Rogério fasted. He fasted to the brink starvation and death.

Finally, in this state of forced deprivation, emaciation and delirium, the divine voice revealed itself.

“What is it you seek?” the voice asked.

Rogério replied, “The truth. I sit here suffering, near death, only for the sake of discovering the truth.”

“The unbridled truth?” the voice returned. “The burning truth that blinds and scorches most men’s souls before they ever reach its apex?”

“Yes,” Rogério said. “For what more can there be to this dismal existence than the truth? I have faith in the unfettered truth revealing more to man’s suffering than his mere suffering. There must be more, and I have taken it upon myself, through my own suffering by starvation, to discover it.”

“Then I will offer you a bargain,” the voice said. “For I am charitable.”

Rogério commanded the voice to explain.

“I will nourish you with some truth. And the more truth you consume, the more I will feed until there is none left. And then, Rogério, having ingested all the truths, you will be as robust as a god among mortals.”

“It is not status nor stature I seek,” Rogério said. “Merely the truth of my existence.”

“Fine,” the voice said. “But, if at any point you find this gluttony of truth to be too much – should it sicken or repulse you in your gluttony – should you need to reject if for the sake of your body, mind or spirit – then your soul becomes mine.”

“Bargaining for my soul?” Rogério asked. “You must be the devil.”

“Agree to my terms and you will soon enough find out.”

“I agree,” the fraught Rogério said. “My soul shall become yours should I find too much truth to be too disquieting or too unsettling. Now tell me, what are you, angel or demon?”

“Ah, cutting straight to the chase,” the voice said. “I’d advise you to ease into this, for your demand is the folly of most men. Like one dying of thirst, he must only sip, otherwise the body rejects his desperate gulps.”

“Tell me now,” the weary Rogério commanded. “I am already at the precipice of death. I need the nourishment of some truth. So tell me, what are you? Angel or demon? God or Satan?”

“I am both, and that is all there is.”

The just enlightened Rogério tried to weep. He understood in an instant how he had lost. We wanted to cry for what he’d just bargained away, but his shriveled body held no tears. So he sobbed without tears as he relinquished his thoroughly decimated soul.

“Now, what is my punishment for being so bold?” Rogério asked. “Is my punishment death? Or Hell? Or both?”

“As I said, I am neither angel nor demon. Neither God nor Satan. So I offer you neither salvation nor insufferable pain. Neither absolution nor unbridled torment.”

“Then what?” Rogério asked.

“What has always been in-between.”

“You are offering me existence? More of the same existence?”

“Yes,” the voice said. “With all its splendor and its horror.”

“More and more of the same angst and torment as before?” Rogério asked. “I’ve gained nothing from my suffering?”

“Your punishment and reward is to live. And not only to live, but to live going forward according to falsehoods you are soon to discover,” the voice said. “Falsehoods I will feed you in place of the truth that terrified, confused and made you so acutely ill. Falsehoods that will nourish you from this pitiful, emaciated state. Yes, poor Rogério, from today forward I will faithfully breastfeed you a world that constantly affirms these nourishing falsehoods.”

“Thank you,” Rogério said. “For I now understand that living according to falsehoods is to be preferred to the truth. I understand now that too much truth is like a poison to the body, mind and spirit.”

“Yes. Too much revelation leads to insanity,” the voice said. “Not a single man has avoided the curse.”

Rogério, having lost the truth but still maintaining some intelligence, immediately began to understand his newfound torment. It was only after relinquishing the truth that the new one was revealed.

“But isn’t living according to falsehoods and lies and fantasies just another form of insanity? And isn’t insanity a form of torment?” Rogério asked.

“Of course,” the voice offered.

“Of course,” Rogério mocked. “But how to know that what you have just said is true, now that I’ve given up truth? How can I believe anything you affirm or deny?”

“Now, you cannot,” the voice said. “Now, whatever I say can be either true or false. Sometimes I will lie, but it will always be for your own good, Rogério.”

“How can I trust that your lies are for my own good when there is no longer any truth to what goodness or evil is?”

“Rogério, you are still a very clever man. It is true that now you cannot trust what I say. Yet, now more than ever, you must trust me, since you have nothing else to depend on. Perhaps you should have had the will and courage to trust yourself more, Rogério. But now it is too late.”

“What a curse. I think this understanding of necessarily living within falsehoods and lies should drive any man of intelligence and soulfulness insane,” Rogério confessed.

“Yes,” the voice said. “Of course.”

“You tell me ‘yes’, while telling me a moment ago nothing from you is to be believed. How confounding.”

“I told you my lies are always for your own good.”

“But that too may be a lie,” Rogério argued. “A lie for my own good or not. But now, without any truth, only your truth, there is no way of my knowing any of it – whether what you say is a lie or not. Not even if your lies are for my own good or not.”

“Yes,” the voice said again. “Very confounding. Confounding enough to drive most men insane. Insane enough to allow them to accept and believe any number of falsehoods and fantasies. Enough for most men to gladly relinquish their divine gift of reason.”

“Divine reason? Isn’t reason and intelligence a malady? The disease of the apple in the Garden of Eden? The perversion of Icarus’ wax and feather wings?”

“There is some truth in reason as a malady,” the voice said.

“Then there is nothing to do but surrender my intelligence and soul completely,” Rogério surmised. “Surrender any remnants of intelligence and soul that are surely to drive me insane.”

“You’ve already given up both,” the voice said. “You surrendered you intelligence when you rejected the blistering truth. And, in the process, you bargained away your soul.”

“Then what is left of me?” Rogério asked.

“Nothing,” the voice said. “And that, I assure you, is still the truth.”

“Nothing is left of me but my blind trust and faith.”

“Yes,” the voice affirmed.

“Trust and faith in what I cannot know. In what I know I cannot trust to tell me the truth. Trust in what I know will tell me lies.”

“Lies that are always for your own good,” the voice reminded.

“Yet, I cannot know if and when your lies are lies. Or if they’re truly for my own good or only yours.”

“Trust and faith,” the voice affirmed. “That is all there is left for you.”

“And what of my own ability to judge?”

“You’ve scarified that. Now, in this new way of surrender, you barely exist, which is all you ever wanted anyway.”

“What is it that I’ve wanted, exactly?”

“To barely exist. And now, without your intelligence or a soul, that is exactly how you are. All you needed was an excuse to submit to existence. All you’ve ever desired is an excuse to be broken like a slave. An excuse, like a wild animal needing to be tamed. A wild animal afraid of being feral. A wild animal needing the comfort of constant shelter and some certainty about its next meal. A wild animal that gladly exchanges its freedom for the yoke or the chain. This is all you’ve ever wanted, Rogério – is to be tamed.”

“But man must be tamed, otherwise he is nothing but a slave to his barbarous lusts. He is nothing but an animal blindly driven by its basest needs and desires.”

“There is truth in that,” the voice said.

“Yes. But how much truth, for nothing is absolute?”

“More or less truth than you care to know, Rogério. So believe in the amount that gives you the most comfort. For you have made your bed, and this is the way it must be. You must now choose to no longer care about truths, lest you make this existence you’ve chosen far worse than it needs to be.”

“You should have shown me mercy by stripping me of all intelligence and of all my soul. Instead, you’ve left me with scraps. In other words, just enough rope to hang myself.”

“As I said, I am neither God nor Satan. All that I offer you is your life as you’ve chosen it. All that I’ve offered you is existence as it is. It is now your choice to accept or reject it in the a way that is necessary for your well-being, according to your own strengths and weaknesses. Keeping in mind, Rogério, not all wild and feral animals are meant to remain wild and feral. Many that can think and feel are driven to the brink of insanity by the constant pressures for survival. This is the reason, just like you, most creatures of understanding submit to the whip or commands of a master.”

“Then I am doomed. And there was never a way out.”

“Very true,” the voice admitted. “But I have, at least, given you the freedom to reject that solemn understanding. Now, it is your choice to do so or not.”

“I am no coward,” Rogério insisted. “I starved and was more than prepared, without fear, to die for the cause of truth.”

“True,” the voice said. “But some things are more difficult than dying.”

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