By recording these memories I expect to be plagued and pestered to death. Betrayal is an ugly thing; and when the victim has a diabolical bent, foolhardy. That is what master had. Can one betray the dead? I am an observer of life not a fusser over speculative rights and wrongs. I am scared for what master, may he repose in peace, could wreak on a pampered retainer who invites the world to sniff and snigger over the intimacies of a wily wizard. When I tell you that I speak of Balaam you may allow that my fear of the dead is not entirely wild. It is my belief that a select few take their powers, for good or evil, to the grave. A hired hit man who all his life reacts badly to insult would surely not act much better dead. There are bound to be consequences. I could let my scared mind tell me that revenge is on the doorstep, or I could ignore it and tell all. Feted celebrity-hood beckons like a pot of gold. And I am not entirely reckless, for a live dog must get the better of a dead lion. The prospect of honor and profit can do wonders for courage. Master was ill will in human form, but god knows, the man was given to empty posturing. I must not be panicked into giving the departed more powers than they cravenly abused in this world.
Immortality, a sought-after but rare fate in human annuls, seldom leaves the immortal feeling blessed. By the time fame or infamy comes to men they are most of them dead. A select number are alive when ranked with the gods, but whether that is a good or a bad thing, knowing that your character or deeds will be poured over time without end, depends on whether they are pride-worthy. Everyone wants to be remembered for heroic deeds; monumental failures and embarrassments are best forgotten. I doubt I could live with the knowledge that a momentous disaster I’d rather forget would amuse or edify one generation after the next at my expense. Trouble is, men cannot pick and choose their destiny. The gods deal that card. Whether for heroic deeds or crass, a man has immortality thrust upon him, wanting it or not, living or dead, he’ll be remembered just the way deities want him to be. Take the Ivri Moses and the spiteful card his god dealt him when all Moses asked was to be allowed to cross a river and expire in the Promised Land. Why - how was that asking too much? If Yahweh his god supposedly loved him and spoke with Moses as to no human before or after, it seems scandalous that he can turn on him ferociously with, “Speak to me no more about the matter!” Now that is something Balaam, no Ivri, I hasten to add, had in common with Moses. But let me treat time in the proper order. For now only this: Yahweh had other plans for Balaam as he had for Moses. Immortal master would be, but for reasons he would not have foretold, and he must have left this world with the hurt rioting and rotting in his head. Or was it? In the end a triumph of sorts came his way. But enough of death, to dwell on which may be helpful but not healthy. A man becomes morbid. And morbidity leaves him ill-prepared for meeting his maker by growing to his full potential as he was put on this earth to do. Besides, Balaam bequeathed scandals enough to keep tongues busy and a hall of scribes scratching away without troubling the dead.
When I tell you that Balaam was a Moabite you will understand things better. He was born into a society of many beliefs but few prohibitions. Prohibit is not even a word in the
Moments that come but rarely in history need not come with sublime settings. Moses received the Ten Commandments atop a small bare mountain. Seers foretell that a new god will be born in a barn on smelly straw. Long before both, the
From their mountainside refuge charred remnants of an opulent society winked by night and smoldered by day. The ‘wicked five’ we call the vandalized towns:
The survivors were
The four sons-in-law laughed when