Aristotle, Turtles, and Everyday Faith in People, Part 1. The Burner of Crops


Bush fire – Creative Commons license, PhotosbyLuke.  Original image

I apologize for being gone for a month.  Especially after making such big promises in my last blog post.  There was a holiday season, and final exams, but I admit I also became daunted.  I’m a shy person and trying to attract attention is very difficult for me.

I think, though, that I owe it to someone to keep going with my story.  I’m not sure who that person is, but if it’s you, hello again.  While much of the rest of the world is focused on violence, fast cars and meth labs, here we are.  We can carry on building something better, and more fun.

This post is part I of a two-parter on how faith is built up.  I don’t mean religious faith, specifically – I mean day-to-day faith, including faith in someone you love – a family member, or a friend.  Most of us understand these sorts of things at a gut level, but I think that to have some wording to describe them is a big help.  Try it and see where it goes for you.  This first piece is just a short snapper to introduce a very useful word, arisot.  It comes from one of the extraterrestrial languages in my book, This Moonless Sky (online booksellers or free pdf), but it derives from the name of Aristotle, the ancient Greek philosopher.

Just to introduce the quotation below, we start here with a special family dinner held to discuss what to do about my teen-rebel best friend Xusxerron (Xus for short), who is always getting into trouble.  This time, he outdid himself by getting drunk and starting a brush fire that burned up part of a neighbour’s farm and got everyone in the district out fire-fighting all night long.  We start off here with him feeling very embarrassed.

(A couple of terms from the story: ‘the Book of Power’ is a classic philosophy book in our culture; Deiyah is someone who has more or less been my adoptive father since I arrived on this planet; and ‘conattainably’ means ‘taking into consideration the minimum time needed for travel between planets.’  Between our planet and Earth, that’s about 400,000 years needed to cross 40 light-years of distance.)

The second piece in this two-part series will be longer and will pull everything together, including the turtles in the title.


Xus reddened again.

 There wasn’t really all that much we could offer him except our love, friendship and support, but we did that in abundance and he began to look more like himself again.

“Thanks, guys, for making an arisot for me,” he said eventually.

 That needs a little explanation. We live in a very different culture here and I don’t want to just shove it under the carpet and pretend it’s like Earth.

 OK. ‘Arisot’ is short for Aristotle, the philosopher, who is called Arisotollon in our language. He once made some statements about a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy called a felicitous cycle, the opposite of a vicious cycle. I’ve looked the statements up for you and done some editing.

 “Excellent abilities we develop by first exercising them, and this also happens when we take up the arts. For when it comes to the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn them by doing them.”

 (Here you see the ‘huh? Isn’t that illogical?’ part that always goes with talking about self-fulfilling prophecies. It’s called ‘helical logic’ in the Book of Power. Deiyah says Earth people now, conattainably, call it ‘bootstrapping.’)

 “For example, people become builders by building and lyre-players by playing the lyre; in the same way, we become just by doing just acts, temperate by doing temperate acts, brave by doing brave acts… Thus, in summary, states-of-being arise out of similar activities. This is why the activities we exhibit must be of a certain kind; it is because states [that is, ‘the people we are,’ excellent or obnoxious] correspond to the differences between these activities.”

 Here’s how I’d sum it up. When you make a new beginning at something that needs skill or excellence, you don’t always know if you will do well or badly, but if you ‘put your best foot forward’ and start into it, that’s always the best starting point for doing the best you can. Then you have to watch that you are truly becoming good and not just becoming a lousy lyre player because you have no talent. Even so, the best starting point is always just to jump in and start to do it as if you can do it. Not as a master, of course, but as a beginner who’s on the way to becoming a master. Then you can evaluate how it goes. The Book of Power term for such a ‘best foot forward’ is an ‘Aristotelian step,’ or ‘arisot’ for short.

 So what Xus was saying was that he was thanking us all for putting a ‘best foot forward’ on his behalf. You could say that we ‘gave him the benefit of the doubt,’ but that implies that we admitted a doubt – no, we gave him a solid footing, not a wobble. We gave him a starting point in credibility so that he could be an excellent and well behaved fellow.

 As opposed to just a friendly and rather sexy burner of everyone’s crops.

We left that evening thinking we had each added a rib into the evolution of Citizen Xusxerron.

We soon found out it wasn’t to be quite so easy.

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