Observer Compendium I-1
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Observer.Protocol(*020)//subject("Cassiopeia Verte")



I bring nothing to your temple but curses, obscenities;
from the wildfire of the heart the dumb tongue speaks.
I decry the brazen sky, the night's canopy of jewels -
hollow, lonely bedchambers for this forsaken bride
enslaved by your kindnesses, bereft of your touch.
Mirrored in reflections, I cannot maintain indignation:
my ugliness will not allow it. I am not perfection,
no choice fruit for the vintner. My virtue is pretense,
bodied reject of fragile will, wreck of misspent luxury.
Do you lay claim to these veins? I would flay them,
but for the burden of relational duty. I lied on the altar,
myself deceived. No seed of truth in this charnel house.
I scream, "Come, come!" What veracious blasphemy,
never brought past the veil; false lips for the false God.
Perched in the dark, how I've paid for these opal eyes
of milky star; never near enough for celestial warmth,
twinkling beautiful promises over dishonest distances.

-The Blind Prophet, from Prini's 'The Age of Disillusionment'

In class today the professor is telling us about the advance of Man: a slow march out of quicksand ignorance onto solid knowledge; away from the false wisdom in savage communities of superstitious magic and ever upward in our solitary towers of mechanistic might. She quotes Campbell and assorted secular humanists about the self-made man and the necessary abandonment of faerie-tale hopes for the immediate.

"You're a child of Magic, Cass, your eyes tell the story."

I can still hear her voice sounding in my head, interrupting the lecturer. That's a magical thing, if nothing else: my memory.

"One brown for the earth, and one blue for the sky. Child of Body and Mind. You are the bridge between the worlds. Magic gave them to you as a sign and a gift."

I didn't understand her then. I'm not sure I do now. Dad used to tease when I asked him about it, "I know your mom's magic is as real as anything - I haven't been able to find a matched pair of socks since I married her. My towels are never hanging on the peg where I left them and every day I come home from work to find the empty sink full of dishes. She's part brownie, no doubt. Or powerful enough to command them, and I'm not sure which I fear more…" Then he would scoop me up and hold me to his chest, running around the house, shielding me from her "wrath" as she scowled in humor and threw whatever was near to hand at his impudence.

It pains me now that I don't know what she actually did as part of her practice. Nothing I watched her do works for me. I cherish the stories she wrote down and illustrated, but they all read like nursery tales or sophist riddles. I hate myself sometimes for doubting her. Dad won't let me read the journals, "yet." Her warm, soothing voice chides across time, "One day, when you're ready, the spirits near your heart will come to you. These things can't be hurried or forced."

Half the class has already shuffled out of the room before I snap out of my revery. Embarrassed, I scan for Ms. Tran's face to make sure my inattention was unattended. Her back is turned and she's packing her laptop to leave. My chest relaxes and I grab my stuff. Something makes me want to ask her a question, maybe to compensate for my lack of engagement.

I blurt out, "Ms. Tran, I know that a lot of the reports of magic in history are easily dismissed as absurd, and all-too-often are very problematically sexist in application and prohibition, but can our ancestors really have all been so consistently misinformed about the 'gods' and the underlying structures of our origins?"

She starts, turning to look at me, but I continue without pause, "What of secular philosophy's own admission that inductive reasoning is fatally flawed? And Western rationalism's inability to move beyond the Hydratic Paradox in regards to certainty? And the Problem of Infinite Regress?"

A smile rises from her mouth to her eyes, "Cassie, right? Those are quite the questions for the first week of class. I am not sure I have time to answer them, or that I even could with a whole semester to prepare."

My eyes darken and she catches my displeasure at the easy dismissal, "I … You're right that there are problems in all of these systems of 'knowing.' My parents, they grew up in a small village in Vietnam, with a spiritual tradition stemming back to 'long ago,' well before the Europeans spread Catholicism to our country. They talked about their village's healer…"

Ms. Tran falters here, visibly searching for the right words, "Well, most of the time the healers were what you hear about in anthropology texts: easily dismissed and rarely better than placebo. But my father always told a story of when he was a boy, how the hermit came from the jungle and brought his father back from the dead." She continues, "A lot of people have experiences like this, perhaps not so extreme, but something that doesn't fit within the walls of expectation we all build around ourselves. I think this is where crisis comes from, having to confront your accepted paradigms with new data. Maybe we should have those confrontations more often."

I smile at her, nodding. "Thank you." "My mother had a lot of experiences like that," I finish in my head.

"Cassie! I just noticed - you have such a beautiful expression of heterochromia!"

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