Aastyn

In the city of Aastyn there are two temples.

Upon entering the first, a visitor’s eyes are immediately drawn downwards.  There he or she finds a stone floor made almost perfectly smooth by centuries of footsteps.  If the visitor were to look closer, they would notice names and dates written on the stones–the names of the people buried underneath.  The worn names are made doubly hard to read by the absence of light, save for a few candles.  The temple has irregular earthen walls, and is filled with greenery and dampness.  One feels the presence of life all around them, pressing on them–palpable, visceral life.  The bodies lying beneath the floor do not detract from this presence, but rather add to it.

Upon entering the second, a visitor’s eyes are immediately drawn upwards.  Immense columns reach toward a ceiling so remote that it can’t be seen clearly.  The temple is empty–as if the vast open space were decoration enough.  It is illuminated by brilliant sunlight, shining in through crystal windows.  One is overcome with a feeling of wonder.  It is as though the makers of this temple settled for conveying the awe they felt in the presence of some higher truth, because that truth would be impossible to convey directly.

Every visitor prefers one temple to the other.  Every visitor scoffs at the banality of one and praises the correctness of the other.

What visitors don’t see lies hundreds of feet below them: a tunnel connecting the two temples.  It was filled in centuries ago and the entrances have long been forgotten.  But when the temples were still new and in use, worshippers would never visit one without also visiting the other.

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