Fishing in the Lake of Philosophy [part 4/4]

This is an excerpt from my 2009 novel, N. Awakening.

On Power2

Nasha imagined that the drill sergeant had dragged her out of the cave and forced her to climb again, “The ends justify the means; you do whatever it takes to get what you want.” She reeled in her line, looked at it, the worm half gone—taken without her knowledge. She ripped it off the hook and tried to throw it onto the island. She was shy about a yard. She found another cave, “Did you know that I used to pick up worms in the rain and play with them as a kid?”

“Never heard that story.”

“I love bugs and worms and slugs and trees and birds. She opened the plastic case of worms, cut the night-crawler in half with her nails, gave the other half to Mitchell and began to slide it over the hook. The worm wiggled in her hand and the other half wiggled out of Mitchell’s. Nasha pulled the rest of the worm through the hook, as if she were covering her foot with a sock. Blood smeared on her thumb. She set down the pole, washed off the blood with bottled water and then cast out far. Mitchell very slowly baited the hook, as if taking extra care regarding how the meat would hang.

Nasha returned to the topic as she slowly moved her pole up and down, “Power is remembered by the masses from two vantage points: the god-like leaders of virtue or the devilish tyrants of vice.” She thought to herself, “Why is power always measured externally?” 

On Virtue and Vice

“You are right about the ends justifying the means, Nasha.” Mitchell felt like a kid running down a mountain. He could not slow his momentum, “In The Prince, chapter XV, Machiavelli says, ‘Hence it is necessary to a prince, if he wants to maintain himself, to learn to be able not to be good and to use this and to not use it according to necessity.’ He continues at the end of that chapter, ‘And furthermore one should not care about incurring the reputation of those vices without which it is difficult to save one’s state; for if one considers everything well, one will find something appears to be virtue, which if pursued would be one’s ruin and something else appears to be vice, which if pursued results in one’s security and well being.’ Does this remind you of any past American Presidents, or American politics from the past century… perhaps… decade?” Nasha wasn’t about to open that can of worms—today.

Mitchell cast again and watched the worm spiral around in circles until it smashed against the water. “Let me just finish Machiavelli by telling you these words regarding what he believes right. Remember, he wrote this piece for the prince since he desired to be elevated into his cabinet. Machiavelli said… ‘Whoa, I got a big one!’” He jumped up, reeled in his line and rocked back the pole. “The net! The net!” She rushed to his side with the net. She grabbed his shoulder as he nearly lost his balance. He rocked the pole back again. “Snap!” Mitchell was truly dumb-founded. “How could that be?” he stammered, “that was the strongest line I’ve got!”

Nasha curtailed giggles, “You snapped more lines than I have caught fish!” She laughed as she spoke, “You would probably hold the lake record if you could ever get those into the boat!” Mitchell thrust his pole back into the holder. The line didn’t even reach the water. He slowly sat down in his elevated chair with a gaping mouth and a flustered face. Nasha thought not to laugh too hard for too long and imagined that they must have reached the top of the mountain. Surely, this pleasure was her reward!

Mitchell gulped down the rest of his beer, took out his wood pipe and packed it tight. Fire soon blazed the black tobacco. Mitchell decided to continue what he had been about to say before the little monster took his hook, line and sinker—again.

On Political Choice: Be Feared or Be Loved?

Like a freight train, Mitchell continued, “Machiavelli wrote, ‘And men have less hesitation to offend one who makes himself loved than one who makes himself feared; for love is held by a chain of obligation, which, because men are wicked, is broken at every opportunity for their own utility, but fear is held by a dread of punishment that never forsakes you.” Mitchell thought about the fear he would like to infuse into that fish. He let the thought go and instead hoped that he and Nasha might see two bobbers meandering across the lake.

Nasha searched for a meandering bobber as her own remained still. She thought aloud, “I thought we went through this already… our politicians don’t care about how we feel.”

 On Glory

He resumed reciting Machiavelli as if he were a memory reader, “God does not want to do everything, so as not to take free will from us and that part of the glory that falls to us.” Mitchell thought about what glory he might have if he had caught that fish. He thought about Machiavellian glory in general. He grimaced at Nasha, “Military glory’s a temporary façade for fools.” The smoke lifted.

She stared with spiritual eyes, “But there’s millions more Christians and Muslims because of it!”[1] She shook her head not knowing why she blurted out the previous comment—not knowing why she continued to speak, “God bless our military!”

His eyes matched hers and then engulfed them, “This day, young one… in these Aquarian days… my grandchild…” his voice calmed, “There’s no glory in war.” Now Mitchell began to feel close to Nasha, “Military glory’s a temporary façade for fools.”


[1] Since World War II the spread of beliefs was much more civil (more so after the Cold War). However, that is not to say that it has been humane. I harbor hope regarding our current century. I do believe that today’s youth have the ability to diminish the need for lethal adversity.

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