The people of Helevina know very well that one’s ability to reason is directly proportional to the length of one’s beard. Now there was a man who lived in Helevina a very long time ago, whose beard was particularly long. His face was especially stern because he’d wrinkled his forehead with so much thinking. His name was Rouvin and he was a philosopher. But Rouvin wasn’t just any philosopher, he was arguably the greatest philosopher in history.
He wrote about everything from the nature of thought, to the human soul, to God Himself. Though his teachings caused his students to gape, scribes to scribble furiously, and the kings of the world to seek his counsel, the only thing they brought to God was an amused little smile.
This, dear readers, is Rouvin’s story, and I regret to say, it is not a happy one. It begins when he was just a young man (though even in his youth he was bearded. In fact, historical evidence suggests he was born bearded). He lived in a little village on the eastern side of Helevina that overlooked the sea. It was here that he first learned to wonder, and the delight he experienced in wondering was so sweet that once he began he never voluntarily ceased.
Day in and day out he would watch the world, question it, contemplate it, test his conclusions, and finally put them on paper. He spent so much time doing this, he would have starved to death if it hadn’t been for a young lady from the village. She’d remind him to eat, remind him to sleep, and when she visited his home she’d clean it thoroughly and scold him for allowing it to fall into disarray. She was as practical as he was theoretical and as down to earth as he was absent minded. Her name was Sophia, and Rouvin was very fond of her. As long as she was by his side, all his temporal needs were cared for and he was free to think.
She was fond of him also, for she could see that he had a brilliant mind and their conversations inspired and enriched her. Together they were happy…at first.
As time went on, Rouvin was consumed in his work more and more. He became so engrossed in his thoughts on the social nature of man that he stopped conversing with Sophia. Then, so busy penning his work on the nature of human affection that he forgot to offer her any. While he wrote seven hundred pages about the nature of human emotion, he failed to notice her growing frustration.
All this took place over the course of three years, and toward the end of the third year Rouvin the philosopher began what is widely considered his greatest work. To this day, the work brings even the most stately academics into a state of uncontrollable sobbing for its sheer splendor. He titled it: On Marriage and the Nature of Love.
On the very day that he sat putting the final touches on this great work, Sophia decided to confront him. She was carrying a basket of his togas out to wash, when she noticed him sitting in his usual place scribbling furiously onto a scroll. She paused before him, silently reading his words.
She cleared her throat. Rouvin jumped, his pen flying from his hand. He looked up toward her bewildered.
“You have said that an actual thing is greater than the idea of a thing,” Sophia began.
The philosopher shook off his confusion and smiled.
“Quite so!” He replied both alarmed and delighted by her understanding.
“It follows then,” she continued. “That actual marriage is greater than the idea of marriage.”
Rouvin thought for a moment, then answered: “Why yes! That’s exactly right. I’m so glad that you are beginning to understand these things, my dear!” With that, he began searching for his pen. Finding it, he turned his attention back to his writing.
After a few moments, he glanced up. She was still standing there, staring at him, her brow furrowed and her jaw tight.
“Was there something else you wanted?” He asked.
Her hand clenched the handle of the basket so that it almost snapped in two but her expression did not change.
“I suppose actual clean laundry is also greater than the idea of clean laundry,” she stated.
“I suppose so,” he answered raising an eyebrow. He wasn’t sure why she was still on this subject.
“But since you seem content to live in the world of ideas…” she dumped the basket on his head and stormed out.
When she did not come home the following day, he went out into the village to look for her. His neighbors told him she’d left by ship to seek her fortune in Athens.
Now Rouvin was arguably the most brilliant man that ever lived. And while he’d answered some of the greatest questions in the universe, he could not make sense of Sophia’s behavior.
He spent many a long evening sitting alone among his scrolls, sipping wine, and contemplating this question. Indeed, he thought about it so much that his hair turned white and his face became frozen in a scowl. At last, he finally came to a conclusion and penned his most infamous work. If you asked your philosophy professor about it, I guarantee he will deny its existence.
The work is titled: On the Nature of Women. In this work, Rouvin concludes that women are so enslaved by in their emotions that they are completely incapable of reason.
Having satisfied himself with the idea that Sophia’s behavior was a result of her feminine nature, he decided to move onto other questions. Further, he resolved never to interact with a woman again. Of course, this was easier said than done, due to the inconvenient fact that women made up half the human population. And it only became more difficult after that fateful day when Lysander the Conqueror attacked.
If you ask a child what he wants to be when he grows up, he might say a doctor, a firefighter, or an engineer. When Lysander the Conqueror was a little boy, his mother asked him this very question. He answered: “I want to rule the world!” His mother laughed and patted him on the head. What she didn’t realize is that one day he would actually do it.
Lysander valued three things above all else: books, conquering (obviously), and his darling war horse Calla. He’d have married Calla if he could, but marrying horses was frowned upon in those days even for the ruler of the world.
The day Lysander invaded, Rouvin was so absorbed in thought he failed to notice the attack on his village until one of the conqueror’s warriors broke down the door. The man would have killed the terrified philosopher right then and there if Lysander himself hadn’t intervened. You see, when the invader stormed in, one of Rouvin’s scrolls came rolling out into the street. Lysander (being a lover of books and all) stopped killing people for a moment so he could read it. The work was called On Horses: Highest of Animals.
The conqueror rushed to the house. Luckily for Rouvin, the invading soldier, blade raised for the kill, paused mid-blow (it was the kind of hesitation one has when one is about to kill the protagonist of an incomplete story). It gave Lysander just enough time to burst in shouting: “STOP!”
Then catching his breath, he held the open scroll out toward Rouvin. “Did you write this?” he demanded.
The wide-eyed philosopher nodded.
“Wonderful!” the conqueror exclaimed. “You’ll come back to the capital with me and teach at the university! Every student in the empire will come to know that horses are the highest of animals! And we will add your works to my library! You will have wealth and power and fame and servants to do your bidding. Everything you’ve ever wanted will be yours!”
Rouvin agreed immediately because he was afraid of dying (also wealth and fame sounded pretty good). And so the conqueror took the philosopher back to Logus, capital of his home country. It was beyond anything Rouvin could have imagined (which is saying a lot since he spent most of the day in his mind). The many intersecting roads were paved with cobblestone, every building touched the sky. Greenery only appeared in places designated by city officials. Every pigeon was washed and combed before it could enter the street. And by Lysander’s decree, every warrior had to wear a brush on his helmet so he could dust the ceiling as he walked through a room.
Rouvin became quite comfortable in the city. He spent most of his days in the royal zoo. Lysander had a habitat for him there, complete with scrolls, togas, a beard comb, and five to ten half empty cups of coffee. A plaque in front of the exhibit explained that these were philosopher enrichment items.
When Rouvin wasn’t in his exhibit, he was in the library. Lysander the Conqueror had a magnificent library. It was the second largest building in the city. (The first was the temple of Lune, the god of vermin.) The books fueled Rouvin’s thoughts. In the few short years, the philosopher lived in Logus, he wrote more than he had in all years previous.
Now Lysander had a wife (he actually had many, but only one is important to this story). Her name was Amira. She was a princess taken from a distant corner of the empire. Unlike the conqueror’s other wives, she could read and would spend most of her days sitting cross legged on the library floor, absorbing one book after another. Lynsander found this amusing and when he was showing distinguished guests around his great city, he would often point her out.
“Look,” he’d say. “There’s the Anamian princess reading again. Isn’t that delightful?”
She’s shoot him cold glares which he’d ignore.
Of course Rouvin saw her too, and would grumble to himself that they’d allow a woman in the library. Luckily, she was the only woman there and easy for him to avoid. At least until she stumbled upon one of his works.
It was his work on God. In those days, most people worshiped many gods, the people of Logus being no exception. They had gods for everything you can possibly imagine. They had gods of the elements (fire, water, earth, and air), gods of the weather (thunder, wind, hail, and the like). They also had gods of oddly specific things, for example, the dying llama god. They did not have a god for healthy llamas, nor a gods for similar animals like alpacas so their religion lacked consistency.
But after many, many, years of thinking, Rouvin had come to the conclusion that there was only one God and had written extensively on the subject in his work: The Creator of the Universe. Amira read it twice through and it fueled her curiosity. She began collecting and reading through Rouvin’s other works. His books inspired a thousand questions, she wanted to learn more, everything she possibly could. So when she spotted Rouvin in the library one day, she decided to approach him.
He was sitting at a table, completely lost in his work and did not notice her walking toward him. You can imagine is alarm when she plopped The Creator of the Universe on the table in front of him, and said: “I’d like to know more about your one God.”
His surprise turned to anger when he’d a moment to take her in. There she was, standing before him, a basket of scrolls perched on her hip. For a moment, he was swept back to his old home, to the laundry, to Sophia…
“Go away,” he hissed, turning his attention back to his scroll.
She clenched her teeth. In her homeland, no one would have dared speak to her so. She was respected as a queen. She reminded herself that things were different here. She just another wife of Lysander and a lesser one at that. She maintained her composure.
“Please,” she insisted. “I want to know more about your one God.”
“Go away,” he repeated.
And this time she did not ask again. She left without a word, the curiosity about the one God extinguished and replaced by a bitter lump. Then things got worse. The very next day she resumed her browsing, and stumbled upon On The Nature of Women. The bitter lump in her heart grew into a nasty resentment. And all her frustrations started boiling over. She decided she hated Logus, Lysander, and whole empire. She hated Rouvin, and his God, and all his works with him. It didn’t matter how beautiful and how true most of them were. In her mind, all were tainted by his work on feminine nature.
Shortly thereafter Lysander the Conqueror became a victim of a horrible accident. A knife fell on him while he was sleeping. Luckily, on the evening of his death, he’d written a note naming Amira’s son his heir. The people of Logus thought this peculiar considering Amira’s son was only two and Lysander’s youngest child. No one pointed this out though since Lysander also noted that anyone who questioned this should be thrown into The Pit of Death and Dismemberment.
Since it’s very hard to understand the babblings of a two year old, the nobles of Logus relied on Amira to interpret the words of their new emperor. She explained that the child’s first order was to throw Rouvin into the above mentioned pit. The philosopher was so horrified at hearing this that he immediately died of a heart attack. The people of Logus were very disappointed because watching victims fall screaming into the Pit of Death and Dismemberment was one of their favorite pastimes. (This was how people entertained themselves before HBO was invented.)
Amira’s son then declared that all the treasures of Logus be moved to Anamia and the capital be burned to the ground. People protested and war broke out. In the end, the city was burned and none of the treasures survived. The library, the university, and the zoo were all lost. Oh yes, and lots and lots and lots of people died. And it all happened because the greatest thinker in history, was so enslaved by his emotions that, during a critical moment, he lost his ability to reason.
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