"He frequents those places, once occupied by man, where the halls are now filled with much-needed silence, and roots and branches can again penetrate and flourish. He carries the weight of your world on his shoulders, as it were. And, unlike me, he is in no position to find any refuge from the juggernaut that is now upon us."
Belvedere had directed me to a series of abandoned greenhouses just up the path. On the way there, I paused several times, wondering why I should continue, now that I know that the one whom I originally set out to find won't be waiting for me at my destination.
Belvedere had treated my loss as a foregone conclusion. If someone of his abilities could not offer to bring her back, what hope would I have to change things? What difference does he expect my journey will make? Am I simply a pawn? If I am certain to fail, as they had failed, why should I risk angering the one who had dealt them their punishment?
I set aside my efforts to guess his motivations. They really didn't matter. I had my own reason to keep moving--I wanted a confrontation. Even if I wasn't going to get another chance to face her, I might at least find someone else who shared responsibility for what had been taken from me.
It wasn't long before I found my next clue. Like the bone fragment before it, the feather had been placed to catch my eye.
As I lifted it before me, the sunlight that so effortlessly passed through the glass panels above revealed the feather's outline in a glowing silhouette. Here was a vestige of life, held up to meet an ancient source in the stillest of rooms. All at once, I realized I was standing in a place where time meets eternity.
He appeared in the corner of the room. At first glance, he seemed to be a man taking the appearance of a bird. Yet, as he began to move and speak, it became clear that it was far more likely that the opposite was true.
Here was Belvedere's brother, the Man.Beast.Fish he said might help me. He wasted no time asking me about myself. Instead, he spoke, "Come closer, and take a look at what I am holding."
In his hand was a barren seed pod. "Examine the surface of this near-perfect sphere. It is as if it is covered with the open mouths of countless baby birds. As each bird has undeveloped eyes and a beak that faces only out and away, it is almost wholly unaware of the others around it as it helplessly calls out for its next meal."
"If only they could look inward to understand how they are interconnected; that they share a common stem to the natural world that supports them. Has my younger brother told you anything about me? What is he calling himself now... 'Belvedere?' If you had spent more time with him, you would have found he has an absurd sense of humor. Perhaps that's a luxury of now being so far removed from it all."
"My situation bears a distinction. As a result of a suspect series of events, I find myself in a position to hold heaven and earth apart, though probably not in the way that you would think. It is no innocuous detail in your prevailing religions that God is found apart from nature, and nature has been condemned by God."
"It's a troubling thing when you first discover that you live amidst limited resources and face the suffering that is inherent in the cycle of life and death. Indeed, each of our actions inevitably affects someone or something else. It becomes easier to sleep with your decisions when you find company in a social identity that gives explanation to your resource allocation and justifies even reprehensible actions to better it."
"Competition takes on a moral character. For any 'chosen' people, the afterlife allows for the cessation of this terrible struggle for resources. Until that time, they live as if they are in exile and need a dogmatic hand to lead them back to the eternal. Yet, in nature, the eternal is already all around us; a garden not lost to us."
"As Joseph Campbell so clearly articulated, the natural world is too often regarded as an 'it' to be mastered and controlled, rather than a 'thou' with which one can put him or herself in accord.* What's more, he taught that a mythology should foster unity, compassion, and a connection to the transcendent, rather than have its narratives perverted into a rigid basis for reward amidst competition for resources."
"My eldest brother ran with these ideas and set himself to developing a gift that has the potential to change everything. Yet, his investment in humanity's future only earned him chains. Our own Zeus had him imprisoned on a six-sided island and enlisted his eagle to steadily tear away at the source of my brother's foresight. If you allow me to take you there, you may discover the source of your own suffering."