The Gorean Compass is a class given every Thursday by Master Gorm Runo. Classes are held at the Gorean Campus and are given at noon and 6pm SLT. All are encouraged to come and join in the amazing discussions. This class was held on September 13, 2018
Tal and greetings
Today I want to talk about the second of my top three most influential passages from the early novels. I have suggested that each person might have their own list, and I had a hard time cutting my list to only three.
The last session was based on the incident in Raiders of Gor that took place in the paga tavern in Port Kar and led to the death of Surbus and the rescue of the slave girl from being fed to urts in the canal.
The second passage is from Marauders of Gor, the ninth book in the series.
In this passage, the Kur had launched a successful surprise attack on the men of Torvaldsland, and scattered the survivors.. Ivar Forkbeard and Tarl are fleeing and being chased by two Kur. Ivar leads Tarl up the slopes of the Torvaldsburg, a high rocky mountain.
Ivar has a plan, although he does not share it at first with Tarl. He tells Tarl he had been up the mountain as a child, and had cut handholds in the mountain to help the climb, and the smaller size of the handholds can not be used by the pursuing Kur because of their larger size. This gives them a short head start over the Kur who must find a different route to continue the chase.
Tarl is a little surprised that Ivar seems in fairly good spirits and not overly worried about the Kur, but soon discovers the reason. Ivar is leading Tarl to what he believes to be the tomb of the great warrior, Torvald. Legend tells that when the land is in the most danger, Torvald will waken and save them.
The men find the tomb and enter it only to find it is empty. Tarl and Ivar both notice that it does not look so much like a tomb as a sleeping chamber, however, it is empty. Ivar is devastated by this. He had been sure of the legend, but since the chamber was empty, he must have felt that his land was doomed and there was now no hope.
Tarl notices, lying among some weapons in the chamber, an “Arrow of War.” and he begins to grasp the truth of the situation, and the intent of the chamber. The following is from page 235 of Marauders of Gor.
“Send the war arrow,” I said.
The Forkbeard looked down on the arrow.
“I think,” I said, “I begin to understand the meaning of a man who lived more than a thousand winters ago. This man, call him Torvald, built within a mountain a chamber for sleep, in which he would not sleep, but to which men would come to waken him. Here they would not find Torvald, but themselves, themselves, Ivar, alone, and an arrow of war.”
“I do not understand, ” said Ivar.
“I think,” I said, “that Torvald was a great and a wise man.”
Ivar looked at me.
“In building this chamber,” I said, “it was not the intention of Torvald that it should be he who was awakened within it, but rather those who came to seek him.”
“The chamber is empty,” said Ivar.
“No, ” I said, “we are within it.”
I put my hand on his shoulder.
“It is not Torvald who must awaken in this chamber. Rather it is we. Here, hoping for others to do our work, we find only ourselves, and an arrow of war.
Is this not Torvald’s way of telling us, from a thousand years ago, that it is we on who we must depend, and not on any other. If the land is to be saved, it is by us, and others like us, that it must be saved.
There are no spells, no gods, no heroes, to save us.
In this chamber, it is not Torvald that must awaken. It is you and I.
I regarded the Forkbeard evenly.
“Lift, ” said I, “the arrow of war.
page 235 Marauders of Gor.
Right after this, Ivar lifts the war arrow, and selects a couple of spears and tells Tarl that they have, “two Kur to kill.” And from there on , the Kur ass kicking begins and ends with Tarl sailing home and declaring that he gets it now and he “is Gorean.”
Now, of course, you can see this as a simple dramatic plot device, but I am going to see it as a masterpiece of symbolism.
The Kur represent the animal side of the human’s dual nature. They represent all those elements that make up the non-rational side, and although we learn later that these animal instincts and genetic hardwiring are not necessarily our enemy, they do include much that is dangerous.
The flight up the mountain is symbolic of our surrender to these dangerous instincts. One good example of this is addictive behaviors. We seem to have a lot of potential addictions that can easily destroy our life. Sexual addictions, substance abuse, and even my own demon, gambling addiction,are just a few examples.
Ivar is seeking help by leading Tarl to the tomb, but he is looking for someone else or something else to save him. Tarl’s message, and the message of the war arrow is that, ultimately, it is going to be on us.
It is a call to personal responsibility that is repeated over and over again in these early novels.
There is a slang expression that has gained popularity recently. People are said to “be woke.” You might think this expression reflects Tarl’s thinking when he tells Ivar that it is they that must “awaken.” However, the slang expression has come to mean just the opposite.
I remember a time long ago, at about the time, Marauders of Gor was being written, when the idea of intersectionality was first being developed. We would hear stories of horrible crimes being committed, and amidst the outrage and anger at a heinous crime, were the first suggestions that the criminal was actually the victim. His race, his economic status, the attitudes and institutional prejudices of the society were the true culprits, and the criminal only a victim.
In the years that followed, this trend became a very powerful force in our society. The theory of intersectionality claimed that our behaviors were a result of our level of victimization. Our skin color, our ethnic makeup, our sexual orientation, or economic status, and even our gender was the true reason for our circumstances and the successes and failures of our lifes, and our choices and actions had very little to do with it.
To be woke meant that you accepted this and were able to excuse bad behavior and terrible choices by individuals by blaming it on something else or someone else.
And it was a logical step to assume that if nothing was really your fault, you would have to look beyond yourself for solutions and help. Government was often the answer. It was like Government was some kind of mythical thing that could solve our problems and take care of all or our concerns. It was like a big mommy that would make it all better.
No, Tarl’s call to “wake up.” was not the same as the current slang term, ‘woke.” It was actually just the opposite. The nanny state government, the victimization theory of intersectionality, and the idea that our circumstances could always be blamed on external factors rather than our own actions, were the very myths and gods and heroes that Tarl said would not save us.
It is very likely that this passage is one of the most crucial passages to the understanding of the history of Second Life Gor, and the current problems our online community is facing.
Second Life Gor, in a symbolic sense, is one big “Torvald’s tomb” where people have been coming for years, trying to wake up Torvald and have their problems solved and to insure their happiness. They are, often, so used to shifting responsibility to others that they log it and wait for someone else to do something, and become discouraged when nothing good happens.
If all the hours of complaining; all the long written out posts condemning the faults and failures of others, and all the finger pointing and blame placing, could have been channeled into positive actions, Second Life Gor might have become a really special place.
I am not claiming any special exemption for myself here. I am as guilty as everyone else of falling into the trap of passing the buck, and of even trying to shake Torvald awake to come save me and make things better again.
But, when I catch myself climbing up that rocky mountain slope to seek an external solution to my own problems, I pick up my copy of Marauders and read Tarl’s words again.
I realize the truth of them. If the land (Second Life) is to be saved, it is us, and others like us that will save it. Here looking for others to do our work, we find only ourselves, and an arrow of war.
And I lift the arrow, and go back to the fight.
And just like in the book, I want to see it passed around from hand to hand. I want to see everyone touch it, and resolve to join in the effort to defeat the Kur, to control the irrational animal instincts that throw us into chaos and destroy our efforts to rise up to something higher and better.
It seems to me that everything else we have talked about in this seminar revolves around this idea. We can not become superior people, and we can not be beacons lit on the shore of Thassa, and we can not even really “pursue happiness”, until we really wake up and realize it is on us, and no others.
Lift the arrow of war.