aleph symbol with title UNSONG

Chapter 56: Agony In The Garden

Said the shepherd boy to the mighty king,
Do you know what I know?
In your palace warm, mighty king,
Do you know what I know?
A child, a child shivers in the cold
Let us bring him silver and gold
— Noël Regney, Do You Hear What I Hear?

August 1, 1999
Colorado Springs

Given the need to keep up spirits, Robin decided the people needed whatever holidays they could get. August 1, the anniversary of Colorado’s statehood, was as good an opportunity as anything else. So she stood on a rock spire in the Garden of the Gods as crowds – disproportionately female since a million men were marching in Siberia – listened for the words of their Queen Regent.

The difference between a speech and a sermon had grown kind of thin ever since the state had become the seat of the Messiah in his war against Hell, so she began with a Bible verse. Psalm 84:

How lovely is your dwelling place,
Lord Almighty!
My soul yearns, even faints,
for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and my flesh cry out
for the living God.
Even the bird has found a home,
and a nest for herself.

“This place has always been so beautiful. That’s what I’ve always wanted. Everywhere to be as beautiful as here. Someday, I want everywhere in Colorado to be a garden and everywhere to be holy. The song spoke of ‘purple mountain majesties above the fruited plain’ and ‘alabaster cities undimmed by human tears’. I want that. I want to make the deserts bloom, and the forests rich and wild. I want new heights of art and science. I want new symphonies and new folk songs. I want new infrastructure, new parks, new buildings and monuments that are the envy of the world. I want everybody to be able to live the life they want, whether in the cities or in the wilderness. I want to cure disease, end poverty, create a new and better kind of civilization. You all want the same. And it’s not just that the Comet King can do it, though he can. It’s that all of us can do it. We’re the right people. At the right time.

“But we haven’t been doing any of this. And we’re not going to for a long time. Because it’s not the most important thing.”

She continued from the Psalm:

Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.
As they pass through the Valley of Weeping,
they make it a place of springs

“William Blake said that what we do in time echoes in Eternity, but he was being metaphorical. I’m not. What we do here now echoes in Eternity. The past twenty years, instead of building new roads and cities and better lives for our children, we’ve been building a war machine. A really, really good war machine. Not because we’re bad people who don’t love peace. Because some wars are important. Every other war has been fought over land or money or religion or something earthly. Something that disappears. This war we’re fighting now echoes in Eternity. If we win, we end eternal suffering. We save your mothers and fathers, your grandparents, all your ancestors back to Adam, from eternal suffering. And not just them. In a hundred years, we’re saving our friends, our families, our children, and maybe ourselves. There are so many things we want, so many things we need to do, but as soon as we realized the enormity of the evil below our feet, we realized there wasn’t anything else we could do. Not really. Against such horrors, everything else must be put to the side as we join a fight which we could not avoid and stay fully human.

“This is an apology and a call to arms. It’s an apology for all the beautiful and wonderful things we could have been doing the past twenty years, that we could be doing now, that will go undone because we are on a crusade. And it’s a call to arms to keep working, to keep Colorado running while our friends and family are away, because we’re in the crusade too, crusading on the home front, and nothing we could possibly do is more important than this.

“The Comet King has given us so much. But not as much as he’s asked us to sacrifice. We’re sacrificing everything right now, our dreams, our hopes of a better life – because we trust him. And because we trust ourselves to know what’s right. If we succeed, then literally through all Eternity people will remember our names. Ten million years from now, when the world is so different that no other memories remain, people will still know that there was once eternal suffering, but now their suffering is ended. Because of us.

Hear my prayer, Lord God Almighty;
listen to me, God of Jacob.
Look on our shield, O God;
look with favor on your Anointed One
.”

She climbed down the pillar to rapturous applause, posed for the necessary photo ops, made her way through the crowd towards where Father Ellis and Nathanda were waiting for her.

Jalaketu was with them. He was hidden under a dark cloak, but she recognized him immediately.

“A word alone?” he asked, when he saw her.

Robin almost shouted with delight, then jumped in to hug him. “I thought you weren’t going to come back until the crusade was over!” she said. “I thought it cost you too much energy to keep teleporting back and forth!” She worried her smile was so broad she looked like an idiot, but she didn’t care. “This is such a surprise! We need – ”

The look on his face shut her up. This was not a personal visit, and whatever the news was, it wasn’t good.

She took his hand, and the two of them turned to lightning and then were atop a different spire, on the other side of the Garden, far from everyone else.

“Bad news?” she asked. “We heard…we heard you destroyed Yakutsk. We got the pictures and everything. What’s wrong?”

Jala nodded. “The other part,” he said. “Seems to be…ah…seems to be…”

Robin waited.

“I think it might be impossible to use the Explicit Name of God to destroy Hell,” he said all at once.

“What?” asked Robin.

“I tried,” said the Comet King. “Many times. Under Lake Baikal. Uriel had to stop me. Said if I did it any more I’d probably destroy the world. There were more gates than we thought. Some of them are…seem impregnable.”

“So how are you going to destroy Hell, then?” asked Robin.

The Comet King just looked at her hopelessly, almost like he was too terrified to speak. Then he just shook his head ‘no’.

A moment of silence.

“I…I thought you should be the first to know,” he said.

“No,” said Robin, “that’s silly. You need to figure out a better way. Ask Uriel.”

“I asked,” said the Comet King. “He said there was none.”

“Ask Sohu. She’s been studying so hard.”

“I asked,” said the Comet King. “She didn’t know either.”

“Ask the Lady. Or the Chief Rabbi of Israel. Ask the Satmar Rebbe, or the Belzer Rebbe. Or ask the Pope, maybe he’ll know.”

“I asked.”

“Ask the Dividend Monks. Go to San Francisco and ask the collective consciousness there.”

“I asked,” said the Comet King, and for the first time through her own confusion Robin heard the note of despair in his voice.

“Ask the other chief rabbi! Aren’t there always two? Ask the…”

The Comet King put his arms around Robin and whispered “I’m sorry”.

“No. Figure something out. Can’t you just…be really evil? Then die? That has to work. It’s not even Thamiel’s law. It’s God’s.”

“I asked Uriel,” said the Comet King. “He said it wouldn’t work. Doing evil for a greater good, because I want to save the world. It wouldn’t count.”

“So – figure out some way to change your personality to be genuinely evil, then do evil, then die, then use the Name.”

“You think I haven’t looked into that? Thamiel can’t be fooled that easily. God definitely can’t be fooled that easy. I promise you, Robin. I’ve thought about this. It doesn’t work.”

Robin jerked back. “No,” she said. “This isn’t how it ends. Get yourself together. You can do this. You can do anything. That’s the point! Figure it out!”

“They’ll be missing me in Siberia by now,” said the Comet King. “There’s still more work left to do. I need to mop up resistance, liberate the rest of Russia, liberate Canada. I want to be done before winter. I should go.”

“You can’t go! What do I do here? What do I tell people?”

“Nothing,” said the Comet King. “Don’t tell them anything. As far as they’re concerned we won the victory. Our army beat their army. We destroyed Yakutsk. That looks like winning. Your speech aside, so few of them think about the great work. Proclaim victory and arrange a parade. When I get back in the winter, we’ll work on what we can work on. Thamiel thinks he can make people evil? I can make them good. We can make them good. Make sure that however many souls are lost, we don’t lose a single one more. It would be a victory upon a victory. Nobody has to know about what happened at Baikal.”

I’ll know!” said Robin.

“I know,” said the Comet King.

“You can’t do this! I won’t let you! You hear me, Jala? I will not let you do this!”

“I’ll see you when the war is over,” said the Comet King, and a bolt of reverse lightning unstruck the ground, leapt into the sky, and deposited Robin back in the peopled section of the park and Jalaketu to wherever Jalaketu was going.

“Bad news?” asked Father Ellis, though it was a stupid question, with her face streaked with tears.

“What did he tell you?” she asked. “Did he say what – ”

“He found me as you started talking,” said Ellis. “Said come here from Siberia to talk to you, then didn’t tell me anything else.”

She said nothing.

“Bad news?” Ellis asked again.

“If he wanted you to know,” she snapped, “he would have told you.” Then. “We need to get home. I need to think.”

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94 Responses to Chapter 56: Agony In The Garden

  1. Quite Likely says:

    I hadn’t been taking the “Comet King = Other King” theory very seriously up until now, but I guess I’m going to have to start.

    • gradus says:

      She killed herself. He said here he can’t just do evil for a good reason. he has to do evil for a bad reason.

      So she killed herself, and in her letter to him she told him she did so because she hated him, and hated God, and couldn’t forgive either of them for the evil in the world. She was disgusted by his failure, his weakness, and couldn’t love him any more.

      She broke him on purpose, to make him TRULY broken and evil, so he could go to hell.

      It is written that the messiah must be both the most good and most evil to prevail. here he is.

  2. ulyssessword says:

    Formatting note:

    When someone keeps speaking for multiple paragraphs, each paragraph gets a new opening quotation mark at its start, and only the last one gets a closing quotation mark.

    • Musky says:

      Also “she begun” -> “she began”

    • David Marjanović says:

      That’s one of the sillier things often found in English writing. Elsewhere, there’s one opening and one closing quotation mark for one quote, no matter how many paragraphs it has.

      • TK17Studios says:

        But then you lose the ability to mark transitions between one person’s speech and another with a single ” and instead have to mark with “So and so answered blah” *every* *single* *time.*

        The norm is not, by any means, the *only* way to solve the problem, but it is a particularly elegant solution.

    • Sinclair says:

      Scott deliberately avoids this rule because he thinks it looks ugly

  3. The coment king says:

    Shirt ordering form is now online!
    This should be open until the end of the month (or one week after the next authors’ note, whichever is later). Orders expected to ship within a week of form closing.

    • Matt says:

      Do you take Bitcoin?

    • EveZ says:

      How close to size do the shirts run?

    • Daniel Speyer says:

      What is the payment mechanism?

      Are there size 2XLs available?

      • The coment king says:

        payment goes through paypal.
        Size goes from yxs to 4xl (use the “other” option in the form if necessary).

    • nipi says:

      Nah! Im still looking for a t-shirt like the one Ana wore in Interlude ס: Binary. (Or one close enough to it.) The one that said: “I WENT TO THEODICY CON 2014 AND ALL I GOT WAS THIS CRAPPY TSHIRT, AND I DON’T UNDERSTAND WHY A JUST GOD WOULD ALLOW THIS TO HAPPEN”.

      • The coment king says:

        I’m trying to decide if we should add one. So far we have two or three confirmed requests, and there’s a price cliff after six shirts (the total price for five is only 20$ less than the total price for ten shirts). If anyone more’s interested please answer this one, and I’ll do it if I get a couple more confirmed requests. (I’m also inclined to make this one white text on green, for colour variety, so comment opinions on that).

        • Stib says:

          I’d be interested 😛

          • The coment king says:

            Looks like we have enough interest overall. Since this one started out late, I’ll leave the form for it open a week or two after the others and ship it out later. I’ll try to get a design done by this weekend, but if anyone who’s good at design feels like doing it better, please go ahead.

      • Marvy says:

        You would choose that over “Who watches the watchmaker”? Clearly our taste in T-shirts differs.

  4. Arancaytar says:

    Well, this lends a lot more weight to the idea that TCK = TOK.

    Though I think it’s more likely to be Acher, still.

    • Sillence says:

      It’s possible TOK was Acher… until TCK beat him in the clouds and took over his body.

      • boris says:

        And now Acher is on trying to find Metatron again?

        • Sillence says:

          Unclear. If TCK is alive in any form, he probably doesn’t need to seek out Metatron, who very explicitly said he would return the name when TCK is pure again. (Cue an archangel-ex-machina moment?)

          If TCK took the place of TOK, who is Nemo, then? It would make sense if Nemo wasn’t TCK, since only Father Ellis was able to figure out that his own death was an omen. You would think that TCK would also read the prophecy and try to warn his own children.

        • Sonata Green says:

          Or Acheron is trying to find Metatron?

    • Psy-Kosh says:

      Alternate theory: TCK != TOK, but they’re both trying to achieve the same thing.

      Acher’s true goal being to become sufficiently “officially evil” to enter hell and fight it. Perhaps TCK + TOK? ie, they’re working together on common goal?

      • The coment king says:

        That matches canon Elisha pretty well (he sinned specifically against God as hard as possible, rather than against people). It doesn’t match TOK, who crucified people, as well.
        This doesn’t mean they’re different people – Scott could have a nonstandard interpretation of Elisha – but it is worrying.

        • Gecco says:

          I’ve had a theory since Book II: TOK is kind of a good guy. He crucifies people to save them from damnation. I know that doesn’t perfectly fit the descriptions, but still.

  5. Daniel Armak says:

    Theory: Robin wants to motivate TCK to try harder to destroy Hell, so she kills herself, damning her soul to Hell.

    • Deiseach says:

      Sounds like a good theory and it’s not going to work.

      Stepping on the dreams of utopians feels like pulling the wings off butterflies, damn it.

      But honestly, in her speech?

      (1) I don’t think Blake was talking metaphorically. He pretty much meant “I saw an angel” when he said “I saw an angel”, not “This is a poetic metaphor for inspiration” or the like. Bad choice to use for “the old-timers only used these figures of speech as rhetoric but we’re really gonna do it!”

      (2) Mentioning religion amongst the purely earthly things wars have been fought over. Considering that right now your allies are an angel and your husband is the son of a comet which we’re all assuming is another angel and he’s marching on actual Hell and the actual Devil to overthrow and destroy it, you don’t maybe kinda want to re-think your position on “religious disputes are all earthly disputes over temporal power and never really mattered beyond that and certainly had no correspondence with a higher reality or anything preternatural”?

      (3) I’m still not getting any idea what Robin – or anyone – thinks will happen to human souls of the already deceased now and those who will die in the future if Hell is gone. Everybody goes to Heaven? Even the really genuinely terrible everyone agrees this guy should be in Hell? Either they’re some form of Annihilationist (the nice good people will continue to exist and go to Heaven, the bad nasty people’s souls will be – poof! – destroyed!) or the souls of the dead will hang around their old dwelling places and families.

      Which most cultures have thought is dreadful, because the dead who have not moved on are malign and malicious even if not so in life, and this is why they have ceremonies to keep the departed and returning dead away from the living – the Roman festival of Lemuria, the Chinese Hungry Ghosts, even with the Mexican Day of the Dead and the Irish traditions at Hallowe’en for the returning dead, the idea is that they go back once the festival is over, not continue to remain.

      So I don’t know if Robin has thought this out or if she and The Comet King have, what do they expect to happen? If the idea was “once we’ve destroyed Hell, perforce the souls have to go to Heaven since there will be no place else for them”, eh, it’s not gonna happen now, is it? You can’t force eternal things to bend to your will as easily as that.

      (4) The Comet King has covered the whole “no, can’t be evil and die and harrow Hell” and I know Robin isn’t thinking clearly in her shock, but if he really becomes really evil, why would he care about saving the dead and destroying Hell? He might want to overthrow Thamiel and take over himself in that case. Bad idea. That is not how it works.

      (5) A purely physicalist theory of how Hell works plainly has its drawbacks. Maybe they should have learned from the previous generations where the ignorant or laypeople had the naive idea that Hell was located in the Earth’s centre and this became a cause of mockery, and ‘we know better now’. Attacking Siberia will certainly cut off the physical entrance to Hell, but it won’t do anything much for the metaphysical nature of the problem. Dualism has let them down here, where spirit is spirit and body is body, and if something is in the body that’s how you deal with it and spirit has no tie or effect. The Comet King was led astray by the physical manifestations of Thamiel and Hell, and forgot the spiritual elements he needed to defeat. See St Paul and Ephesians 6:

      For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

      • David Marjanović says:

        Everybody goes to Heaven? Even the really genuinely terrible everyone agrees this guy should be in Hell? Either they’re some form of Annihilationist (the nice good people will continue to exist and go to Heaven, the bad nasty people’s souls will be – poof! – destroyed!) or the souls of the dead will hang around their old dwelling places and families.

        There’s always the Catholic solution of Purgatory: like Hell, but not eternal – finite punishments for finite sins.

      • Sunday says:

        Since TCK and Robin are utilitarians, who says they’d object to springing Pol Pot from hell, especially as a side effect of freeing everyone else? You’re still sparing billions of people from eternal suffering. Doesn’t seem like a hard calculation to make.

        Besides, if we can trust the Broadcast, really terrible people aren’t suffering that much anyways.

      • Simurgh says:

        It’s eternal torment. At some point far before eternity it’s more suffering than anyone can be argued to deserve.

        • Evan Þ says:

          More suffering than is deserved by finite sins, perhaps. But what if people keep on sinning into eternity, even as they’re suffering in Hell?

          • holomanga says:

            Sinning in Hell is like sinning in the Hellish Empire; it’s bad, but if you take those people and raise them in a nicer place, they won’t sin, and as an added bonus they’ll be happier. A nicer place is exactly what the Comet King intends to do.

          • gradus says:

            unless they are capable of harming people or committing evil in heaven (very unlikely) it is easily the correct utilitarian thing to do to free everyone. by infinite margins.

      • you don’t maybe kinda want to re-think your position on “religious disputes are all earthly disputes over temporal power and never really mattered beyond that and certainly had no correspondence with a higher reality or anything preternatural”?

        Even in the Unsong universe, the relationship between religion and reality seems fairly limited. See, for example, the discussion between Uriel and Moses. Fighting over how best to worship God when you have no reliable source of information on the matter seems to me to be a legitimately earthly matter.

      • Shoefish says:

        They might be trusting Thamiel to be efficient & powerful enough to prove this course of action correct. If he optimizes for maximum suffering (but has reasons not to focus on trying to create sufferium) & having Hell reduces suffering he wouldn’t have Hell.

        Though now that I wrote this down, I feel that making a course of action based on trusting Thamiel’s claims and apparent motives seems like an obvious wrong thing to do.

        Since TCK & Uriel know so much more than we do I would have suggested the heuristic – “Assume action of TCK making simple mistake is evidence for unknown rule” if not for author fallibility

        • Chrysophylax says:

          Thamiel seems to maximise punishment for sin. It’s not enough to suffer, you have to “deserve it”, and dolorium wouldn’t.

      • Decius says:

        When Blake talked about angels, he was talking about a metaphor. Angels at the time existed as a form of metaphor, and I see no reason why that would make their power any less, only less literal.

      • nipi says:

        Im guessing that if successful TCK would take control of Hell. It wouldnt become Heaven but it would certainly receive a makeover. New hot tubs and all. (The temperature control on the old ones was broken.)

      • benzrf says:

        Didn’t Sataniel find Thamiel literally in the center of the Earth, though? Is that not the same place as Hell?

        • The coment king says:

          It took Sataniel eons to get to, as well as all of his power as the top archangel after Raziel. And that was when Thamiel wanted him there.

    • JJR says:

      While it does seem to be what she’s hinting at with the ” I won’t let you do this.” It probably wouldn’t work. Jala can’t get in to hell via suicide because, “Doing evil for a greater good, because I want to save the world. It wouldn’t count.” The same probably applies to Robin.

      • gradus says:

        she doesn’t have to suicide to get to hell. she just has to suicide to get TCK to hell. which means making him turn truly evil, not evil for good reasons. suiciding and blaming him for her death and his failure could do the trick.

        • JJR says:

          But if she doesn’t end up in hell Jala isn’t going to be any more motivated to destroy hell than he already is. As for doing it to make him evil. I don’t really see how that would work either. It would make him depressed and confused for sure. But I’m not seeing why he would turn evil.

  6. Keshav Srinivasan says:

    Prediction: Robin will commit suicide in an attempt to turn the Comet King towards evil. That would explain why Metatron tells the Comet King that he’s not pure enough to have the Explicit Name anymore, and that he’ll give it back to him when he’s ready.

  7. David Marjanović says:

    a bolt of reverse lightning unstruck the ground

    A stroke of genius.

  8. Quixote says:

    Great chapter.

  9. Keshav Srinivasan says:

    Second prediction: the Vital Name discovered by Aaron will somehow be used to get into Hell. Perhaps Sarah, in the absence of a moral soul, will be evil and then die, and then once she gets to Hell she’ll use the Explicit Name of God.

    • Isaac says:

      Scott has already established the mortal name. Vital Name + Mortal Name should allow some interesting exploits. Some further discussion here

      Known facts (Please correct me if I’m mistaken/missing something)

      1. Beings having the neshamah are able to use Names of God.
      2. The Vital Name grants an inanimate object the neshamah, allowing it to use Names.
      3. If a living being says the Mortal Name, that being dies. source
      4. When a being dies, their soul is send to heaven if they have been “good”, or hell if they have been “evil”, where good and evil are some function of actions while on earth.

      Questions
      What exactly does the Mortal Name do? It is implied that it causes the physical body to cease to function. Bush “softly and suddenly vanished away”. source Does it also destroy souls? If so, bad people should speak the mortal name if they know they will shortly die so as to avoid hell. If Sarah speaks the Mortal name, will she return to an ordinary macbook? Will her soul go to heaven/hell?

      Assuming that the mortal name only destroys the body, freeing the souls to go to heaven/hell, the neshamah is still intact, the soul is capable of using Names.

      What does is take to “speak” a name? Does one need a body capable of making vibrations in the air? This implies so. If so, a disembodied soul in hell is not capable of using Names, unless Thamiel gives them a body and voice.

      • gradus says:

        the “softly and suddenly vanished” was part of a quote, and doesn’t actually fit what physically happened – ie caught on fire, started screaming, and died.

    • Psy-Kosh says:

      In the absence of a moral soul, could she be judged and sent to hell?

      • Lambert says:

        She does not have knowledge of good and evil. Perhaps fruit is the answer. (Malia?)

      • Bookwyrm says:

        In the absence of a moral soul, will the gates that bar one from traversing the road to hell based on one’s moral state actually function against her?

        • Decius says:

          With the ability to program herself, could she become evil enough to pass the gates that bar good people from entering without the “evil done for the better good doesn’t count” catch-22 applying? Surely precommitting to destroy hell if possible doesn’t make someone incapable of being evil; TCK can’t become evil to destroy Hell to do net good but there’s no reason that Sarah couldn’t become evil to destroy Hell for love.

          For that matter, if Robin can see the way to make TCK turn evil and destroy Hell for love (and not for the greater good), she just might.

          Other possible motives to turn evil to get into Hell to destroy it: spite, anger, contractual obligation, placebomancy/story, calculated self-interest.

  10. Sinclair says:

    Can’t you just give the explicit name of God to someone evil, then kill them?

    • The coment king says:

      Ah, but it can only be borne in a pure mind.

        • The coment king says:

          Finding someone pure evil also can’t be easy.
          (Also, TVTropes has a rival website?)

          • null says:

            IIRC, TvTropes forked due to advertising issues?

          • Anonymous says:

            Sort of. The fork was over site administration changing the licence to add a ‘non-commercial’ clause without even asking the contributors (who are the actual copyright holders, mind you, which makes the licence change illegal), an echo-chamber environment resulting from censoring criticism of works of fiction (very often dismissed as ‘complaining about shows you don’t like’) and other ‘inconvenient’ topics like sexuality (this is the part where the advertisers played the biggest role; admittedly, tropers had a really hard time handling this area in a dignified manner, and I’m not sure the fork has learned that particular lesson), and Fast Eddie’s despotic micromanagement in general. (There is a link to an explanatory post on the front page of the fork, by the way.)

            Some of these issues have been fixed since, others haven’t. Former contributor Some Guy did a series of posts exposing some of the dysfunctions of that wiki. It’s terribly out of date now, and it doesn’t quite touch on the reasons for the fork, but it’s a nice read anyway. You can also look TVTropes up on ED; imageboard-quality prose aside, it’s a quite comprehensive resource. (If you insist on not visiting ED before reading Some Guy’s write-up, just keep in mind that Fast Eddie, Janitor and Gus are three distinct guises of the same person, to put things in perspective.)

            Tl;dr: Petty Internet drama (and some not-so-petty drama), like so many instances before it.

        • Psy-Kosh says:

          But you need someone good enough that once in hell, they would use the name for that purpose… and nothing else. (or at least nothing that would basically be at same scale (like creating new hell under their rule or whatever)

        • holomanga says:

          A messiah must be from the most wicked and the most virtuous generation. One to take the Name to hell, and one to know what to do when it gets there.

  11. Wait a minute, Sarah has a soul because of the vital name, but lacking a moral soul, perhaps she had some kind of loophole power over the “entering hell” problem? The fact that she lacks a moral soul is certainly some kind of Chekhov’s Gun…

    • The coment king says:

      The AI not being friendly is what ends up saving the world?
      Now this is the kind of twisty brilliance I’d expect from Scott.

      • Decius says:

        The AI has only perfectly human values, and would not consent to a successor who did not have perfectly human values.

        Sarah is technically Friendly.

        • Chrysophylax says:

          No. Having human values is not the same as having idealised humane values. Humans are not Friendly: no human is capable of understanding the extrapolated volition of humanity (or other standard for ideal values), let alone actually implementing it.

          Also, Friendly AI is an old term and may be actively deprecated.

  12. Re: Passage to hell
    Dante visited hell with Virgil. Dante (with a bit of a humble boast, I think) protests that he is not as great a poet as Virgil nor is he like st peter (who i think he thinks) also visited.

  13. Senjiu says:

    I’ not sure that the comet king can make everyone good without robbing them of their free will.
    I think it would be easier to make everyone immortal. Which would also be a solution.

  14. Greg says:

    I’m surprised TCK doesn’t just destroy the world. After all, the rabbis of the talmud debated for two-and-a-half years, and in the end took a vote, and decided that, “Better for man never to have been created than to have been created.”
    source

    I think the usual explanation for this is that it’s better to never have been precisely because the temptation to sin is too great. (Though I can’t find the source.) TCK is going to try to make everyone good, but the rabbis seem to think that’s impractical. On the other hand, the rabbis take for granted that man can’t do anything about having been created (suicide notwithstanding, but we know where that gets you), but TCK could… and was even sort of willing to with nuclear MAD, as we saw before.

    So, why not march into oblivion?

  15. dsotm says:

    Ask the other chief rabbi! Aren’t there always two?

    It’s worth noting that “Chief Rabbi of Israel” is not really considered a spiritual authority even (especially?) by religious, Israeli, Jews – it’s a state-appointed political-administrative position heading the establishment in charge of the kosher certifications, marriages, burials, synagogues etc. The reason there are two of them is to maintain a political tribe balance in allocated funds and jobs between the two (Ashkenazi, Sephardi) denominations rather than any plurality of halachic thought.

  16. simoj says:

    I’d guess that Scott’s choice of the Garden of the Gods as a setting here was driven by the title, rather than vice versa, because the title makes a clear symbolic suggestion about what happens with Robin. (Or possibly, I think less likely, what happens to TCK.)

  17. Sonata Green says:

    If Robin tricks TCK into crossing the Panama Canal and becoming TOK, does that bypass the higher-purpose rule, since it’s not TCK himself whose ulterior motive causes him to turn evil?

  18. Stupid Theory says:

    I’ll go ahead and post a theory so complex it can’t possibly be correct.

    Elisha had a plan.
    Step 1: Become more learned than any sage had ever been before. Doing this necessitates being good, of course.
    Step 2: Become more evil than any sage had any right to be. Elisha knew (because Elisha knew more than anyone else, and it was known) that god judged the greatest sages harsher, not less harshly. So Elisha did not attempt to become the most evil person alive to seek hell, only more evil than any other sage. Whether or not he actually did, he was willing to chop a child to pieces for the crime of having a stutter, which is pretty evil, but he didn’t seem to attempt genocide or anything so he wasn’t going for maximum evil points.
    The punishment for Moses for being insufficiently like the Moses he could have been was not to be sent somewhere terrible, but merely to be refused the promised land. These patterns have a way of repeating themselves, of course, and Elisha too was forbidden access to heaven, but not sent to hell either. Of course, Elisha knew about Moses, and knew this would happen, so he prepared for it, instructing Meir on some sort of way to send him onward (or possibly manipulating Meir so explicit instruction was unnecessary). Elisha succeeds and finds himself in hell.

    He doesn’t lack the power to fix things, the explicit name which he got in pardes would suffice, and he is pure enough to use it, even. But he can’t. He’s too evil to remember his original goal, making the entire expedition pointless. After a hundred years or so he signals smoke from his grave, and rabbi Yochanon uses his own death to rescue Elisha from hell, returning him to earth. (Defeating hell was beyond the power of any rabbi, but rescuing a single person who didn’t truly belong would not have been as difficult) (Yochanon fails to send Elisha to heaven, its still barred for the same reason)
    By now, Elisha is little more than a metaphor. The smoke was probably metaphorical too.

    But, years later when Elisha is still on earth, and somewhat less metaphorical, the comet king has a dilemma. He knows exactly how to defeat hell, but cannot enter. Elisha can enter hell, but is too evil to comprehend how to reform it (even though he woulds still want to reform it, for selfish reasons at least).

    The two of them try a bunch of complex stuff that doesn’t work. One of those complex failures is an attempt to turn the omen of Mettatron arriving to take the name into a man determined to hunt down Mettatron and get it back.

    Kabalistic marriage, which would have been a perfect solution, was hidden in plain sight in a part of the bible both had no doubt read several times without seeing.(The ruby slippers always end up being on your feet the whole time, exactly as impossible to use as if you never had them) (Kabalistic marriage is clearly the best solution for ALL of the problems. Not only can TCK instruct TOK through the afterlife, but also he is now suitably married and whole again to wield HaMephorash) (Worse yet they probably didn’t need the name. They maybe could have used a celestial kabbalah version instead)

  19. Eneasz Brodski says:

    Oh. Oh man. Oh.
    🙁

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