Meditations on a Flame

By Christina Kamnikar
Copyright 1999

Thanks to Perri, Lizbet, Dee and Celli for beta'ing and ideas.

Begin at the beginning.

No sounds, aside from Moya's soft night systems chiming far away. No lights, other than the illumination from one candle. No clothing, no distractions. Letting my body relax into a state of readiness so familiar that I do not need to consciously assume it. Naked and poised to meet whatever may rise from the depths of my self. Attempting, as I have every night since I put off my Pa'u's robe, to encompass the changes within me. To become whole again. Myself, again. I turn inward in search not of enlightenment, but of the subtle changes in my own heart.

The beginning.

There is beauty in all things.
That which is beautiful, can be loved.
That which is loved, can be accepted.
That which is accepted, becomes part of the whole.

(Can be. May be. Will be? Perhaps. Perhaps not. Abandon all wants, all needs, all desire, even the desire for wholeness, and you may attain enlightenment, the perfect balance of self with the universe. But without desire we would never seek enlightenment in the first place. A riddle for another time.)

::love joy love impatience expectation hope...::

Moya is calm tonight, the deck beneath me vibrating infinitesimally with her life force. She is different, now that she carries another life within her, and not simply as a passenger. What was familiar for more than ten cycles has been transformed, with this new life.

::soon soon soon little one newest one child joy protect always diving spinning swimming soon soon joy light gliding waiting::

In Moya's universe, I exist as a memory of pain shared and lessened. And as a memory of pain inflicted upon one she loves.

Balance, again. One which I can not quite face yet.

Out of acceptance comes love.
Out of love comes beauty.
Out of beauty comes balance.
To become one we accept that there are many.

::What, did you think Pilot would just get over what you did to him?::

He is "over it." He still performs his duties, informs us of dangers, works toward our goals...

::Like he's got a choice. He's stuck down there, he needs us to take care of Moya as much as we need him.::

That's not true. He has a choice. And he has chosen not to dwell on past events.

::Are you telling me the snarky remarks and attitude are nothing? You think he'd just give you an arm, the next time you asked? 'Cause if you are, that's a bet I'd love to take, Zhaan.::

Other minds, once touched, linger like smoke, forming patterns in response to one's own thoughts. To find yourself in the midst of new voices takes concentration, time, and determination.

Some voices are louder than others.

::It was the logical decision for the time, and for your ends, Zhaan. Let us not forget why you wish to return to Delvia. There are too many of our people there who are still suffering. Who may be past all hope---::

Tahleen is like a razor along my skin; one I flinch from. I will not be willingly dragged into the undertow of darkness again, or be tempted by the rage that churns around the echoes of her presence. She ripped away the barriers that kept my madness back, but I am slowly shoring my defenses again, thought by thought, stone by stone, even as a tide of anger rises at the memory of her violation.

I must fight the instinct to disagree with her shadow-thoughts simply for the sake of separating myself from her, and instead hold to the true differences between us, while acknowledging and encompassing the similarities. Only then can I be certain of my path. Only then can I know which choices come with too great a price, and which I must make no matter the cost. As long as I am the only one to pay it....

::I don't hold you responsible.::

I hold myself responsible, Liko. If I had been more careful--- more subtle --- perhaps you might have lived....

::I was satisfied. I accomplished what I needed to, with you. My people are free. Yours may be also, someday. If you're willing to go beyond what you know.::

I know nothing any more. I am not who I was, not the serene Pa'u, not the conscienceless savage. You shifted the foundations of my mind when you demanded so much from me.

::No more than I gave.::

No. No more than that--- but I could have given you something else, something without pain, if there had been time....

When we accept the many, we accept that which is within them.
When we can accept that which is within them, we can accept that which is within ourselves.
When we can accept ourselves, we can achieve wholeness.

(But what about that which is simply unacceptable?)

:: HUNGER ::
:: RAGE ::
:: FURY ::
:: HUNGER.... ::

Only an instant's contact, forcing the hidden into the light, into the real world. Pushing a monster out of safety and putting him into the path of his victim, knowing what the outcome would be. Nothing that should linger longer than the taste of a poison left unswallowed. And yet...

::... HuNgeR ...::

::You can almost admire it, can't you? The single-minded drive of the creature---::

::Shut up, Tahleen. Only a crazy person could admire Maldis. And Zhaan's not crazy.::

Thank you, John.

::No problem.::

When we achieve wholeness, we cause no pain.
When we cause no pain, we preserve the universe, and the souls within it.
When we save others, we save ourselves, and achieve Eternity.

::I never meant to hurt you.::

Of course you did. That may not have been *why* you betrayed our people, our friends... my father.... But it was irrelevant to you. When the pain of others is irrelevant, it is nearly the same as if the pain was planned. Meant.

The same, but less. Our world meant less to you than your safety and power did. You betrayed everything, in that moment. Everything.

And you thought that I would not be hurt?

::I loved you.::

I know. But you would not take away my pain. You would not turn away from continuing it. And then you asked me to take *your* fear, your doubts, your pain, as if you had the right to request that.

Your fear won over enlightenment, your anger over justice, your desires over your conscience. Our love made no difference.

::To either of us. Am I wrong, my love?::

Oh, Bitaal....

Eternity exists outside the world
Eternity contains no time and no desire, and thus no pain
Eternity can only be touched through enlightenment, and after life

(Or perhaps it merely contains no true awareness of pain. Pain continues outside of eternity, in the world. It may be that attaining eternity, while this world is still spiraling into entropy, is an act which increases that pain. Perhaps we must fight here, now; fight the fear and anger and shame and selfishness, within ourselves and without, always searching for the best and highest outcome for everyone we touch....)

::........ hungry ..................::

::Of course we fight. But we can not diminish anyone else's pain. It is theirs to hold and to keep. They earned it. You think too much, Zhaan.::

::joy joy love hope friendship forgive hope soon new almost-trust soon love baby help? soon::

::I do not know which world we must strive toward, my love. Only that love is not enough.::

::But it is not a bad place to start, Pa'u....::

:: That's my Zhaan. Never say die, girlfriend. ::

The echoes of the last voice ease me out of my meditation, comforting even though they are alien to who I once was. Some of the edges of my mind do not seem to chafe as much as they did before. Some of the patterns of thought have been assimilated, others reinforced.

::joy skim shimmer dive! gliiiiiiiide...::

And Moya's dreams are lighter, now, as well.

I blow out the candle and don my gown, still thinking. Then I slowly walk down to Pilot's chamber to offer him whatever help Moya may need when her child is born.