Sunday, December 23, 2007

Dzurlords Make Me Cry

Been re-reading Steven Brust's novels the past few weeks (the days of comfort reading are upon me) and, having worked my way backwards through the Vlad novels (should that be the Dalv novels, in this circumstance?), I am now proceeding through the Paarfi novels, but in the standard direction this time.

And I hit this passage in The Phoenix Guard:

"We can not all be Dzurlords."

"Ah, that is true, and truth be known, I think it would be a dull world if all were." Tazendra, who had drained her glass and filled another by this time, went on to say, "My mother, the Countess, used to say, 'Remember, we are only one part of this great body of Empire. And if we hold on to the valor, then others must needs take care of the rest.'"


And I choked up. I ALWAYS do. Every time I read that damned passage, I get a damned lump in my throat. From Tazendra, of all people. Why?

I'm now reading Five Hundred Years After, and I KNOW I'm going to hit this passage:

"Of course," said Sethra, "You are a Dzurlord, as was he. To the Dzur, there is a ritual to the sharpening of the sword — so warlike and yet so soothing; a preparation for the future, a defiance, a threat, and at the same time, it is rhythmical, and while so engaged, one is given to dream, and to think about the blade, its history and destiny; and to contemplate and wonder, above all, for what one strives — and always one finds answers to this question, for finding those answers is what it means to be a Dzur.

"Sometimes," she continued softly, "those of other Houses laugh, or call the Dzur foolish, stupid, or blind, and there is no good answer to such charges, for to kill for such an insult is often beneath the Dzurlord; yet there is always the sword, whose sharpening breathes of the future, and the glory which is not only in being remembered, but in knowing one has defied the entire world, and pitted oneself against the impossible, and proven, to all who are not Dzur, that there is value and glory in the battle, regardless of the outcome. All of these thoughts come to mind when the Dzurlord sharpens his sword, and looks upon some token of the past until he can feel the wind that blows to the future."

For some time, it seemed as if Sethra were speaking to herself, but at last she fell silent. "You understand," said Tazendra in a whisper.


Just reviewing it in order to type it up here got me feeling weepy. Why? Is it because, as Steph mentioned, I am so terribly unlike a Dzurlord? So unlikely to pit myself against the impossible, against the world, and that reading these passages brings up in me a sense of lacking in myself, a lack that I'm actually ashamed to admit even to myself?

I remember my heart stirring when I read Cyrano's declaration "Not to climb high, perchance, but climb alone!"

As a younger man perhaps I read that as license to reject any notion of working in concert with others, to keep solely my own counsel and to hoard my energies for myself, but nowadays, much more embracing of the notion of interdependence (ten happy years of marriage will do that to you), I understand Cyrano's point in a more sophisticated way — to refuse to seek advancement through RELATIONSHIPS, and rather solely through ACCOMPLISHMENTS. Accomplishments may depend on relationships; that's healthy and worthwhile. But advancement that comes through skill in flattery or in adjusting one's character to one's environment is hollow, because it is not based in the end on the actual delivery of value.

The problem being, of course, that it isn't always perfectly straightforward to demonstrate accomplishment. Especially if one is mistaken about the relationships around one.

I know many folks who are bad salespeople, especially of themselves. I'm one. A common thinking that bad salespeople carry is an unwillingness to convince others that they themselves are worth investing in. I believe the unspoken notion is that if the worth is not immediately evident, making an effort to display it is unseemly. Not to mention unlikely to succeed.

And yet, isn't it a worthwhile pursuit to make worth apparent to those who haven't yet perceived it? Isn't it honourable to help others see important truths? How do I tell when such an effort is worthwhile, and when it is only vainglorious and empty?

One lesson I always took from Cyrano is that doing the honourable thing does not reliably lead to gain. That doing the right thing often exposes one to, well, the weasels. I've paid the price a few times for doing what I considered the honourable thing. I don't know if I'd call myself valiant. I'm no Dzurlord.

But I do regularly get accused of being foolish, stupid, and blind. Maybe all that emotion I feel is actually relief. Relief that I'm not the only one.


In other news, Steven Brust posted my favourite haiku ever on his LJ the other day:

There was a young man of Honshu
Who tried limericks in haiku.
But


Kills. Me.