“See, I once had a compelling discussion with Aris’ older brother, Gladwin, a long time back.” Osscarte speaks, sitting in the same position as last time. Aris also sits beside him, being more invested in our lesson than he may have been before. “Gladwin was a very good student of mine. Along with their eldest brother Deiman. They both don’t attend these lessons as much as Aris does now, but they are still very good associates of mine.” He bends down to take a sip of water standing by his feet. “See, this conversation was quite a long deep one. This was way before he had joined the war. Before he had much to learn.”
Most of the students here are familiar faces now. Vera sits behind me and the Ramos twins ahead of me. Guy perches, eager to scribble down anything crucial to be spoken. Vera told me how an elite student named Zac would be turning up today, and seeming as there is only one other unfamiliar face in the room, I suspect it must be him. “We were discussing who we believe would be fit to run the perfect city. Who has the ability to turn the entire State into a body of unity, wisdom, and empowerment and... Existence.”
“Existence?” I find myself repeating out of confusion.
“Yes. Existence. Does my use of the term bewilder you?”
I nod slowly, sceptically. He just smiles in response, chuckling to himself. Then he begins. “There are two types of people. Those who live in Existence, and those who live in Appearance. Those who Are, and those who Seem. See, those living in Appearance are always in a state of flux. There is constant room for change and improvement; they never stay the same. Bear in mind that when I refer to Appearance, I am referring more to the disposition of their thought processes, not their physical appearance per se. More like… their perceptive position. How they see the world.”
I stare blankly, still lost, trying to catch up. “Those who live in Existence, however, have obtained a realised awareness. If this may confuse you, let me give you an example of a girl you see in a photo. Say… she has dark hair. She wears dark make-up and clothing. Her eyebrows are furrowed, her eyes narrowed, her lips pursed. What would you initially judge her based on? Her appearance or her character? Or both?”
“Most people would judge her character based on her appearance.” I shrug, wondering where he is going with this.
“OK, alright. So let’s go with that. So, what would you believe her character to be?”
“I don’t know. Dark, solemn, unwelcoming.”
“Now tell me. Is she dark, solemn and unwelcoming? Or is that just how she looks? Is it how she appears or how she exists? See, what if she turns out to be the most altruistic, outgoing, enthusiastic person you ever met? What would that mean?”
“Your judgement was wrong. Basing her character off of her looks was… a presupposed fallacy.”
“Right,” he nods. “Now, let’s get more hypothetical. Say that this girl is altruistic and outgoing, and she has always been this way. Let’s say that she will most likely stay this way - ignoring the possibility of any cognitive or mental interference - as it forms the foundation of her psyche. That would be how she exists. But she could go and dye her hair tomorrow. She could buy a new wardrobe of clothes and change her whole style. Then people may judge her differently. They might think she’s shy, or loud, or menacing, or seductive, all as a response to her appearance. Her appearance is a sensory stimulus, provoking sight to determine judgement. Which, in most cases, is understandable. But do you see an issue may lie?”
“Does it lie in the fact that they see existence and appearance as interchangeable concepts?” One student responds; the voice of an unfamiliar girl.
“Well, you tell me. Is there a huge problem with founding judgement on appearance as opposed to character? Do people tend to forget the difference between the two?”
“I would say so,” Guy Rothstein answers. “I think that most people find it near impossible to come to conclusions without seeing what they’re making a conclusion on. Most people would accept that outward appearance adheres to inner substance. That’s how it’s supposed to work. An apple won’t taste like an orange. You’ll know it’s an apple because it looks like one. But people don’t know where to draw the line - I think it’s an inductive ideology. If it looks like an apple, it is an apple. If it appears this way, it exists this way.”
“I would agree,” Osscarte nods. “Now, here is the thing. In my opinion, Existence is paramount. It comes before anything and everything. Appearance is somewhat a derivative. Who this dark-haired, dark-clothed girl is, is more important than what she looks like, ultimately. And the biggest mistake one can make is to believe in what she appears to be than what she is. So if one can finally reach the point of Existence, this means that they now see things as they are. This applies to everything and everyone. They have reached their epitome in that sense – their full potential. There is no need for improvement. They have found wisdom. As Aris pointed out in a previous discussion, wisdom is truth. And truth is Existence. That is where we should strive to be. That is how this city should live.”
“I get it,” I nod. “But… how do you live in a state of Existence, judging only what is, without letting appearance determine it? If appearance is a derivative, how do you separate them? Isn’t it inevitable to judge both?”
“I see what you mean, Perronis. And it is a difficult thing to do – to tune down your sensory perception so you can make a more accurate judgement of something. It would seem near impossible to judge someone’s character without having seen them, wouldn’t it? Or heard? Or felt? Senses do seem a necessity, but the key comes in finding out how to understand that they won’t solve all of your problems. They are not sufficient enough to lean on. The world would appear different if you lost touch. Or if you were visually blind, or if you became deaf. Living in Existence would mean that the world would never change, no matter what. You would have ultimate understanding of its nature.” I nod in response, realising his point. It’s like a switch clicks somewhere inside my brain.
“You can see how difficult that would be. See, only a handful of humans ever get the opportunity to live this way. Many of us die in Appearance. But the one way we could ever turn that around is if the whole infrastructure of the city was built completely differently. If the guardians and leaders were wiser than they are now.” I furrow my brows in suspicion. Is he making a shrewd dig at the current leader of the Northern Empire, or is this all just hypothetical?
He carries on, “This city needs to be run by guardians who only have one goal; to bring as many people as they can to enlightenment.”
“I doubt it could ever really happen,” Aris mumbles with eyes clouding over in darkness for a split second. It’s as if he has been reminded of something of his past that takes over his mind-set, causing him to sound so pessimistic. I know that look all too well; whenever I ever asked my father about how the war went when he came back, he would always look ahead, not staring at anything in particular. It was evident his mind was retreating to a place he didn’t want to be.
“It would be extremely difficult, but not impossible.” Osscarte counters. “So… does anybody have any idea of what would make the perfect guardian?”
“Dictatorship. Having a sense of order and control; not letting your citizens run amok. Keeping them stable.”
“Possibly, Zac,” Osscarte replies. “And that is something our side needs more of.”
Our side? Our side of what? “The Southern Empire are much more bound as society. We need to adopt some of their ideologies instead of breaking our backs trying to work against them.”
This is the first time I’ve ever heard anybody talk in favour the opposition, and it shocks me. How could anybody have even the slightest support for a city who have slowly and brutally murdered our own? The thought of it makes me uncomfortable and I want to question why they believe this, but for now I stay silent and listen in. I learned last time that opening my mouth without anything to back myself up with could lead me to being pummelled with questions that I don’t have the answers to. “As much as you don’t want to admit it, General Sander is a good Commander. There is a reason that the Southern Empire is defeating us. If they ever take over, let’s hope this counterproductive democratic nonsense is cut out. Majority rules can be a huge drawback for the improvement of the city; voting and whatnot. There should be one solid choice made by one solid guardian who knows what they are talking about, and that’s how the city should be run.”
I scoff in response.
“Would you care to explain what you find amusing about that statement, Perronis?”
“I bet you think the best guardian is you. Because I feel like a lot of people would think otherwise.” It’s amazing how in one minute I can be fixated on Osscarte’s words, then in an instant be disgusted by his others. He really is a love-or-hate kind of person.
Soon Aris is grinning in hilarity, shaking his head. Osscarte’s piercing glare is caught on me and I wish I could just yank my foot out of my mouth because I know I must have made a monumental mistake. It’s just that I’m tired of the way he addresses certain things. However much he knows, he can’t act like even General Bidas is inferior to him despite him living in the L.D. And for crying out loud, he worships the Commander of the Southern more than ours!
“Eden,” Aris calls. “Please. Repeat the last sentence again.”
“Why should I?”
“I want to point out a huge flaw in the sentence. It either proves you didn’t hear anything our teacher said, or you overlooked it. So go ahead.”
“I’m just saying... I don’t think a lot of people would agree with half of the things you say. I’m finding it hard to. Like, how you support Sander. That’s all I mean.”
“Majority rules can be a huge drawback for the improvement of the city.” Osscarte repeats with a sterner tone. “Did you get that?”
“And you say, ‘a lot of people’ would think otherwise. So you are basing your judgement on majority rule. Correct?”
“I am, yes. But why? What’s so wrong with majority ruling?”
“We need someone intelligent and wise to run the city – somebody who we can rely on. Someone with fixed, objective viewpoints and someone who does not change their minds by the day. The best kind of person for this role is a person who lives in a state of Existence. But as I also pointed out, that is hard to find. Almost everybody else thinks within Appearance. Why would you trust a system so fluid and unreliable? Where rules and regulations can change, and nobody really has their own opinions? Negative doctrines and viewpoints can catch on and spread throughout the whole community. And there would be nothing you can do about it, because, well, ‘the majority rules.’ Do you see the problem?”
“I guess I do.”
“You either do or you don’t.”
Feeling stung, I reply in a hushed manner, “I do get it.”
“The best guardian runs the city through coercion and persuasion. The best guardian makes all of the decisions for the city. I may just throw in there, that it doesn’t necessarily have to be just one person. It can be a small group of precisely selected guardians, as long as they are all enlightened in Existence. That’s the point I’m trying to make.”