Every great epic tale is, at its core, the story of a man and the legacy he seeks to achieve and leave behind. If our reasoning follows in the way of Hesiod, that men are but fragments of insignificance in a scheme far more complex than the simple human mind can comprehend, then to seek a legacy will prove to be ultimately futile. Human understanding is inherently flawed in such matters. What can one man leave behind that will matter when he is but a dim spark within an infinity of bright light?
Men are aware of their weaknesses. They witness it in death, decay, and ignorance. Self importance rejects the notion that the body is just a system of elements working together. The idea of such submits that the human form is not unique and different, thus naturally superior, say, to the chair a man sits upon. It horrifies human arrogance, most of all, which I would insist is for all purposes the ignorance of the learned man.
The most unacquainted of men, be it from a lack of knowledge or an abundance of pride, do not question their existence. Indeed, they either consider no such contemplations necessary, in the case of the ill-informed, or believe that their legacy will be that of their mere existence. These are the men of whom make the most grievous of errors by believing that their dim spark burns brighter than it does. It is also the unfortunate fate of these men to be the first forgotten. Or else remembered in contempt. And who should want that?
It cannot be argued in the minds of rational men that the body is an indefinite, changeable uncertainty. The Greek Democritus claimed that we are but atoms moving around in space. Naturally, though this idea questions free will, I believe that the most important concept to take from Democritus’ theory is that the body is indeed a simple combination of elements that weaken and die. Upon death, the atoms by which we are made come apart. That is, after all, the fundamental nature of decay.
From the moment we come ‘to life‘, the very fraction of the first second that life starts, the onset of death begins. The smartest of men, the would-be philosophers and self-actualised internal thinkers, all say that the only thing we can be sure of in life is that we die. Death is certain. Of course, we know better, don’t we? We understand well that death is not a certainty. The real truth is that everything does not die, but can die, or else remanifests itself in a form that is useless.
So, frightened by the onset of inevitable death, and finding the uncertainty of the nature of it nearly unbearable, man has to believe that the body and the mind- or the soul- are two independent forces within one shell. Opposites. And as the body dies, it is within the nature of the opposite that the body could counter and live. This is weak justification, and I’m sure you can clearly see the error in this way of thinking. Men must make of the body that it is more than a hindrance to them, and unimportance. Did not Socrates, upon his death, claim that True Philosophers, namely those who love wisdom, live in a state close to death so that they will be prepared to shed the disruptive form and find knowledge beyond the senses? That which is incorruptible, unchangeable. That is what we seek.
Do I believe this? I don’t know, and there’s little chance I shall ever find out one way or the other. Speculation grows wearisome when it’s never reconciled with its answer. Fundamentally, however, the premise is to question uncertainty rather than accept it as an inevitability. To not guard against our flaws is a crime against the very claim that all man can rise above their own ignorance. But, we should never doubt too much, nor should we fear simply saying to ourselves, “it is this way because it is.”
Let me tell you now of something that may seem not to fit with what I’ve just said, though understand it will come together in the end.
Venice is rotting. It’s seeping away in a slow, cracking decay. In some places, the smell of the mildew is so terrible that it’s overwhelming, especially after a flood. I doubt the Venetians, the locals, smell it. They’ve either grown immune or resolved that it’s part of the charm of their city. One of many charms, at least. Venetians are adaptable.
I find it enlightening, their fortitude. I’ve often found and used the perseverance of even the simplest mortals an apt model for my own endurance. By my own admission, I submit to arrogance. After so long, immortality seems within itself its own lofty purpose, and I must model my own modesty after the simplicity of my human companions. Too many times have I been knocked down to rise and look around myself at the ruins of my overindulgence.
Make no mistake, I’ve no will for monasticism. My finer tastes require decadence. It is still strange to me that those things that are now called sin were in my time the pleasures of life. What is human nature when every human wishes for something different? Can we create a concrete foundation when the spectrum is so very wide? And who is to say that sin is the element of truth when what is true for me is so very different?
Those are not questions I wish to address. They are merely wonderings.
What would life be like without luxury, though? I’ve never had an inclination towards deprivation, though I have attempted it in the past and found it lacking in supposed redemption. I do find it necessary now to give it due credit, however, because I’ve often found that a periodic fasting of pleasure clarifies the senses and we don’t take for granted these things that get us through endless night.
Is it shameless to enjoy obvious, frivolous decadence? Surely not, as I’ve never flaunted my arrogance, only enjoyed it with secret internalism. Why deny myself pleasure when life becomes so very tedious on the best of nights? Every man who chooses to live a life of deprivation has a higher purpose for committing himself to such; he has some reward. No rational man would choose to suffer without compensation.
And this is why I do not understand people who choose to suffer without any reward or reason besides that they wish to suffer. Their nature should tell them otherwise. It defies rationality because it has absolutely no purpose. There are immortals who choose to live this way, like shadows of their former selves. They walk with their heads down and their feet heavy in miserable languor or light so as to go unnoticed. Is the spirit so easily defeated that this is all they can salvage from their existence? How hard is it even in the most troubling of times to summon the perseverance of their mortal selves? Indeed, if so only to either find the courage to endure and persist or give up. What median is this that they’ve chosen that they must exist without purpose?
Misery has no purpose, you see. At least arrogance has self importance.
I’ve never been blind to my weakness, even as I hid it from others. To hide it from others, to ignore its presence within me, is to perhaps assert that I possess no weakness at all. This is a horrible lie to tell, as people will become to rely on your strength. Any sign of weakness would shatter the barrier with which they’ve used your strength to structure.
You may be wondering now what all of this means, what it has to do with you, and what I intend to impart on you with this letter.
My point is simple, Lestat.
I told you long ago that you must seek your own purpose, your own reason for living. Have you found it yet? Are you still searching for your legacy? One that will perhaps eclipse even your own immortality? That is what you’ve wanted, wasn’t it? You could not simply make do with being alive. No, you need to be heard; you need everyone to know you are alive.
Understand how meaningless that is. You’ve searched and searched and only found pain. There’s nothing certain in this world. All things with time decay and degrade, and no one remembers things the way that they were. I know this every time I hear a history scholar tell me facts about my own youth that seem reasonable in knowledge, but faulty in truth. It’s so simple and laid bare before us, yet we are blind to painful truths such as these that shatter our hopes.
It’s important to think about the legacy you wish to leave behind, not only for what it will accomplish, but for what it will evolve into being. Understand this with humility for not every man is granted a legacy. Intention does not cut a direct path to result. What we do and expect is not always what we receive. Will they remember you for your charm or for your monstrosity? Have you made enough mistakes that you are now beginning to realise my advice so long ago? Moderate what you do, at least, when others will be keeping record. Do not be afraid to give up, to admit weakness, and to admit that you are fallible. Be wise, Lestat, or be remembered as a fool.