[The Island of the Centipede – Chapter Five]
See also this legend.
It would be difficult to explain what has changed.
That shouldn’t be surprising.
If Sid’s answer were easy—if it were the kind of thing that you could just say and have it be done—then Martin would have given it to him. Not for free, not easily, but certainly after all Sid’s service.
So it is necessarily difficult to explain.
Much of it, certainly, is simply having the power to change, after all these years.
That which we hide away in the place without recourse:
It does not grow.
So some of it, certainly, is having that power of growth and changing, and the motivation to use it: returned to him, after all those years.
And some of it is the exercise of force.
Forgiveness, we should understand, is a quality of the powerful. The powerless endure; the powerful forgive.
It is not possible to forgive without an unencumbered choice.
Without power, forgiveness is indistinguishable from compliance, or at best surrender; and thus it has no value.
It has always been a dark and tasteless joke, when the powerful ask the downtrodden to forgive.
So the exercise of unrestrained power, however undesirable it might have been—that contributed.
And if one may go further and say that forgiveness is between equals—
A broader statement, requiring more analysis, but a plausible one—
Then it matters that Max met blow for blow, standing against the siggort a surprising length of time in the oceans of the end.
And there was the uncritical all-forgiving all-embracing never-bending flare gaze of the Good.
And there was the dancing stabbing cutting preaching whispers of the history of Mr. Kong.
And there was Tara and there were the heaps and there was the crumbled tower to the east where earlier they fought—
Yet none of these things change the character of Max’s crime.
None of these things make it better or worse that Max has done what Max has done.
None of these things change the essential or actual qualities of his deed.
None of these things prove Sid in error, relative to some natural universal law, when he says that what Max has done cannot be okay.
Too critical, perhaps.
But not in error.
So one cannot say that even all of these things together have resolved Sid’s underlying dilemma, or changed the nature of his prison; at best, they have cast light on the substance of his cage.
It would be difficult to explain what has changed; and in the end, it doesn’t really matter.
It doesn’t really matter how it came to pass that Sid should forgive Max and lift the weight of Ii Ma from his wings.
Max is dead.
The world is cold.
The siggort is alone.
The knife of the legend of Mr. Kong
Reflects his answer:
“We must try to be good.”
Max had planned to do something really cool.
He wasn’t sure what, yet.
Maybe something like shouting, “Oh, yeah? Well, you can’t beat me at tiddlywinks!“
Then suddenly he was winded and the world spun and just as he realized that he’d been hit in the stomach by something moving very very fast he mainlined THE END and Sid piled an island on top of him.
So now he’s drifting in the Good.
Now and again, an impulse will surface in him. He’ll surrender a bit of that ancient answer that holds him in the world faster or slower than the question that—however momentarily—had cut him out of it.
He’ll wobble, for a moment, on the border between those creatures whose stories have ended and those creatures that have no stories at all; and an impulse will arise.
“What the Hell happened when the Buddha reached enlightenment?”
And the Good does not explain.
Drifting against the beat of emptiness in the joyous, he imagines that the dharma of a Buddha is irreconcilable with the dharmas of the world—
Like Sid’s, in a way.
That the world is hollow of its gods because, in the face of the inevitability of suffering, it cannot understand how there can be a Buddha.
That the very idea of dharma—
In the face of the simple corrosive concept of enlightenment—
Has become a contradiction unto itself.
Russell’s paradox writ large; the definition of the world unravelled; the world unable to accept the concept of purpose if it does not lead to pain.
And a long time afterwards, Max grins in the burgeoning emptiness of joy, and he says, “Coward.” to the world.
That was one impulse.
Days later, another rises:
“How the Hell is this my happy ending?”
But for all the bafflement in those words, there isn’t any suffering.
There isn’t any suffering. This is his happy ending.
And maybe he’d like to be suffering, except that also he wouldn’t. He doesn’t really want to suffer just because he sort of thinks he should.
He’d like to think that he needs Sid to be happy, but the secret of the world is that it’s loving Sid that makes him happy, not Sid himself.
Lost in boundless happiness and joy, Max understands—and finally—that it’s an error to imagine that our happiness comes from anyone but ourselves.
It is not given unto us.
It is not forced upon us.
It is a thing we give outwards, unto the world.
People always fight
The things they love.
What is the nature of judgment?
Jane had imagined a perfect Good that came and cast away the 9/10 least worthy, straining only the brightest and the best through the holes in its net. She called this a disaster to the world.
What would it have meant, instead, to cull the half least worthy; or the whole?
The single worst of us, severed from the world; or all of us save the single best?
The idealist sees the dangers in this path and casts out judgment from the world; the pragmatist seeks a perfect middle ground; yet both of them, if they wish to live, must recognize that there is that which is desirable, and that which is correct, and that which, in turn, is not.
The hundred-handed horror that is Sid curls on the island he has made, and skitters on the surface of the sea, and dreams of the fight of centipede and tiger.
He is alone.