Carrion Comfort...

I came across a champion today. His opponent and a flock of carrion birds lay near him. I wasn't able to help him, but we did talk for a while.
"Have you heard," he asked, "of the battle philosophy that goes: 'in the instant that two face one another, each knows, before even the first blow is dealt, who is the victor and who is the fallen?' Do you know it? This philosophy is a lie, a pretty one sculpted by those in chairs, holding drink and tobacco, feeling the warm flush in their skins as fire dances under the chimney. Truth, if you can know, is that no player in any game really comprehends defeat. True players simply do not give it much thought, or they wouldn't play the game to begin with. If they did, would they fight so hard for life? Would they struggle so? No. A game is a give and take of energy, an investment, and no animal--human or not--will invest the energy of life into a game that cannot be won. There is either a game, and victory, or there is nothing. You see, it is our tendency to see black and white that lends us this illusion of defeat. Defeat is the void. It is simply nothingness, the absence of need and awareness. If you wanted, you could say that defeat is the only constant, forever in existence, while victory is the temporary wave that appears upon its ocean. It is like darkness. Do you think that darkness has disappeared simply because of the light that you have spawned? Of course not. The darkness is always there, lurking behind the light, ready to spring back as soon as the light looses all of its energy. For, you see, light requires energy. It cannot exist forever, for it becomes depleted. The darkness is not an energy, not an opposite and equal at all, but simply the state that is when light does not shine throughout its ever-temporary life.
Victory is like the light. It requires energy, burning only for as long as an animal feeds it, for as long as life itself feeds it. And when that energy is depleted, there is the state known as "defeat", which is in fact the darkness that was always there. You simply could not see it while the light was shining.
For this reason, no player of any game expects the darkness, for the player himself is the light, the energy, the animal that feeds the glow. The player cannot be otherwise, for having no absence of life energy while living, he cannot conceive of the true state: the infinitely patient defeat that resides all around him. And like the wave on the ocean, he cannot help but subside into it once again, being absorbed by it until another light comes to shine again later.
Yet we must all obey our natures. For this reason, the darkness--or rather, the defeat; whatever you choose to name it--must be fought against. Who can bear the non- player, the individual who will not shine, who believes that he can somehow keep his precious energy, who feels that he has no obligation to feed the game? For everything, as the ancient philosophies go, is a game. You may play poorly and be absorbed into that ocean like a crest splattered hideously upon rocks; or you may play skillfully and crest high, your white cap shining under the sun, before gracefully gliding back into that ocean of which you were always a mere tendril. I have seen eyes. I have seen more eyes, of all colors and sizes, than the motes of dust that fly in high desert plains. And they speak the same emotion in those games that I have watched unfold before them. Whether regarding stones and board in play, or watching the gory axe fall upon them, they speak the same: they know on some level that a game transpires, that it is over now, that the light has nothing left to feed it.
My God, they were terrified!  Nothing could prepare them for such knowledge...
Turn from me. Do not look at me. I hate you.
It is the loneliest thing in the world to have faith, and yet faith is all we have that binds us to anything. Thus we are all lonely."
I obeyed him instantly, filled with revulsion. Later, I'm not sure when, the carrion birds began to hop closer to us. I broke the trust then, and did look back at him. His eyes were open, but I could not read the message therein before the birds moved in upon them.


RPG Columnist