(A continuation of the thread: the myths of the Veritas. The immediately preceding myth describes the creation of humans).
In this age, each person had enough. But one day, a man, who happened to be astoundingly fat and orange had an astounding idea. Enough was not enough. He had plenty to eat. But it occurred to him that he would feel even more satisfied if other people had less. So he decided to steal some of the food of others to test whether this would indeed make him feel even more satisfied. It worked! On the second day, he again went to steal from his neighbors, but they objected. Still, he tried to steal their food so they would be hungry and in their hunger he might again feel even fuller and more satisfied than ever before.
His neighbors grew impatient and when the one they called Orange Man continued to try to steal his neighbors’ food, they eventually beat him with their fists and drove him away. He sat alone in a barren cleft of rock and out of the sunlight and thought long and hard. “True, I am satisfied with enough food. But I felt so much better when I had more. Perhaps I will go in the night when everyone else is asleep and steal their food. Because when they are hungry, I will feel so much better when I am fat and full.”
That night, when everyone was asleep, Orange Man snuck into the camp of his neighbors and began to steal their food. But Orange Man was quite fat and graceless and soon woke his neighbors who quickly surmised what he was up to and again drove him out of the camp. Now, the people were genuinely angry with him and told him that from now on, he would have to gather his own nuts and catch his own fish. None wanted to share with the greedy Orange Man.
That night, Orange Man went hungry. He had had enough all his life. He tried to steal more than his share and now he was hungry. From this experience, many might learn the value of sharing. But not Orange Man. Instead, he plotted and schemed; schemed and plotted. How could he steal from people when they were all on the lookout for him? That was the question that obsessed him.
He had never learned to make a fire on his own, so he was cold as well as hungry that night. He at last cried himself to sleep and began to dream. In his dream, he saw all the people sitting around their campfire talking and laughing. They were not only sharing their food. They were sharing stories. This was not a strange dream, for indeed, this is exactly what they did every night in good weather. They shared their food. They shared their fire. And they shared their stories so that they could work together better; make better houses; find game more easily.
The next morning, Orange Man awoke more hungry than ever and very very angry. He was angry with his neighbors for not letting him steal more than his share. He was angry with the gods for making them too smart to give away all their food to him. Surprisingly, he wasn’t even a little bit angry with himself for being so greedy. Nonetheless, he was too hungry to mope all day. He needed to find some food. So, he went foraging for insects. Some of the bugs were much too fast to catch, but many were not. Of course, while searching for bugs, the Orange Man saw many weeds and twigs but he had never bothered to learn which ones were edible and which ones were poison. He happened to be staring at a twig trying to see whether there were any bugs under it, when all at once the twig walked. It was not really a twig at all! It was just another bug that looked like a twig. Once he realized it was a bug, the Orange Man grabbed at it to eat it straight away.
Before he could snatch it up, however, the bug waved one of its little insect claws back and forth and stared into the little insect eyes of the Orange Man with its little insect eyes. Weird, thought the Orange Man just as he gobbled it up. It wasn’t very tasty compared to some bugs, but it gave him pleasure to eat it because he was angry at the bug. He didn’t know why he was angry. Indeed, it never occurred to Orange Man to wonder why he was angry but if he had thought about it, he might have realized it was because the bug made Orange Man change his mind. First, he thought it was a twig and then he had to change his mind and realize it was a bug. And, then the little bug had seemed to wave to him in that annoying way that other people seemed to wave at friends. Of course, as a child, Orange Man may have felt love, but he worked hard all his life to kill love within himself and eventually he succeeded.
After another afternoon of eating bugs, Orange Man at last grew thirsty and he knelt down to drink from a nearby lake. As he did so, he could see his reflection in the water. There he was, fat, ugly, and orange. Orange Man ate up many more bugs that afternoon and was less hungry than the night before. He fell into a fitful sleep and dreamt that night of returning to the lake for a drink of water. Again in his dream, as he had done in real life, he knelt down to drink. But in his dream, he heard frogs creaking and croaking. They seemed to be saying, “Greenie, greenie, greenie” and this time, when he looked at his reflection, instead of being fat, ugly, and orange, he appeared to be fat, ugly, and green. How could this be, Orange Man wondered. Even in his dream, he remembered that he was orange. This weirdness wakened him with a start, the sound of the frogs reverberating in his ears: “Greenie, greenie, greenie.” Is it possible that he saw himself as green because the frogs were saying the word “green” the whole time he was looking?
The next day, the Orange Man had much to think about. So far, words and stories had been used by the people mainly to work together by sharing knowledge. On a few occasions though, people told stories for entertainment. They made up stories about the stars and how mountains came to be, and how deer grew antlers. Everyone knew that they were simply made up stories. But now, the Orange Man thought of the bug that looked like a twig and how the frogs made him look green even though he was orange. What if I told people a story about where to find game but it was really just a made-up story to get people to go hunting and leave their things where I can steal them?
The next morning, the Orange Man decided to test his plan. He went to the village and told everyone that he had seen a giant mammoth just over the layered ridge at the edge of the village. Most were skeptical, but a few argued that it might be worth a look since felling a mammoth could help feed the village through many moons. The Orange Man jumped up and down and yelled and screamed telling them that they should all go because a mammoth is a huge animal and they would need everyone to hunt it. One young boy named Micah pointed out that it wouldn’t be a good idea for everyone to leave the village. “Rats may come and eat all our food,” the youngster argued.
“I’ll stay here and protect the food,” offered the Orange Man. Try as he might, twisting the truth this way and that, he was unable to convince everyone to go on the mammoth hunt. A few braves went off and returned at dusk. They were, of course, empty-handed but they also reported to the tribe that they had seen no evidence of a mammoth. There were no tracks, no spoor, not so much as a toppled sapling to indicate a mammoth. The eyes of the tribe turned toward the little insect eyes of the Orange Man. He yelled and screamed and jumped up and down and said they were blind or liars or both.
It was hard to get a word in edge-wise because the Orange Man screamed continuously, but at last when he stopped to take a break, Micah asked, “What is this word that you used? What is a ‘liar.’?”
That stopped the Orange Man. He had called them liars because that’s what he was doing. None of the people in the tribe had ever used language to intentionally mislead others for their own gain so they were unfamiliar with the word as well as the concept. In a flash, the Orange Man realized he had made a mistake to use such a word. “Oh, Micah, you must have mis-heard me. I said, ‘They must be blind as briars.’ or something like that.” But Micah knew he had heard a new and different word. Several others chimed in as well. But the Orange Man would hear none of it.
“Look, I saw a mammoth. I have very good eyes. The best eyes, in fact. If you hunters can’t find it, you’re not very good hunters. But I don’t really care. Go hungry. Don’t find the mammoth. I don’t care. More mammoth for me. I’ll go get it myself. I’ll bring the mammoth back here single-handedly and show it to you big as life! Good-bye.”
No sooner had the Orange Man uttered these words than he realized he had made a big mistake. Before people started questioning him, he strode off, refusing to engage in any questions and answers about how he would kill a mammoth all his own. Day after day, the Orange Man ate bugs, planned lies aimed at convincing the villagers to leave their village while he and he alone guarded it. And each day, he tried to be more and more convincing about his lies. But each day, the villagers became harder and harder to convince. The Orange Man was careful never to use the word, “liar” again, but people discounted what he said nonetheless.
At long last, The Orange Man decided that it would be easier to convince another tribe of his lies. So, off he trudged across the plains to find another tribe. From a mesa, he observed the tribe from afar and watched them come and go, waiting for a time when the village was unguarded so that he could go in unseen and steal everything for himself. But people always hung out in the village, grinding corn, drying skins, or sitting around campfires talking. All in all, he found it quite disgusting. Why wouldn’t they leave so he could steal their stuff?
Then, one day, he had a wonderful inspiration. Buffalo! He would tell the people in the village that a great herd of buffalo was coming to destroy their village. They would all have to leave immediately and leave everything behind because there was no time! He too was fleeing from the buffalo but, he would caution them not to wait for him but to save themselves running as fast as they could to the next bluff to save themselves from trampling. He went into the village at dusk, yelling and screaming and waving his arms. He told them that a great herd of buffalo were coming to destroy the village and that they should save themselves and run to the bluff and clamber up it as best they could. Some of the villagers indeed panicked and began to gather up their children. But some of the villagers put their ears to the ground and heard no such stampede coming. Several of the villagers did not wait to see the outcome, however, and ran off as fast as they could. In their haste, a few fell and one woman dropped her baby on a rock which broke its soft head and killed it. But not everyone left the village and so Orange Man was not able to steal anything. He claimed that he had a potion back at his camp which would bring the broken baby back to life and he hobbled off to get it, or so he claimed. Of course, when he saw that everyone was not leaving the village, Orange Man realized he needed to leave before it became obvious that no giant herd of bison was coming.
Several days went by before the Orange Man ventured to try again. He was heartened by the fact that his lie about the bison herd had almost worked. Several people did flee the village and at least one person died and several were injured. This, he chuckled at, but it wasn’t really the full scale all-out panic he was aiming for.
That night a great thunderstorm flashed all about him. Atop the mesa, a bush was struck by lightening and it smoldered and flamed. He took some of the smoldering branches and made a little fire in a crook of rocks, feeding it dry firewood he had stashed nearby for just such a lucky occasion. Finally, he had found fire to keep him warm. Then, he had a great inspiration: Fire! “That’s it!” he thought. He would tell people a great fire was coming to destroy their village. Surely, that would cause panic and this time, everyone will leave the village and I can steal everything.
The next morning just as the sun rose, the Orange Man walked toward the village, rehearsing his lies in his head to make them more convincing. When he came in sight of the village, he trot-wobbled up the path waving his arms and yelling at the top of his lungs, “FIRE! FIRE! Run for your LIVES!” Sure enough, the villagers were worried. But they all recognized the Orange Man and although they did not yet realize that he was simply lying to steal all their stuff for himself, they did realize that his judgement was not sound. So, instead of immediately racing out of the village, they instead scanned the horizon for signs of smoke. There were none. Indeed, the ground was still damp from last night’s rain. While lightning sometimes did cause prairie fires, this seemed unlikely in the present circumstances, and no-one believed him. He shouted and screamed and waved his hands but no-one believed him. There was no smoke. At last, realizing that he would again leave empty-handed, he headed back to his mesa to gather some bugs and grubs. Well, he thought, as he trudged back. At least I have my fire now.
The days grew hot and dry. The Orange Man grew still fatter on his diet of grubs and bugs. Then, at last, he reckoned that perhaps the people would have forgotten his lies and be willing to believe him again. This time, however, he would be smarter about his lies. He waited for a dry windy day and took a torch from his fire with him. He descended the path at the edge of the mesa and walked toward the village. He again planned to trot-wobble into the village while waving his arms and screaming about a fire, but this time, he would be smarter! He laid his lighted torch into some of the brush and grass near the edge of the village. This time the villagers would see smoke and maybe even see flames. This time, they would all panic as he hoped. After setting several small fires, the Orange Man trot-wobbled down the path to the village. As he approached, he began shouting, yelling, and waving his hands wildly. “Run!” he yelled. “There’s fire coming! FIRE! RUN!” Oh, yes! At last, this time, his lies were working! He could see that indeed, this time, people were grabbing things at hand and running away. It’s the smoke, he thought! I’m so smart! And, they are so stupid! Everything in the village will be mine. He smiled a broad smile at the stupidity of people who would fall for such a lie. The Orange Man turned back to glance at his little smoke trick to see what it looked like. What he saw, however, pounded his heart right through his chest and out the other side. Rather than clouds of smoke, what he saw was a wall of fire behind him. Now, the Orange Man trot-wobbled in earnest. He immediately fell over his own feet. He crawled back to his feet, but the cuffs of his pants were already on fire. He frantically waved and twisted but the fire burned his pants and soon the flames engulfed him. His last thought was, “It’s not fair! I’m so much smarter than everyone else. I deserve it all.”
Indeed, it wasn’t fair. Everyone from the village also perished in the flames. No food was left to plunder had there been anyone nearby to plunder it. Many miles away, it happened that Micah looked up from chipping an arrowhead to see plumes of black smoke on the horizon. For some reason, the thick, ugly, black smoke reminded him of the Orange Man. He wondered what had become of him. Once again, Micah wondered what that word had meant. An odd word: Liar. Liar.
It seemed to Micah that everything the Orange Man said had been for the sole purpose of getting the villagers to leave so that the Orange Man could steal everything. But why would someone do that? After all, the Orange Man had not been starving. Far from it! He was the fattest person Micah had ever seen. Perhaps he had wanted just some of the things in the village; things he had no way to craft himself. But if that were the case, why not just trade for one? The Orange Man could have traded something he was good at for something he wanted whether it was blankets, spears, or baskets. Theft was extremely rare among Micah’s tribe. Perhaps the Orange Man had come from a tribe where everyone stole from each other rather than making and trading things. Micah shuddered to think how terrible it must be to belong to such a tribe as that. The rest of the day, as he gathered acorns, Micah contemplated what “Liar” meant and he concluded that a liar was a kind of thief. If you said something that you knew was not true, it must be to steal something.
It occurred to Micah that while the Orange Man might have wanted to steal blankets or baskets or food, he would have stolen much more than that. He would have stolen the soul of the tribe. As they worked together, loved together, hunted together, ate together, sang together, the words of the tribe were a bond that held them together, each to each. This was so because everyone was doing it together and each word spoke, carefully measured, acted like an arrow aimed at a larger prey. Together these arrows could bring down a mammoth. But the Orange Man would use these words like arrows aimed at other Humans. A liar could destroy the entire tribe! Micah did not then know that the Orange Man had literally destroyed a tribe with fire in order to make one of his lies more credible, but Micah foresaw that if people in a tribe lied to each other, it would ultimately destroy the working togetherness of the tribe and therefore the tribe.
If someone said that they would watch a toddler and then they didn’t, the toddler might wonder into the river and be drowned. If a hunter said they would be ready with a large boulder up above to smash the prey that someone below was luring into a narrow canyon but then never showed up or never dropped the boulder, the person luring below would be eaten or trampled. Just as the mortar held their bricks together to make a house, the truth held the tribe together as a whole; a whole who could survive long winters and floods and dry spells and fend off predators. A tribe of liars would destroy themselves. Micah shuddered at such a prospect. He tied the ends of the great blanket filled with acorns he had gathered, for a chill and a fog lay heavy in the air. He trudged back to the village and heard the distant voices of his tribe, the Veritas singing together sharing their food and their love and their songs of true talk.