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Truthful Speaking: Circles, Illumination and Transparent Life

In the John Crowley novel, "Engine Summer", something deep and enlightening is explained regarding the circumstances of life. Painted Red, a gossip, is explaining to the protagonist, Rush that Speaks, about his destiny to become a saint.

"A life is circumstances. Circumstances are encircling, they're circles. The circle of a saint's life , all its circumstances, is contained in the story of his life as he tells it; and the story of his life is contained in our memory of it. The story of his life is a circumstance in ours. So the circle of his life is contained in the circle of our lives, like circles of ripples rising in water. — John Crowley, in Engine Summer; page 412, Otherwise

Life refers to "the state of being which begins with generation, birth, or germination, and ends with death; also, the time during which this state continues."

Circumstances refers to your overall circumstances or condition in life (including everything that happens to you)."

In the etymology of "circumstance", it is defined as "conditions surrounding and accompanying an event," from Old French circonstance "circumstance, situation," also literally, "outskirts" (13c., Modern French circonstance), from Latin circumstantia "surrounding condition," neuter plural of circumstans (genitive circumstantis), prp. of circumstare "stand around, surround, encompass, occupy, take possession of" from circum "around" (see circum-) + stare "to stand" from PIE root *sta- "to stand" (see stet). The Latin word is a loan-translation of Greek peristasis.

Circumstances also refers to possibilities.

Circumstances thus refers to events in a person's life which is told "in the story of his life as he tells it."

Using the Filing System and its slides as a simile, Painted Red helps Rush to explain his understanding of the stories of the saints within context of the person listening to it.

"...They (the saints) made their lives transparent ... and their lives can be placed before our own, in our remembering their stories, and reveal things to us about ourselves...

They're saints, not because of what they did, especially, but because in the telling of it, what they did became transparent, and your own life could be seen, through it, illuminated." — ibid.

Through the stories of saints, a person is able to see clearly the circumstances of her own life. By telling the story of a saint, he could see his own life clearly. In this way is his life illuminated.

Painted Red then explain thats truthful speaking is the foundation of a transparent life that frees a person from death to live a life transparent in their circumstances.

"Without truthful speaking, there could be no transparent life. And in transparent life, the saints hoped that one day we might be free from death; not immortal, as the angel tried to become, but free from death, our lives transparent even as we live them: not through a means, you see, like the Filing System or even truthful speaking, but transparent in their circumstances: so that instead of telling a story that makes life transparent, we will ourselves be transparent, and not hear or remember a saint's life, but live it: live many lives in the moment between birth and dying." — ibid.

Truthful speaking helps the speaker to see life clearly. In this way, she is free from death, not in the sense of seeking immortality like angels. but by truthful speaking. For it makes for a life that is "transparent in their circumstances."

In this way, by being seen clearly as she is, not merely hearing a story of a saint's life, she is actually living "many lives (of the saints) in the moment between birth and dying."

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