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Myths of the Veritas: The Second Ring of Empathy. 

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[My photo of masks created by Sarah Morgan].

“She Who Saves Many Lives” began the very next dawn to craft ten of The Second Ring of Empathy. This she fashioned from bronze as well but each ring sported a small but fiery opal. Each was beautiful and ever-changing yet each was different from each of its kin. 

After caressing the final touches on the first such ring, she summoned that one of “The Ten Who Can Count Mountaintops with the Eyes of Others” who was known among the Veritas as “She of Many Paths.” She had been named this because of her penchant for trying many paths before settling on the way to take. 

The instructions to this first such were to immediately begin fasting. On the dawn of the fourth day, “She of Many Paths” was instructed to travel to the twisted oak near the waterfall that sings and to sit quietly by the dark pool at the bottom of the falls and notice all that she saw. When the sun was high she was to return to “She Who Saves Many Lives” and tell all that he had observed. And, it was so. And so she did.

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{Translator’s Note}: It isn’t said in this part of the legend that the initiates were explicitly told to be silent, but those familiar with the Veritas will see that such secrecy was indeed implicitly assume. Naturally, the young Veritas were sorely tempted to share their experiences with each other. However, they most probably did not. If they did, the narrative below makes it clear that any such sharing was well disguised. 

“She Who Saves Many Lives” had not been idle. While “She of Many Paths” had been fasting and observing, the shaman had been crafting another opal ring set in bronze. After “She of Many Paths” shared her observations, “She Who Saves Many Lives” summoned another of “The Ten Who Can Count Mountaintops with the Eyes of Others.” The girl was called “Eyes of Eagle” for her superior eyesight. “She Who Saves Many Lives” told “Eyes of Eagle” that she was to drink nothing and eat nothing for the whole next day. When the dawn of the next day came, she was to travel to the twisted oak, rest, reflect, and observe. When the sun was high, she was to return to “She Who Saves Many Lives” and tell all that she had observed. And, it was so. And so she did. 

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From the time of the crescent moon to the first quarter, no more were called from among “The Ten Who Can Count Mountaintops with the Eyes of Others.” It happened then, that a day became hotter than any could remember. No-one wanted to do anything besides sleep and swim. At noon, “She Who Saves Many Lives” summoned another of “The Ten Who Can Count Mountaintops with the Eyes of Others.” He was called by the Veritas “Shade Walker” for his definite preference to stalk, walk, and sit in the shade. “She Who Saves Many Lives” instructed “Shade Walker” to trek the journey to the twisted oak; to sit by the dark pool (but not partake of its refreshing waters); instead to observe and reflect and then relate it all back to “She Who Saves Many Lives.” And, it was so. And so he did. 

{Translator’s Note}: In the recounting of the next part of the narrative, I have slightly shortened the repetitive structure of the original since the modern reader is much more impatient than were the Veritas.

One by one, “She Who Saves Many Lives” called each of the remaining from among “The Ten Who Can Count Mountaintops with the Eyes of the Others” and gave them a task. Each such task, “She Who Saves Many Lives” constructed to be especially apt for that particular person. Each such task was different. Each such task was designed quite deliberately to put each particular person in a different frame of mind. Just as the first three had been hungry, thirsty and unbearably hot, so too were the successive candidates from “The Ten Who Can Count Mountaintops with the Eyes of Others” variously exhausted from physical labor, desirously aroused by tales, angry, fearful, over-filled with food, in pain, and in a happy and hilarious mood. “She Who Saves Many Lives” knew well that each person would see, smell, hear, feel, and recall different things because of these different states of mind. And, as she heard their various recountings, her judgment on this was confirmed. 

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On the day when Winter and Summer balance each to each and Summer promises to give way to Winter, since all had now accomplished their task, “She Who Saves Many Lives” invited all them to a council fire. They were now asked to dialogue about their observations of the deep pool, the spraying cataract, the twisted oak and the nearby surrounds. “She Who Saves Many Lives” did not speak but listened carefully to all that was said.

{Translator’s Note}: Here the word “dialogue” is used to convey a process much like Bohm Dialogue. The English word “dialogue” is often erroneously thought to connote a two-sided debate because of the apparent Latin root “di” meaning “two.” However, the English word “dialog” actually comes from the Greek roots, “dia” meaning “through” and “logos” meaning “meaning.” A dialogue is not properly a debate with two sides. Rather it refers to a process of developing meaning through the processes of the group: recounting experiences, listening respectfully, and reflecting upon what was said. No-one “wins” and on-one “loses.” It is much like group problem solving except that there is no specified problem to solve. More on Bohm Dialogue can be found here. Again, with a nod to the great impatience of the modern people, I have taken the liberty to summarize much of what was actually related.

“She of Many Paths” spoke first of the many frogs, rabbits, and insects she had seen by the dark pool. She spoke of how tasty they would be and what manner one could cook frog, rabbit, and dragonfly but she had been instructed only to observe and thus had not eaten any though she was quite hungry. She also observed how frogs lay just beneath the surface of the water jutting their quick tongues out to capture fly or mosquito. She had also observed rabbits eating the large ripe blackberries she would have rather had for herself. 

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“Eyes of Eagle” said she had not noticed any rabbits at all though she had seen a few dragonflies skimming the water eating mosquitos. There may also have been frogs but mainly, she had noticed that the water falling over the cataract fell mainly into the deep pool but many drops also hit upon the rocks at the sides of the waterfall and that such drops splattered high into the air. At some times of the day, these made rainbows. Several times, wonderful cool breezes wafted mist onto her thirsty tongue. 

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“Shade Walker” had also noticed such lucky sprays. He recounted that when he first arrived beside the deep pool, he could think of little else than how wonderful it would be to dive into the depths of that cooling pool. Five fish jumped into the air from the pool and then dove back in. “Shade Walker” had imaged five times that he had been such a lucky fish. He had thought he might go mad with the heat and began silently cursing his ancestors for ever leaving the water. As the sun continued its sky journey however, he noticed the shadow of the twisted oak approaching him. Soon, his knees and feet were in the cool shade of the twisted oak. Soon, his torso and finally his face and head were also in shade. Still the water splattered off the rocks making a cooling mist. When the sun was half-way between its high point and sunset, a cool breeze flitted through the glade. 

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Photo by Fabio Partenheimer on Pexels.com

So in turn, did each of “The Ten Who Can Count Mountaintops with the Eyes of Others” recount to the others their observations. Each of “The Ten Who Can Count Mountaintops with the Eyes of Others” listened respectfully. Occasionally, one would make a brief comment. “She Who Saves Many Lives” sat in silence, neither speaking word, nor gesture, nor grin nor grimace.

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Now it came to pass that each of the ten sat silently reflecting a long while on the experiences of the others. At last, “Shade Walker” spoke: “It seems that perhaps the same place seems quite different depending on whether it was day or night.” All nodded. 

“Eyes of Eagles” spoke next. “As well, the hungry see food; the thirsty see water; the hot, see shade; the fearful hear enemies; the exhausted see little but ways to rest.

The one known as “Bent Finger” claimed that his observations had been the best and encompassed the whole of what everyone else had seen. 

“She of Many Paths” asked whether he had noticed dragonflies catching mosquitos or rabbits eating blackberries. 

“Bent Finger” scoffed, “I meant important things. I saw all the important things.” 

“She of Many Paths” then proceeded to tell a story about her own experiences the point of which was that it is sometimes difficult to know at the time what is an important observation.

“Many Muscles” opined that he had had the most difficult task for “She Who Saves Many Lives” had sent him exhausted from three day’s worth of hard labor to sit and observe. “In such a state, it is very difficult to observe anything.” 

“She of Many Paths” observed that she had probably never been so exhausted as “Many Muscles” had been and therefore it would be difficult for her to know exactly how “Many Muscles” had been feeling just as it would be difficult for someone without three days hunger to know just how she had felt. 

“That’s my point exactly!” added “Bent-Finger.” I was probably the only one in a good mood and that’s why I saw the most.

Their dialog continued for many hours until at last “She Who Saves Many Lives” spoke. 

“I thank you each for your many observations and as well for your thoughtful reflections each to each on what each of you said. I think the future generations of the tribe will be well served by such as you. Indeed, no one person can feel and see and hear what many can. Hopefully, you will now be in a slightly better position to know what it’s like to be hungry, thirsty, hot, tired, aroused, angry, fearful, over-sated, in pain, or happy. I have made my decision.” 

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At this, “She Who Saves Many Lives” stood and began walking around the outside of the circle, handing each of eight among “The Ten Who Can Count Mountaintops with the Eyes of Others” one of the rings of opal. “Many Muscles” and “Bent-Finger” received no such ring. For 

“She Who Saves Many Lives” waved her hand and extinguished the remaining embers. She spoke thus: “Arise now, rest, and further contemplate the teachings that each of you has provided to the others. And, know that it is hard to know what someone else is feeling be they hungry, thirsty, hot, tired, aroused, angry, fearful, over-sated, in pain, or over-happy. Soon, there will be another task for you who would earn the Third Ring of Empathy.” 

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