swampwater. Without pleasure, our lives would be filled with misery. Without pleasure, our loves would be bitter. I ask that you extend your blessing over this, Your festival, that we may all take pleasure together, without hurt or harm, hatred or horror. Bless us, O Lady, in the giving and receiving of pleasure. Take our pain, Mistress, and give us joy in return. Grant us happiness in all that we do, insofar as we do it for You and in Your name.

I thank you all, in the name of Sharess.

And now a few announcements, if I may, before we carry on. This event, Ladies and Gentlemen, is intended to be entertaining for all. All are welcome so long as they come to have a good time and not cause any problems. It is, after all, a celebration of the Goddess of Pleasure, so that's what it should be about. And since the idea is to have a good time and enjoy yourself, you should wear whatever pleases you and is comfortable without offending your neighbours. Let us please have no weapons drawn and no helmets hiding your face, so that all may say of you, 'There goes someone who is here openly and honestly and who surely intends no deceit or harm'. Let us have no insults, no bickering, no disagreements. If you wish to discuss or argue religion or politics, please do it afterwards, or elsewhere. Let us greet our neighbours and friends warmly, and make new ones.

I would like to say 'thank you' to those who have helped prepare this festival for you, and I hope you will do so as well. Before we get on with the festivities, I am going to ask you to let me speak to you about something that is - or at least should be - very important to every one of you here. I would like to talk to you a bit about how I, as a Sharessin, see the world. I shall try not to take up too much of your time, but I will request that you please bear with me.

We're here today to enjoy ourselves, to let go of the cares that worry at us from day to day. We're here to forget those for a few hours, and to have fun, to laugh, to celebrate life and its pleasures. Let's do that, all of us. But when we leave this place, let's think about our world, and what's happening to it, and to us, and wonder... why? Why is there so much death, torture, and misery?

Let me ask you this. What is your most valuable possession? What is it that drives you? What is it without which you die? What is the one thing that you keep even beyond death?

The answer is: Your soul.

What does your soul do? It keeps you alive. It animates your body and directs it to seek pleasure and avoid pain, that it may survive within this shell of flesh. It makes your blood flow, your lungs breathe, your mind think, your heart feel. But your soul is more than just your mind, your heart, your will. It is your very essence. It is the part that drives you, that controls all of your existence. Your feelings, choices, decisions. Your soul is the one thing that is truly yours. It is the most important thing you have, even more than your life here on this material plane. It is the deepest part of you, the part that remains when everything else is gone, and without which you do not exist in any way. It is you.

What is the best state, the best way, for you to live? What is the most important thing for your soul? I would say that it is... freedom.

Why? What is it that makes freedom so important?

Freedom is the ability to do whatever you want. Freedom is not being constrained, restricted, limited, controlled or imprisoned. Freedom, above all else, is about choice. If you are hungry, you need to eat. If thirsty, to drink. There may be many places to do this, but some more dangerous than others. Wild beasts may roam the fields, or the waterhole may be poisoned. I may offer you maggotty meat, mouldy cheese and bitter water, and your hunger and thirst may be satisfied, but you are not satisfied in the sense of being happy or pleased that your body's needs have been addressed. Not just for the continued survival of your body, but for the well-being of your soul. In other words, the better your physical needs are satisfied, the more you can turn your attention to things other than pure survival. Although some may disagree with me, of course.

And once all of our needs are satisfied, when we dont hunger, or thirst, or crave warmth and shelter, we are free then to think of other things. Family and friends. Love and dreams. Worship and devotion, by which I mean following our gods as they wish, not merely desperately crying out for their aid. To think about great things, great ideas, and to seek knowledge. To lead quests, to undertake great ventures.

What does this have to do with Sharess, I expect you are asking?

Sharess teaches us that life is like a great feast, a table full of different foods and drinks that is set before us, and we are invited by the Goddess to take a seat at that table and to try all that life has to offer. It would be a poor feast indeed if I invited you all here and gave you nothing but thin gruel and weak beer. No, I tell you, life is about choice! Life is about trying all of those foods, all of those things, that appeal to you. Life is about experiences. A life without experiences is a banquet uneaten - indeed, it is a life unlived. You may as well lock yourself away in a dungeon if you do not life your life to the fullest.

Let me say this to you, then. We must feed our bodies in order to survive. But there is more to life than simply surviving. Life, in fact, is about living. The more ways you have to attend to those basic needs of life, the more joy you will find in doing so. Further, the more ways you have of satisfying your other needs - for companionship, for knowledge, for purpose - the more you will be fulfilled. It follows, then, surely as day follows night, that a life with more choices is a better life.

I must qualify this, of course, by saying that one must still make the right choices. One may choose to eat only only bread, say, but then one may as well not have the choice. One may choose to beat one's spouse, or drink oneself into a stupor nightly, but that is not a good way of living, for it harms the body - whether one's own or another's - thus hindering the ability to enjoy onself in future, and so corrupting and twisting the soul within it.

Now we get to the most important question. What is evil, then?

The person who beats you, or who threatens harm to your family, or who takes all your hard-earned coin until you do what he wants, is evil, no? There is a saying - those who seek power should be the last to receive it. And there is a good reason for this, as expressed in another saying - power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. He who tries to control you, to coerce you, to force your obedience, is really trying to govern your soul, your life, and make it his. He attempts to corrupt your soul, to bend it to his desires.

This is not to say that we can exist without laws and government. I wish it were so, but unfortunately there will always be people who are weak. Just as surely, there will be others who will try to prey on those weaker than themselves, to take the sweat of their brows and the fruits of their toil. To take without giving. To do evil, in other words. The government that governs best, governs least - another saying. But there will always be those who need to be protected and who can't do it for themselves. If nothing else, government should exist to protect its citizens.

I hope you would all agree that if someone drags you off to a dungeon and tortures you for no reason, that they are evil. Pain is the death of the body and, when prolonged or forced, the twisting of the soul. Enjoying the pain of another is like drinking their blood, or eating their heart. He who tortures your body, who inflicts pain, is trying to control you. He who tortures you for his own pleasure, or for the pleasure or sustenance of his dark god or goddess, attempts to satisfy his own foul lusts by wringing your soul dry. One can also, as I mentioned earlier, do harm to oneself, by making wrong choices. One may always choose to hurt, to harm, to take without giving, to seek control over others. Or one may give up control over oneself, by succumbing to drink, or drugs. Excess makes you a slave to your own lusts, damaging your body and making your soul a slave to those lusts. The addict gives himself over to the addiction and forfeits his own soul to it.

It is my opinion that evil, at bottom, is about limiting choice. Evil corrupts your most precious possession, trying to damage it, control it, or take it from you. The evil person seeks to restrict your choices, to dictate what you can and cannot do. If you do not give in, the evil person threatens the same to others - your family, your loved ones. Evil seeks to chain you, to limit you. And if you are limited, boxed in, you cant dream those great dreams or do those great things, because you're too busy being in pain, and afraid, because someone else wants what you have, be it your toil or your loyalty or your worship. It is not a natural state, for a soul to be crushed or imprisoned.

Evil must always be resisted, no matter the cost. It is better that the pain be brief so that the pleasure may be long, and not the other way around. Do not give in to those who wish you harm, I say. Do not let others tell you how to live, or what to believe. Do not follow those who tell you that fear is the path to certainty, or to power, because fear closes doors and chains you down. Fear may give power to some, but only by taking it from others. The rabbit about to be pounced on by the hawk may freeze or run in a random direction - he may escape, he may not, but he's not really in any position to make choices. The tyrant who rules a nation of slaves is not a happy person for all his power, because he knows that only for so long as he keeps his foot down will he be safe from those beneath it. Hold your hand out, and squeeze it. How long can you keep it like that? Not long, I'll warrant. Like trying to squeeze water, it will always escape between your fingers. So, the tyrant will always be vanquished, sooner or later, by someone who refuses to be crushed. By someone who wants the freedom to choose their own life!

Once again... what has this to do with Sharess?

Not all choices are easy. Sometimes the best choice may be painful in the short term - or even the long term - but the good of it outweighs the bad. Though we seek pleasure and abhor pain, we should not avoid it when it is the best choice A friend is a person who helps you through difficult times, by taking some of your pain unto themselves. A friend is one who helps carry your burdens, in order to make it easier for you to make your way along the path before you, in order to make it easier for you to make the best choices. Who among you would not be happy to see the smiling face of your child, experiencing something good for the first time? Accomplishing something they had never done before? That is why I say, a pleasure shared is a pleasure doubled. To help someone become the best they can, to succeed in their choices, is to help them become satisfied, to increase their options, and to do that is a pleasure in its own right. Sharess is about freedom, and about choice. Choosing whatever you want. Choosing different things. Experiencing. Learning. Sharing. Help others to make the 'right choice, and to succeed. Help others to live their lives freely, without pain. Work with them, that all may share the pleasures that come from success, from freedom, from happiness.

Today, you are here with people who, I hope, share these wishes. Relax with your friends, and make new ones. Enjoy their company, and make yours enjoyable to others. I thank you all for taking the time to listen to me, and I invite you now to share amongst yourselves all of the amusements and entertainments we have for you.

Read more of The Scrolls of Xee.