“A SELF-DEFROCKED HOLYMAN wanders a fantastic landscape, eking out a meager but honest living as a mercenary cook.”
THERE ARE ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES to every collegial association: protective fellowship on one hand, and tedious bureaucracy on another. And as a more-or-less “free spirit,” Prosatio Silban sometimes found it a difficult balance.
The beefy cook was also a Freehander – a member of the Uulian Commonwell’s fluid middle class, those who profit by their own labor. He was happy and content to be both, as they respectively provided him with autonomy and social standing. Thus, he was surprised (and a bit taken aback) by a gnarled Cook’s Guild auditor late one busy afternoon in the village of Tollingdrum.
Although his visitor wore the same traditional green apron as Prosatio Silban – a symbol of the Commonwell’s cooking sector – the latter did not know exactly who he was until after offering his signature greeting, “With what may I please you?”
“You may please me by shutting down operations,” the Guild representative announced in an authoritative baritone. “At once.”
Our relationship to Torah is not based on asserting its factual historicity — whether based on “proofs” or “assertion despite reason.” Instead, each individual’s connection to scripture is based on the premise that the biblical narrative reflects an authentic religious experience that envelops some sort of reality and expresses it in a narrative and poetic fashion.”
— Rabbi David Bigman, “Refracting History Through the Spiritual Experience of the Present”
WHEN SOMEONE THREATENS YOU WITH a knife at close quarters, your options may not be so limited as you might think.
“Do you know who I am?” the intruder asked.
“You mean, aside from my potential assailant?” Prosatio Silban replied.
It was a cool, late night in the city of epicurean Pormaris, and the beefy cook had made the mistake of answering his galleywagon door by opening it all the way instead of just unbolting the upper half. But Prosatio Silban was in something of a jolly mood, and not only from a celebratory glass of white duliac. He had just earned a sizable coin pouch by catering a special dinner for the Heir Second Vajang Chorl, Pormaris’ governing noble.
– Definition: n. an idea, behavior, style, or usage that spreads from person to person within a culture.
– Used in a sentence: Charles MacKay’s Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds is perhaps the Western World’s first serious catalog of memes.
– Why: I am a semiotic and purist dinosaur who thinks the term’s au courant application shortchanges its original meaning. Memes are the heavy-hitters of enculturation. Let’s not confuse them for “captioned graphics,” shall we?
IT ONLY CAME ONCE A year, but for Prosatio Silban, once was almost too much.
His galleywagon was parked in the small marketplace at the village of Whistleshoe, and he had begun this particular day by staring into his berth-side mirror. A bald, somewhat round and middle-aged face looked back at him with a forced smile. The twenty-second day of the month of the Mouse, in the Year of the Haunted Oyster. Happy Natal Day, he thought to his reflection. And many, many happy returns. At least, one or two.
EACH PERSON’S PERCEPTION OF TRUTH is different. This one has a broader outlook, this one a narrow outlook. But the sincerity of each one’s devotions is all that counts.”
— Reb Nosson: Plato to Rebbe Nachman’s Socrates
IT WASN’T OFTEN THAT PROSATIO Silban cooked and sold something he didn’t like to eat in a place he didn’t want to visit, but when one was near-penniless in stony-hearted Tirinbar – that least forgiving of the Three Cities of the Uulian Commonwell – one must be creative.
Through a combination of circumstances, he found himself standing behind a small portable roaster in front of Tirinbar’s Arena of Martial Virtuosity – a fancy name for the downtown stadium devoted to staged battles and other pugnacious sports. Great sums of money were wagered on the capable combatants, but few of those proceeds were making their way into his coin pouch. At least, so far.