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A Miscellany 105
Selections from the collected works of Yaffin Bocca

by: Will Petillo

A note on the text: The essays below are from a video game with agnostic themes currently in its early stages of production. Because the makers are a small group of college students with little free time, any volunteers out there who would like to help bring the light of reason and respect for people with other viewpoints into the field of active entertainment are graciously invited to help. If you are interested, please send an email to: Will Petillo

To open a discussion on this article, please use the contact page to provide your comments.

Book of the Soul
From the collected works of Yaffin Bocca

Chapter 1: Life, Death, and Everything In-between

Spirit defines and resides in the living. It acts as a catalyst that allows a living being to create energy. Spirit can also be converted into energy in the form of magic—a little bit of spirit is enough to create a huge amount of energy so the loss is generally not significant—, but this is a rare ability. When a living creature dies, its spirit wanders the earth and seeks a new vessel to enter. When someone is born the spirit enters the body of the newborn and the cycle begins again. But if there are too many spirits floating around with no new life to enter then the spirits get impatient and reanimate corpses as undead. This can only happen, however, in the bodies of those who have been destroyed before their time. When a spirit enters a corpse, it gives the body life, but then finds that it cannot function in this destroyed vessel so it converts into extract, which can function in something that cannot support life. The resulting undead creatures are fueled purely by material means and thus are machines, not living beings. Undead can survive for as long as they have extract to fuel them, but they cannot reproduce—although they can kill living creatures so that their spirits create new undead. To kill an undead, one must break it open so that its body can no longer function or all of its fuel runs out. When undead are killed, the extract that animates them spills out, generally sinking into the ground. If the population is too small to hold much spirit and there are no corpses lying around for the spirit to reanimate as undead (either as a result of burial or if the population has been small for a long time) then the impatient spirit still becomes extract, but goes directly into the earth. This extract can be harvested and converted into energy as an incredibly effective fuel source, which is necessary for any kind of industrialism. All of the energy that is expended though various means floats up into the sky and concentrates into points of light that are what we call "stars". When these clusters of energy condense enough they convert into spirit and return to Terra Crossa to create new life.

Chapter 2: A World Without

I often find myself wondering: what would a world without spirit be like? The obvious answer is that without spirit, life cannot exist. But what if the laws of nature were different? In this other world—let us call it “Substancia”—there would be life, possibly even outwardly identical to you or me, but it would consist entirely of matter and energy (technically, these would be the same thing, just as spirit, matter, and energy are one and the same in our world, but that subject is complex enough to merit a whole essay in itself and shall not be discussed here). In this way, the people of Substancia would function much like the undead of our universe. Further, because there is no life force that makes them fundamentally distinct from anything else in their world, it would be difficult to distinguish where exactly the line is between what is called life and what is not. Now, I imagine that this idea would be very unsettling to any conscious life on Substancia. Thus, they would probably believe that there was some sort of life force in their world that made them different in kind, even if this force did not exist. They would form countless religions and philosophies that, in one way or another, satisfied their desire to be special. All of these, however, would have to be ultimately based on the argument that the cause of this nonexistent life force is unknowable or too mysterious for anyone to understand. But since Substancia—if it is at all like Terra Crossa—would be highly complicated, its people would not know how their world works anyways. Therefore, a belief in spirit as a means of filling in the gaps of the unknown would be entirely valid as far as they know. Eventually, however, the society of Substancia will advance far enough to realize that their world can be explained without spirit, thus making its existence an unnecessary assumption. People would at first reject this realization—as is usual with new ideas contrary to popular belief—and make increasingly desperate and irrational efforts to justify their dearly held beliefs that they are somehow special. Ultimately, however, evidence that denies or makes irrelevant the existence of spirit would become overwhelming and the people of Substancia would have to come to terms with their existence as entities composed entirely of matter and energy.

Chapter 3: Why we are different.

Terra Crossa is not Substancia. In our world, there is a definite and observable distinction between something that is living and something that is not. Those cursed with the misfortune to come across an undead have always sensed that what they saw was not truly alive—even if it appeared to be physically identical. In any case, since we are all familiar with the experience of spirit, know of its existence, and can see it quite plainly, I don't believe that I need to explain this point any further. On Substancia, however, one could run into problems of distinction. Although I doubt that undead would exist in that world (for how can a creature be undead if there is no spirit for it to operate without?), it would be possible for these peoples to create machines that act like living beings—capable of language, mathematics, art, and even learning on their own power. Eventually, with sufficient advancement in technology (and if there was enough interest in the matter), they could create a machine that was completely indistinguishable from a living being. Of course, this could never happen on Terra Crossa because such machines would lack the spirit that makes us unique. And even if one did manage to manufacture something in such a way that it could hold spirit it would, by definition, become a living creature and thus cease to be a machine. The creation of such an entity would be just like the creation of a child. As soon as something that is capable of holding life comes physically into being, an amount of spirit immediately enters into it. Thus, any machine we could create would either not appear alive and not be alive, or appear alive and become just as alive as you or me. Further, if so many machines were built that there was not enough spirit to enter into all of them, then any newly created life-like machines would simply self-destruct. It is a proven fact that any physical entity that is capable of supporting life but is created when there is an insufficient amount of spirit available will die—this is why our population reached a limit in the years immediately preceding the Great War. This is simply one of the fundamental laws of our world and cannot be avoided in any way. On Substancia, however, population would have to be without limit. For if there is no spirit, then there is no conservation of spirit, then there is nothing to stop any number of life-like machines being created, and there is also nothing to stop the non-artificially created population from expanding indefinitely. I imagine their world would eventually become quite crowded as a result of this. The following are some further ways in which the presence of spirit makes our world different from one without: we have Essences that serve as focal points for collectives of life-force—I shall reserve discussion of the nature and implications of our collective unconscious for another essay—, we have Guardians who were directly transformed into their current form by spirit from said Essences, we have seen corpses rise by the hundreds, the list goes on. None of these phenomena, however, could possibly exist on Substancia. I agree that such a world is difficult to imagine—and in all likelihood it probably does not actually exist—but thought experiments like this are a necessary part of opening one's mind to as many ways of seeing the world as possible so that one may more clearly see the truth.

The Book of Creation
From the collected works of Yafin Bocca

Sometimes when I stop from my busy work of enlightening souls and admire the majesty of Terra Crossa I find myself wondering: "How did this all come to be?" I have traveled the lands searching for an answer and after countless hours I found it: our world exists and is the way it is because the Great Red Bat made it so. I know this is true for two reasons. First, life exists on our world that defies any rational explanation. For example, the flying seahorse monster that is accompanied by a circle of floating water does not make sense unless one assumes that it was created by what our priests call a "human"—who apparently has a very…peculiar sense of humor. Second, the Red Bat appeared to me on my journey and explained the nature of its existence in detail in a manner that was not terribly difficult to understand. Many others have also visited the Red Bat before me and it is from this source that our two divine commandments, "Thou shalt be interesting" and “Thou shalt not worship me” come from. If you are interested in speaking to the Red Bat yourself, it can be found somewhere in the Kaeltoc plains and will be more than willing to patiently explain anything you ask it about our world and a great deal about the world of the "humans", which the Red Bat refers to as "R.L." (I think it is an acronym but I don't know what it stands for). If you remain skeptical, it will also be happy to prove its omnipotence and omniscience. How the “R.L.” world came into existence, however, neither I nor the humans know for sure.

Purely as a side note, I would like to add that in addition to creation, our world was also formed by evolution, which simply means "change over time." The direction evolution takes is shaped by two factors, random change and natural selection. These factors exist simply because there is an element of randomness in our world and things with advantages tend to be more successful. On Terra Crossa, evolution has only been a minor influence because it is such a slow process and our world has only existed for a little over twelve centuries. One could imagine a world, however, where evolution created highly complex persons out of far simpler creatures. But since the concept of evolution and the factors behind it are simple, intuitive, observable, and of relatively little impact I shall not bother to elaborate on them further.

Complete in my knowledge of the origins of Terra Crossa, I cannot help but speculate on what our world would be like if it were not created by a human or some other form of deity. For now, let us refer to this world as “Quantus Physicus.” Now, it is possible that our world was created at precisely this moment—or at any other time—by a “Human” pressing a button and all our memories were implanted into us so that it would seem to us that our lives flowed continuously into the past. Such an assertion could not possibly be proven or disproven and therefore must be rejected as an unnecessary and unscientific assumption. Any reasonable conclusion, therefore, must be based on observable evidence. Now, on Terra Crossa we have written and archeological evidence that pinpoints an exact date when the entire world was created in addition to the reliable eyewitness testimony of the Great Red Bat. Further, none of these sources contradict each other in any way so we can be quite confident that our knowledge is accurate. If, however, there were not such clear evidence of creation and the evidence that was available pushed back the latest possible date of creation infinitely far, then it would become unreasonable to assume that the world was divinely created at all—either that, or Quantus Physicus was created by a deity who was apathetic to the existence of the Physicans or went as far as possible out of its way to avoid being believed in.

Thinking of a world without a creator leads me to realize a comfort that we on Terra Crossa take for granted. Knowing that one was created by a higher power gives one not only a knowledge of one's ultimate roots, but also gives life an external source for a sense of purpose—for the existence of a creator implies that we are all instruments in some sort of divine plan. Therefore, if our world was not created by Humans, then we would still be compelled to believe that it was. Further, if ever confronted by one who did not believed in a creator, or believed in one of a different nature, then our beliefs, understanding of the world, even our very identities would be threatened and we would be driven to hostility towards those nonbelievers.

Praise to the Red Bat of unambiguous existence for its presence saves us from uncertainty and conflict and grants us meaning so that we don’t have to!

The Headless Monster
From the collected works of Yafin Bocca

Some time ago, while visiting Azgala, I found myself staring fascinated at the great billows of smoke coming up from the industrial buildings and wondering "what would happen if the smoke from buildings such as these one day filled the entire sky?" I decided to investigate the matter. The first thing I discovered is that the smoke produced from the burning of the precious fuel we call "extract" is highly poisonous. For the moment I stepped into some of it I could feel my Hit Points quickly vanishing as if I were attacked by some amorphous beast. At that moment I realized with great alarm that if smoke was continually released into the air then the sky would eventually fill with a poison cloud that would suffocate us all. Therefore, I organized a team of fellow scientists to study the problem so that the potential catastrophe might be averted. We tested the air in various places throughout the world over several years to see if there was a significant increase of toxic smoke in our skies. Surprisingly, there wasn't. Apparently, when smoke in our world is released, it rises for a while then inexplicably vanishes into non-existence. Although this discovery was quite a relief, I still shudder to think of what would happen if our actions could actually affect the livability of our planet.

I am not so naive to think that if the negative impact of toxic buildup in our skies were made clear by scientists such as myself then societies would cease to burn extract for the economic and political obstacles would be virtually insurmountable. The energy produced from burning extract is essential for the development of industry on Terra Crossa, makes the luxurious life we live possible, and makes a small but very powerful group of people incredibly wealthy—these people would certainly oppose any sort of limitation at every turn. Infinitely complicating the problem is the competition between the four cities. Let us say, for example, that a worldwide ban of extract burning has been proposed and Chi'yan is deciding whether or not to comply. If neither Chi'yan nor any of the other cities comply, then the world would be gradually destroyed by the poisonous smoke. If Chi'yan complied but the other cities did not, Chi'yan would be unable to compete with the other cities and soon be taken over (the world would still suffer from the smoke, but they at least, would have a better chance of finding another way to avert the catastrophe). If all the cities complied, then their economies would suffer a little, but the world would be saved from disaster. If all the cities complied except for Chi'yan, then Chi'yan would quickly outpace them all and possibly be able to handle the smoke problem on its own later on. The point I am making here is that no matter what the other cities decide, Chi'yan is better off if they don't comply with the ban—and the same is true for everyone else. The end result would be that all cities acting out of self-interest would oppose the ban, even if the consequences were made clear, and smoke would continue to build up with no one to stop it.

Furthermore, because of the economic benefits of extract burning, people would not want to believe that there was a problem and therefore refuse to accept the evidence that there was. Wealthy industrialists would perpetuate a myth that the common people would be all too willing to believe that there was doubt among the scientists actually studying the problem and insist that if people bought into the "smoke hoax" then the economy would collapse. Even the few people who understood the consequences of smoke buildup would offer feeble resistance, believing that the catastrophe was inevitable. As the effects of smoke gradually become more apparent, opposition might finally arise and the debate would intensify, but angry words would not stop the day of the catastrophe from trudging ever closer.

And rationality would not save us, for the problem would not be that people are too stupid to wake up and see what is coming, but rather that they are too smart to miss a loophole that allows them to not believe the truth even when it is right in front of their faces.