display | more...
Everyone had a vastly different interpretation. It wasn't what they saw that was different, but what the words meant to each of them.

When he came down from the mountain, we gathered around to see what he had. We wanted to know what mystical wisdoms and instructions he was given.

The tablets themselves looked ordinary. Stone. Withered. Gray. Cracked. But the words soon had us all in discussion. There was no disagreement over what the words said, but when we tried to apply the words to our lives, suddenly we discovered that none of us had interpreted the words the same way.

It wasn't just simple misunderstanding. Rather than, for example, semantic debates about whether murder was different from killing, some were building boats, claiming they were instructed to do so by the tablets, while others made weapons, new weapons none had seen before, also claiming they got the designs from the tablets.

When asked which parts of the tablets had given them the ideas for what they did, they would all repeat back the words we had all seen, yet the same words had instructed us to do and discover different things. This only fueled the debates over the message.

We were using the same words to discuss what the tablets said, but despite surface agreement that there was objective truth to what was written, there was absolutely no agreement the deeper we dug into how each person interpreted what these words meant. We did at least know the source of the tablets was mystical. That was basically what he told us when he brought them to us.

Some theorized that the tablets were like mirrors into our souls. On the surface, mirrors operate based on the same physical laws for everyone, but for each person looking in, they saw a different image reflected back. And so they decided the same thing was happening with the words from the tablets.

No matter how many times the words were transcribed or converted into different mediums, they would always mean something different to the receiver of the message. We didn't know if this was part of the magic, or if it was a characteristic of the language.

Our scholars attempted to analyze the combinations of words and phrases used in the message, but were unable to make much progress. They would have to talk to everyone, and each would repeat back the same words our scholars were using, but then behave almost completely differently when asked to apply what they learned.

Eventually our people gave up. The tablets were stored away for safekeeping. But the words were duplicated countless times, spread far and wide. Interpreting the message became a rite of passage for our children. Each was taught the same language, or what we assumed was the same language, in preparation for the day the message would be given to them.

And on the day they were given the message, they would be watched closely for what they would do, both on that day, and possibly for the rest of their lives. They could never quite explain what they got out of the message. Well, they could, but they would use the same words and phrases each of us had heard thousands of times before, so it was pointless trying to find anything new in what they were saying.

We never could be quite sure how they would react. All our predictions based on family or character would regularly be proven wrong. Sometimes reactions would be dire, and require decades of recovery, if they even recovered. That was always a risk, but usually reactions would be what we mostly considered positive.

Or at least we would have to restructure our society in ways that would make their reactions generally positive.

Making new weapons, for example, wasn't always a great idea. But still we were able to contain the danger and put many of the weapons to good use. Or we would remake our social organizations in such a way that most dangers would be minimized. This wasn't true of all cases though. Unfortunately for some, there was no recovery to exposure. It was a tragedy we were forced to swallow.

The message was too pervasive throughout our population to shield anyone from it. Anyone growing up in our society would eventually hear it, some form of it, from one source or another. The best we could do was to offer as much support to each child as we could, on the day they received the message.

We had to take similar precautions with neighboring people as well. They too would face the same variety of reactions when exposed to our message, and would need the same type of support. Sometimes disaster would follow if they were exposed accidentally, without the proper precautions.

But if everything was in place, the message became a tool of peace. It helped integrate our neighbors into our culture, because we would all become oriented around a common set of words, even if those same words meant different things to everyone involved. Part of the unity came from the systems we all had to adopt to both minimize possible damage from exposure and maximize the benefits from new interpretations. Maybe it wasn't so much the message itself that united us, but rather the scaffolding we were forced to build around it.

Slowly we spread from countryside to countryside. At first, some nations even fled from us, afraid to hear what we had a reputation for saying. But eventually they gave in. The message was too hard to escape. And they needed the same protections we did if the message came their way.

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.