“Men don’t need a goddess when the table’s piled high and the bed is warm. They need her when the well runs dry. When the fire’s all but burned out.”
– Nira, The Last Mortal Bond
Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne, by Brian Staveley
Can you tell what I’ve been reading lately? 😉
This quote comes from a very old woman standing by the side of her chosen leader at a most desperate hour. The nation they’ve been trying to run has all but shattered, fragmented from within and overrun by its enemies in every corner of the land. The city they defend is next in line to be buried under a flood of the most savage of their enemies, an endless horde of hateful, sadistic murderers. Their people are succumbing to fear, despair, and grief. Hard choices have already been made to scorch much of the city that lies outside the walls, and those citizens who refused to cooperate, who chose to attack the work crews in their labor, were executed. They’re stuffed into every shelter they can fit into, having lost homes and loved ones already, on the very verge of being slaughtered. They have no faith in their leaders, not as though there were any reason to, certain only that this one leader, like all the others, will use and abandon them to no benefit but her own.
That’s a rather grim picture, isn’t it?
Their leader, Adare, isn’t just their political ruler, she who commands the armies. She’s a religious leader as well, marked and chosen by a goddess. She’s called a prophet, but she has very little faith of her own. Her goddess does not simply speak to her, and she has not fought a mortal’s battle for them, not ever. She only gave Adare one single command, “Win,” and no direction on how to go about it. With their prophet losing what little faith she had, the people can’t but follow.
That’s when Nira says this, and it rings true. It’s hard to imagine circumstances any more desperate or demanding than this. But she is right. People need hope to have faith, and they need both more than ever when things are at their worst. That is the only thing that can carry people through the endless dark, to find that it is not so endless after all.
Still… I would amend her statement just slightly.
I believe that we always need our god, our faith, our hope, every single moment of our lives. I have seen many people lose their happiness simply because they had the hope and faith and such before, but then let it slip away in complacency because everything was good now. They thought they didn’t need the source of their strength anymore, and so they lost that strength, and lost their way, and lost everything good that they once had.
We always need the things we need – food, water, shelter, family, love, hope, faith, God, etc. – but the tragedy is that we sometimes forget we need it until a crisis strikes and we find ourselves suffering from a lack of it.
So, I would say:
“Men don’t always know they need a goddess (or god) when the table’s full and the bed is warm. They do know they need her (or him) when the well runs dry. When the fire’s all but burned out.”
We always need light to see, but most especially when the world is at its darkest.
We always need hope to endure, but most especially when everything is at its worst.
That is when we are starving for it, and might remember to keep it close from now on.