ambassadors

“One voice speaking truth is a greater force that fleets and armies, given time; plenty of time; but time is the thing that the Ekumen has plenty of…”

but who is speaking this truth? tell us, Ursula. Chapter 3: The Mad King from The Left Hand of Darkness suggests that we identify its narrator, Genly Ai, with this “one voice speaking truth”. Ai’s only buddy in the royal court, Lord Estraven, is accused of treason. accused of playing information like a music string, oscillating between truth and lies. time will tell. the truth will come out. why this relationship between truth and time? as if there is one strong current of truth that binds the Universe together, and we lose our way, we manipulate, go astray with lies, but eventually! we’ll make it back to the steady flow of truth. this makes me envision the flow of Universal truth like a rope, made up of many, many strands wrapped around one another. one truth, but multiple. cannot be one solid rope without the multiple. and sometimes it frays, just a little. when you don’t address that fraying end, it keeps going and going, breaking the strands, splitting and fragmenting the rope fiber. lies begin to unravel the truth. where am I going with this? i suppose i’m pleased with my metaphor, honoring the strength and connection that truth/rope lends us while acknowledging that it must twist around itself as it keeps going.

ambassadors are charged with arriving at a truth that two nations can agree on. our conflict is about this. we can both benefit from that. Genly Ai has come from another world, that of the Ekumen. he’s negotiating with King Argaven in the Red Hall of the King’s House. it strikes me that an ambassador is a useful construct for speculative fiction. like the reader, the ambassador is sent to a new land, baffled by the inhabitants, observing and interpreting the habits of its beings. Reminds me of China MiĆ©ville’s novel Embassytown. what’s weird for the narrator is weird for we, the readers. how do we manage conflict, not between nations, but between two people, two entities? what happens when something happens that prompts us to be in the role of ambassador? i’m noticing training sessions for active bystandership in my social media feeds, in response to increased violence against Asian -Americans. so we’re not blaming the victims. good. we’re asking bystanders to take an active role in managing the conflict, which seems like a step in the right direction. yes. and, when are we going to put the burden of right action, of truth, on the perpetrator? when will we insist that the aggressor must be the one to do the work? we learn that Estraven is exiled, has three days to get out of Karhide or be killed with impunity. Lord Argaven is not interested in rehabilitating Estraven, finding a way to use his skills for the benefit of the land. that would take too much time. revenge is quick. if Estraven, the purported aggressor here, “does the work” and overcomes this setback, Karhide will not benefit (i’ve read a little ahead, i know we get to follow Estraven’s immediate fate in another chapter); but is it worth the wait? do we wait for the aggressor to work through the issues, align to the truth? i think that kind of waiting is often, sadly, beyond the scale of human time. i wonder what Meredith Noelle will say. (update: Meredith reflects in her Chapter 3 post on voices, motivation, information. on point.)

so many other things in one chapter!

  • the “mad king” himself.
  • concept of shifgrethor
  • the ansible and simultaneous communication
  • silver chain around Estraven’s neck reminding me of the biblical 30 pieces of silver, another story of treason
  • We vary, but we’re all sons of the same Hearth… (does LeGuin really believe this? does Ai? do we?)