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12.17.2011 , 11:27 AM | #6
Chapter IV:
The Thousand Rivers

The Jedi leapt from his troop-carrier and somersaulted through the air. Before him a robed figure stood rooted to the spot in awe.
Whistling through the dark sky, the Jedi roared, "I know your past, present and future! Prepare to meet your doom!"

As he landed nimbly the Jedi ignited two yellow-bladed lightsabers and rained bloody judgment down upon his dark opponent. In the flash of an eye, victory belonged to the Jedi Knight.
"Another dead Sith," he spat.

The holoscreen flickered and the picture lost all clarity for a moment.
"Master, is that what Jedi are like?"
"No, Simplicio. That would be a rather inaccurate depiction of Jedi -- at least in my experience."
In the distance the sky lit up, and seconds later a sound like thunder shook the air.

The Sith looked into the night.
"If I didn't know it was a planetary bombardment, I could almost mistake it for a summer storm."

Suddenly the town was plunged into darkness. Around the Sith and his apprentice, the cantina patrons groaned as the holoscreen disappeared for good.
It took a minute for the emergency generators to kick on and give some of the buildings at least a semblance of illumination.
"Now we'll never know what happened to the Jedi!" complained a drunk.

"Master," Simplicio whispered, "why is it that people seem so detached from reality?"
"In what sense?"
"The nearest urban center is being bombed. A ground invasion is imminent. Yet these people are more interested in the fortunes of an imaginary Jedi."
The Sith thought about this.
"Simplicio, there is a small species of feline that lives on Hurrangh-7. When confronted by something that is beyond its stress tolerance… say, a much larger carnivore, the cat will turn its back on the threat and close its eyes. It cannot deal with the direct reality of the situation -- the immediate threat of destruction -- so it chooses to ignore it.
"Though you would be surprised to hear it, many of the people in this bar have intellects more complex than the cat's, so they need to go to extra pains to forget that death waits around the corner. You see this a lot, really. When reality is too hard to accept, people will turn to intoxicants, or mindless behavior, or any diversion. While the bombs over the hill are throwing it in sharp relief just now, you should recognize that it is an ongoing phenomenon."

Simplicio considered this.
"It seems a bad survival mechanism."
"Yes, but it does make people more manageable. How else would you ever be able to send an army off to war if your soldiers actually focused on the danger they would be exposing themselves to? How would you control a city's populace during a famine if you could not distract them with their favorite celebrity gossip?"

"Master, a long time ago you told me that understanding a thing's nature is halfway to controlling it. Is this an example of that principle?"
"Yes. If I understand that people are naturally inclined to ignore unpleasant aspects of reality, then I can use this to my benefit. Have you heard of the Three Sith Warlords?"
Simplicio shook his head.
"Well, once there were three great and terrrible Sith Warriors, and they each set about carving the galaxy up into little kingdoms. The three had different philosophies of leadership. On one occasion all three travelled to a little planet to have a meeting to discuss some very esoteric issues, and while out walking they saw a bird famous for the sweetness of its voice. They waited under the branch upon which it sat in hopes of hearing it sing but the bird remained silent.
"'We really must get this bird to sing,' decided the three Sith, and each warlord thought of how he usually went about getting things to do his bidding.
"The first warlord said, 'If the bird does not sing, I will kill it.'
"The second warlord said, 'I will make it want to sing.'
"Finally, the third warlord said, 'I will wait.'"

The Sith sat back in his chair and took a sip of his water. The bombing continued and an orange glow was making its appearance on the distant hill.
"It seems to be burning now," observed the Sith.
Simplicio did not hear him.
"Master, which is the correct answer?"
"Which is the best way to make the bird sing?"
"In this case there is no 'best'. All three approaches have their utility depending on context, but each requires an understanding of nature. Let's say the warlords had decided they wanted a dog to sing, rather than a bird. Well, you could coax a dog until your hair fell out, or wait until you turned into dust but it will never sing. In such a case, you might as well kill it -- though I would be inclined to leave it and wonder why I had been so arrogant as to think I could make a dog do something not in its nature.
"Personally, I prefer the 'I will make it want to sing' school of thought. But, if you have the time, the surest option is to wait.
"When a flood comes it will follow the path of the rivers. I am content to nudge, and guide something in a direction that it is already heading.
"This is often the opposite of what the Jedi do, whether they realize it or not. They try to make people into something they are not. They wish cowards to become heroes, and flawed personalities to attain sainthood. When dealing with a coward, all I ask is that when he runs, he runs in the direction I suggested."

"So, as a Sith, I am not forcing others to do anything they wouldn't do, but I am controlling them by guiding the direction in which their nature expresses itself?"
"Precisely. You are applying leverage at certain key points to fashion an outcome that is to your liking."
"It is similar to combat, when I use my enemy's own strength against him, by redirecting the force in his blows."
"Yes. The same approach can be used in almost every situation. "

"But Master, let us imagine that for some reason I wish to have a boulder at the top of a hill -- the inclination of the boulder will always be to roll down. How, in a case like that, can I reach my goal, and be in accord with the nature of the rock?"
"Should you find yourself in such a situation, it is best to rethink your goal. No goal that goes against the natural course of the Universe is a good goal. It is not the Universe that is being intransigent but ourselves. Some goals are foolish.
"An example of a foolish goal is to try and preserve something indefinitely, be it life, or culture, or a form of government. Things fall apart. That is nature. No matter what you do, in the long run, everything will fall apart. Therefore, long-term preservation is a bad goal because it is unachievable and therefore a waste of energy and resources."

The Sith closed his eyes for a moment and rubbed them.
Another question formed in Simplicio's mind, though he was reluctant to ask it.
"Simplicio, you are about to say something. Please, spit it out. Your suspense is irritating."
"Yes, Master. I was wondering--" He tried to sound very casual. "--if things falling apart applied to us in a special way."
"Expand on that."
"It is something I have noticed. I remember it from the temple and now… other places. The more powerful a Sith becomes, the more he--" Simplicio began to wish he had never begun this line of questioning. "The more he falls apart."

The Sith stared at Simplicio, his eyes reddish in the dim light.
"The act of harnessing and controlling the Force is a drain on both mental and physical reserves. There is a price to be paid for power."
"Is it worth it?" The question was out before Simplicio had a chance to think about it.
The Sith closed his eyes and fell silent.

Just when his student began to suspect his master had fallen asleep the older man began to speak.
"The Jedi act as conduits for the Force. They channel it but they are afraid to truly control it. It may be safe enough to admire the Force from a suitable distance -- to treat it with respect. I, though, have had intimate knowledge of the Force. And even if it is only a temporary arrangement, it is better to be the master of a slave than its equal. I have no regrets."
"The more power I wield, the faster I will destroy myself?"
"Yes. I will not lie to you. You must decide for yourself, Simplicio."

"I will follow my nature."