Enter at Risk
The Arena is what Asher calls a “construct”, a virtual space in the mind, the architecture of which corresponds to and summarized a particular way of thinking. Asher is highly skilled in logic, but believes that there are serious ethical problems with using logic in an uncontrolled environment, without the informed consent of any participants as to the risks and consequences of utilizing it. As a result, Asher generally refuses to argue in public or outside of the Arena, except when he is being unethical.
The arena is the place where battle can take place without injury, provided you follow its rules and do not run from the wounds. It is an intellectual construct, permitting combat in the contest of ideas, values, and beliefs.
It cannot be entered by mere force of will. Entry is difficult and the construct is obscure. Entrance requires, first and foremost, being able to see the Arena from the outside. Most people simply walk right by, not realizing it exists. In their minds, there is nothing there.
There are many doors into The Arena, and while getting in is not technically hard, leaving can be extremely dangerous. Once one begins a duel, there is only one way out, and that is through one's wounds.
The rules of the Arena are not external to it. The rules of the Arena are the Arena - the architecture, the mathematics. So to see it, one must grasp those rules. To enter it, one must then accept those rules. To remain within it, one must never fail to yield to those rules on any point.
The rules of The Arena are it's very architecture. And they can be expressed either as rules or as architectural features. Asher does not know all the rules and has not even been in all of The Arena. It is vast and intricate. Asher suspects that there are duels going on in the arena far enough away from where he stands that he can't hear or see them unless he happens to go there. He does know that parts of it are still being built. And yet, he knows it is also complete. Expressed as a shape, he suggests it is domes within a dome. The outer dome is complete. The inner domes are being built. And more people are coming in, in other parts. But in the part he knows by experience and so can call The Arena, there is currently just Asher and another resident, the wielder of Mithin Virol, who managed to enter without accepting any duels and still has not. There have been occasional visitors—young turks finding their way to challenge him or for training. There are traps in The Arena. Beware. But all such traps are brought by oneself. Most people don't leave unscathed.
On the ceiling of The Arena are summaries of the rules, depicted as rules written atop the rules themselves, recapitulating them.
On the floor in the Master's Circle there is an elaborate drawing of the parts of the person that can be wounded. Each point is labelled. The diagram is revered as a work of art. It is subtle, showing the combatant in the context of other men, the world, himself, and his opponent.
On the wall, near the Circle, is a plaque with swords crossed between two columns of words, and above it the phrase "These Shall Not Stand". What follows is a partial drawing, with only some of the words.
|THESE SHALL NOT STAND|
The Arena is a crucible in which only reality can survive. Asher insists that there is also that which is beyond, that which either does not have "reality" as we mean it or which is beyond rational perception. The Arena merely concerns that which both exists as we exist, historically and in motion in time, and is subject to perception by reason - those things about the universe, the created order, which may be rationally known. But the false, the artificial, and the made-up cannot survive the crucible, since they strive to share nature with something that exists and is subject to perception. The Arena isn't all reality. It is a type of reality. A subset of that with which humans can rationally interact of their own volition. In the Arena, what is at stake is the rational universe - the logoverse. A falsehood, whether it be a false term, or a false premise, or any other such thing is genocidal to that universe and everything within it. It is a negation of what is, an unmaking of that which is made. The Arena is limited. By virtue of being an architectural construct, composed of rules, is limited in space and time. There is that which is beyond reason, that which can be called super-reality, which can neither be named, nor described, nor categorized or conveyed, nor otherwise discussed. There is that which neither exists as we exists, nor is real as we are real, but nonetheless sustains and upholds us. The Arena does not concern what we might term, artificially, "Super-Reality". The means of perceiving that is different. Asher believes that at the end of Reality, at the end of duels, it is possible to stand very still, surrounded by stars, looking up at what is beyond dialectic, at what is beyond The Arena. Asher says "The Arena is sanity."
It has already been said that the architecture is the rules and vice versa. Put another way, logic is the ultimate arbiter in The Arena. Emotions and perceptions have no inherent authority. There are no unaccountable absolutes and no sacred presuppositions. Nothing is free from scrutiny, consideration or reconsideration. In the Arena, three laws are primary.
- Identity: A=A
- Excluded Middle: A or not A
- Non-Contradiction: A thing cannot be both A and not A at the same moment and in the same sense.
One can debate these laws, of course, but that debate can only occur outside The Arena - on its steps, not within its walls. These are the primary support beams of the Arena itself. These are not the complete set of rules, but all rules will correspond to these. It might be annoying to a potential entrant not being handed a complete list of rules. However The Arena is a real construct, not a fictional game. There has never been a need to try to make a comprehensive list, because if you wrote out all the rules in a coherently interactive way, you would have the Arena itself. And Asher is not even sure if he could learn them all, though he is happily trying.
A duel begins with a challenge and an acceptance. A challenge need not be accepted but, if should be, then the duel has already begun, and includes the act of challenging and accepting. Both parties are bound, irrevocably, by the rules.
If one is pinned by a sword point, one can either acknowledge it (yield), leave The Arena (flee), or attempt again to refute it (parry). A wound occurs when one is proven wrong, factually, or by logic.
You always acknowledge wounds, which is how they are healed. If you don't, you bleed, possibly forever, until you change your mind. If you leave The Arena bleeding, the bleeding, likewise, doesn't stop and, eventually, it does more serious damage. Unacknowledged wounds grow with time.
Master of the Arena
Asher is the Master of the Arena. It's not an honor, or a right. It's because he lives in the arena. He is master the way the master of a library both dwells in it and knows the holdings, the filing system, and the books themselves, as well as (if challenged) how to use them.
Asher found that, in an architectural construct made of rules, seeing it requires a rule, entering it requires a rule, but dwelling in it requires a very special rule. That rule happens to be Asher's First Maxim. If Asher discovers he's wrong, he changes his mind. If he didn't, he would bleed. Asher is so deeply embedded in the Arena, that for all he knows, the Arena is actually himself. But in fact, he believes that if he ever did leave the Arena, it would continue to stand.
Very few ever dare to enter the arena, and none have ever stayed to fight for an especially long time. Asher hones his skill in the master's circle, like Zorro with his whip. For most people, Asher's home is a circle of Hell. Asher thinks, however, that it's perhaps the most beautiful place in the world. He always awaits someone capable of wounding him, or even defeating him. He challenges anyone to enter. He dares anyone to stay.
Weapons in the Arena
Along the walls of the arena are weapons racks, including swords, tridents, staffs, and every imaginable weapon for appropriate combat. Among these are some named weapons: weapons of those who prefer to store them here and have earned and maintained that right and, perhaps - though Asher won't say, some that were either surrendered or lost in combat. Two of the named weapons are Oblivion, which belongs to Asher, and Mithin Virol - the only weapon in The Arena that has never actually been used in The Arena.
The inscription on Oblivion reads, "Pain is warm like love and safer at your chest."
This is the story of Mithin Verol, or at least one of its stories: It was very quiet. I stood, motionless, on the tall outcropping of rock, waiting. At my feet lay the sword in its sheath, also waiting. Waiting for sunrise. Gradually the sky in the east began to pale. The mountains stood out against it in sharp relief. The light grew, dyeing the sky pink and purple. I bent and pulled the sword out of its sheath. The dim light glinted dully on the blade, sliding down the milky blackness of the crystal, catching on its reinforcements of cold metal. I held it out before me at arm’s length, locking both hands together around the hilt and raising the point vertically as high as I could reach. The blade was heavy and my arms trembled at the effort. The whole world seemed to tense with me, waiting for the sun. The sword alone was lifeless, inanimate. The light continued to grow. A narrow beam of sunlight shot over the mountains. I could almost see it speeding out over the valley. It hit the sword, illuminating the blade along its entire length. The sword glowed, soaking in the light, and came to life, vibrating. As the sun rose higher, the blade glowed brighter and brighter, and the vibration became a sound, a bell-like tone, shimmering and growing. At the instant the sun leapt fully into view over the mountains, the blade burst into flame. It burned with a brilliant white fire and sang a fierce, joyous paean of triumph, piercingly loud and sweet. Louder and louder it sang, until it erupted in a shower of white sparks on a final, glorious note. The light in the blade faded and the echoes of song died away. I had been frozen into position, enthralled. Now I stirred and lowered my aching arms. I looked at the sword in wonder. Before, both crystal and metal had been a dull, unrelieved black. Now the crystal was clear as glass and the reinforcements veined it with shining silver. The blade was as light as a feather in my hand. I swung it, and it blurred in the air, a trace of light following it. I sheathed the sword and climbed down from the rock, wondering. 1985
One can leave any time. But if you have engaged in battle, Asher knows of only one way out.
To leave The Arena, after having internalized the rules, one must reject one or more of the rules. In other words, The Arena can only be left by rejecting The Arena itself, because one's relationship to the architecture is one's relationship to the rules themselves.
The rules sustain and hold up The Arena. In rejecting those rules, it is not The Arena that changes, but the former occupant.
Leaving is not unperilous. It is possible to enter, not engage in battle, and still leave more or less unscathed - to just walk out again. Asher thinks that some damage may be done at that point, to some people, because knowledge of the rules that allowed entry continues to work on the mind. Their character will determine what that does to them. But, as soon as one has fought, and empirically expressed those rules in one's own behavior, leaving (which is actually fleeing) can result in cognitive dissonance, neurosis, and the attendance physical effects. Leaving, in short, can kill you. For this reason, Asher doesn't recommend toying with it. It's too serious to be treated as a game.