Letter from a Minotaur: “Only Human” – by Orvan Ox

*I’m okay, guys.  Actually better today than yesterday when I felt so tired I had to talk myself into taking a shower, and pretty much did nothing in work the rest of the day.  It might have been reaction to life-stuff or it might have been the side effect of prednisone (but hey, as of yesterday no open sores) who knows.  Whatever it is, it’s better now, but I have to catch up on work.  Thank you Orvan for filling in. – SAH*

Letter from a Minotaur: “Only Human” – by Orvan Ox

“I’m only human.” “You’re only human.” “(S)He’s only human.”

It sounds like an excuse for being of limited capability, “only” human. Alright, humans are not Gods. Not to themselves, anyway. They warn themselves not to “play God” and point to horrors of their history when someone has tried to do that very thing. A most sound warning. Mr. Marx might not have realized it, but he eventually killed millions in his perhaps unknowing attempt. Mr. Hitler made and attempt and contributed to the horrific cost. Mr. Stalin as well. And Mr. Zedong. And… well, it’s long, horrific list. The “Zombie Apocalypse” might be less deadly should it happen – at least Humanity will know it has an Enemy and be willing to fight it from near the beginning. Yes, humans “playing God” tends to end in disaster.

And yet… it’s humans that called my kind into existence. Yes. Sure that one story is about a sacrificial gift not sacrificed, but used in a most unusual (and genetically impossible) breeding procedure. But the result, horrific as Asterion and Asterion’s story was and is (yes, “The Minotaur” had a name: Asterion) it did inspire the idea of the general form and give it – us! – a name.

Humanity has similarly created centaurs, unicorns, mer-folk, fauns, satyrs, dragons, and a good (or bad) many others. And when that wasn’t enough, why, they came up with Personifications. The process of dying and the state of death was a thing that was somehow more easily understood by inventing the character of Death (it was not “JUST TERRY PRATCHETT” though he [He?] did very well with the characterization). Yule? Solstice? Christmas? The Great Spirit of Giving is created in Santa Claus (and if once-common lumps of coal do not send the message of “you get a common, near worthless gift, you Problem Child” with sufficient force, there is Krampus – the anti-Claus as he were.)

“Only human.” Only. You have created… us. Your myths are our existence. In that way, humanity, you ARE our Gods – you have made us. Yes, we are imperfect – in the same ways you are. Only the traits are… amplified. The centaurs party and party hard. There is, as far as I know, no centaur version of William Tell. It is simply understood that, of course, the centaur’s arrow hits the apple and not the noggin – even if the centaur downed a barrel of wine. Us minotaurs.. well, let’s just say you do NOT wish to be the “Guest of Honor” at a minotaur event (I suggest you nominate a sheep – one that will NOT be missed – for that role. Mint jelly optional, but highly recommended). The unicorns are more faultless than Angels… or are at least as evil if not moreso than Demons, depending upon the tale and the teller.

Ponder that power. Humanity.. creates. Yes, rocketships to the Moon and wafers of silicon where they’ve taught the sand mathematics and lightning politely gives error messages instead of smitings. But also… entire species. Entire Universes! Mirrors. Oh, Yerkes and Palomar and those that came after are impressive, sure. But virtual mirrors of humanity itself. Not mere mirrors, but <i>amplifying</i> mirrors. One trait or another, good or bad, is dialed up to 11. Or 12. It’s not that we are human – we are not. Nor are we “better” than humans. Humans might claim such, but we didn’t summon ourselves into existence. That’s a Brilliant Human Trick. We did not do that. We are… stories.

Humanity, please keep telling the stories. And if you do not like them, then tell better ones. My kind… our kind… depends on you.  If you forget us, we cease to be. We are NOT Gods. You… you… just might be. Don’t play at it. Take it very seriously indeed. We’re depending on you. And so are you. Embrace it, but with great caution. What you create or summon can be Good or Evil.. dialed way up.  Choose wisely.

134 thoughts on “Letter from a Minotaur: “Only Human” – by Orvan Ox

  1. “Only” human is more commonly employed as an excuse for sloppy craftsmanship when it ought be restricted to cautions against hubris.

    1. I have long contended that it is the ability to create that separates not only man from the beasts but from the angels. I think the naming of the animals in Genesis and the tradition of the true name of something having power of it are expressions that the power of creation is indeed what “made in His image” means.

  2. Old joke about playing God.
    Scientists went to God and said “we don’t need you anymore, we have discovered the secret of creating life.”
    God says: “Oh? Show me.”
    Scientists: “Sure! First, we take a handful of dirt–”
    God: “Oh, no you don’t. Get your own dirt.”

  3. Our esteemed hostess notes: (but hey, as of yesterday no open sores) This is good news. May things continue to improve.

    Ox may be slow, but Ox does produce good and thoughtful writing. I enjoyed. Thank you very much, Orvan Taurus.

  4. We are Ignorant and flawed children playing at God. That’s OK. Children play grownup as practice for the real thing.

    The problem comes when we forget that we *are* only children. We take ourselves too seriously, create gods in our own image, with all our own greatness and flaws dialed up; and then bow down to worship them, or even worse, compel others to do so.

    1. I seem to recall a quote from a rabbi (?) I read a long time ago that stuck with me: “Humans have a duty to imitate God, but not impersonate Him.”

  5. Oh Brave New Bovine World.
    Darn it Orvan, now I’ve got another idea I’m going to have to type a bunch of pages to see if it can go anywhere.

  6. It’s Mr. Mao. The Chinese put the family name first: Mao (family name) Zedong (personal name). Except (sometimes) when they’re publishing in Western media or (almost always) when they’re living in Western countries, and go along with our customs.

    (You can also often tell because all but a few of the “hundred surnames”—the long established family names shared by 85% of the Chinese population—are monosyllables, whereas it’s common for a given name to be a disyllable. It would be quite unusual for a person to have both a one-syllable personal name and a two-syllable family name. The other way round is the way to bet.)

              1. When I was on Kwaj., a co-worker of mine ended up house-sitting and invited all his buddies (yes, including me) over for dinner. During this, one of the others, in referring to one of his ‘sweethearts’, mentioned the term ‘LBFM’. Co-worker’s girlfriend asked, “LBFM? What’s that?” Dead silence and stunned looks around the table. I hazarded, “Little Brown Foreign Maiden.” She said, “Oh, that’s cute!” Faces morphed from stunned to relieved and dinner proceeded congenially.

                1. Well done… I’ve a couple of acquaintances who never got past that point with me due to their incessant references to the same sort of thing, and the amount of disrespect they were showing the actual girls in question.

                  Although… I have one friend whose Filipina wife flat-out owned those terms, and added a few I don’t think I’d heard before her. He turned red as a beet every time she used ’em, and it was seriously humorous to watch her stick it to him with them. All in good humor, though.

                  Funniest thing I can remember with that deal was after their third kid, I’m over for a meal, or something, and she comments something about “rice cooker”, and I’m like “Huh…?”. She clarifies it, and what she was saying was that it was too bad they’d had to trade in the 90-lb rice cooker they’d had for the new 100-lb one, but that she was gonna try to get the 90-lb one back… My friend face-palmed, and explained that she was talking about the baby weight she’d put on with kid #3. Me, I’m doing my usual gaffed fish routine, because I quite simply didn’t get what the hell either of them were talking about…

                  Then she goes “90-lb rice cooker… You know, the LBFM he married?”. At that point, I’m the one blushing, and going “Damn…”.

                  I don’t know what the deal was with that, but she rode it hard, and very well–You ever made the mistake of getting into a battle of words and wits with that woman, she was gonna hand you your ass.

                  1. o/` I’m a Yankee Doodle dandy, a real-live nephew of my Uncle Sam… o/`

                    Take the disparaging term, own the everloving [snot] out of it, and throw it back in the disparager’s faces. If they wanna play psyops, they get fscking psyops.

                  2. Had a set of neighbors once where the wife was Filipino. They had a habit of having their loud arguments outside in good weather, where the neighborhood could witness and hear them. One memorable day he yelled at her “You’ve slept with the entire 7th fleet!” and her louder retort was “And every last one of them was better then you!”

                    Two years later when I transferred away they were still married….

                    1. It’s a stereotype, but there are two… Well, really, three thing, about Filipinas one does well to remember: One, they are passionate. Two, they love family, and generally have large ones. Three? They love knives. Sharp ones. Big, sharp ones, a lot of the time.

                      I knew a Filipino guy who was in the Army with me, and he introduced me to his baby sister at a unit function. She was maybe… 4’4″ tall? Certainly a bit less than 4’6″. Maybe, maybe 90 lbs, soaking wet. She said she was planning on going somewhere that I didn’t think was particularly wise or safe for her to go, and she just smiled and whipped out this butterfly knife that looked like it had at least an 8″ blade on it, and did things with it that I’ve never seen done outside of a martial arts movie. Turns out, she had a.) grown up in some barrio somewhere near or in Manila, and b.) was a virtuoso with that butterfly knife, and c.) their uncle was some kind of Escrima instructor that she’d studied with since early childhood.

                      I’m not gonna say she scared the crap out of me, but she did. Her brother was later like “See? See why I told you that you didn’t want to date her? She likes cutting people that piss her off…”.

                      Always kinda wonder what happened to her. Violent little thing, from the way her brother talked. There were four-five older brothers, and then her, and they were all scared of her.

                2. I had never heard the acronym … until it turned up in a compilation of terms used by ever so enlightened Progressives writing to Michelle Malkin.

                  Not the first time I suspected Progressives of respecting women and ethnic minorities only so long as they know (and remain in) “their place” — nor the last.

                    1. “Suspect” may be a slight understatement.

                      “All left-wing parties in the highly industrialized parties are at-bottom a sham, because they make it their business to fight against something they do not really wish to destroy. They have internationalist aims, and at the same time they struggle to keep up a standard of life with which those aims are incompatible.”
                      — George Orwell, A Collection of Essays

                3. Worked with several members of a Vietnamese (I think?) extended family, one of whom said that her mother referred to them all as “chink-eyed”. I got the impression there were other such terms in her normal usage, too.

              2. Swiss.
                Beautiful little brown swiss cows.
                Even minotaurs melt when they look in those big soft brown eyes…

                1. I am astounded that this isn’t a clip on youtube …

                  I do hope everybody recognizes Delores Herbig “as in ‘her big brown eyes'”?

                2. You know how we can tell you’ve never been around cows, much?

                  Yeah. More like “Big Brown Bovine Murder Machines”. Doubt me? Peruse the fatality rates in the dairy industry, whydoncha? They look all innocent and harmless, there on the hills–But, they aren’t. Those bells aren’t on them for looks, they’re there so they can’t sneak up on you, same as with cats.

                  1. Actually, I grew up surrounded by dairy farms in upstate New York. Spent plenty of time shoveling end product, bringing the cows in for milking, and bringing in hay. They’re not murder machines if you pay attention to what they’re doing. Of course if your brain is disengaged, you’re likely to get stepped on, or get a dung filled tail in the face. But that was when I thought working a 14 hour day for 20 bucks was decent pay. And paperbacks were only 95 cents

                    1. The CDC would disagree with you:

                      “A CDC report from a few years back found that cows killed about twenty people a year in the mid-2000s. That makes cows about 20 times as lethal as sharks. These deaths aren’t due to marauding packs of feral bovines terrorizing suburban neighborhoods, but rather incidents involving working with cattle on farms. As the CDC report notes, “large livestock are powerful, quick, protective of their territory and offspring, and especially unpredictable during breeding and birthing periods.” Most people killed by cows are farm workers.”

                      Cows will kill you without a backwards glance, if you give them the opportunity. And, they’ll enjoy doing it, as they do their happy dance on top of your twisted, broken remains.

                      Of course, my opinion may be slightly shaded by the fact that the cows I grew up dealing with were mostly not happy, sleek-coated dairy animals, but utterly feral mossy-backed Black Angus who’d never seen the inside of a fence before my stepdad decided he wanted to raise cattle, and bought them at an auction from a timber company that was surprised to find they were also a cattle company, when they went in to clear some of their land up near Astoria, Oregon.

                      Survival tip: Cattle go pretty damn feral after a couple of generations outside of routine human care. Also, when you look at a cow that’s supposed to be black, and it’s mostly a deep green from all the moss that’s literally growing on its back…? That might not be the smartest purchase at the auction. Also, if everyone else is refusing to bid on it, aside from the guys from the rendering plant…?

                      Might not be a smart purchase, that one…

                    2. They’re toyota pickups on four legs.

                      If they WANTED to kill you, they’d be a lot more effective.

                      Most of the people I know who have been hurt by cows, the cow was either doing something else or it was a known dangerous situation, like checking the new-born calf. (Usually it’s not the mother that gets you– it’s the aunties.)

                    3. Wait – your using a numbers comparison between an animal that thousands of people work in close proximity with on a daily basis, to an animal that generally avoids people in numbers, and seldom goes for a second bite after they take a first one (sharks mostly don’t like the taste of humans, apparently)?

                      That’s kind of like comparing the number of pedestrians hit by cars to the number of pedestrians hit by motorbikes during motocross races.

                      Cows (not bulls, mind you, but cows) simply don’t care. They aren’t going to run you down, they aren’t going to gang up on you and trample you. If you startle them, they will kick, and because they are five times your size, that will HURT, and CAN even kill you. And if they get truly scared, they may run over you trying to get away from whatever scared them, and that is when they will most likely kill you. Because you got in the way of a meat avalanche, not because cows are murder machines on hooves.

                  2. “How are you?”
                    “Mostly harmless.”
                    “…that’s good.”
                    “But only mostly, not completely.”

                    Yes, I have had that conversation. Multiple times.

                3. I suspect it doesn’t hurt minotaurs nearly as badly when the owner of those soft brown eyes steps on their foot, however. They quickly become much less endearing after you make their acquaintance.

                  1. At least nobody is making “hoof privilege” noises.

                    I have seen the claim that kilometer (or meter..) is not, as claimed, the result of attempted subdivision of an arc from pole to equator, but was the minimum distance at which sheep still look “picturesque.”

                    1. Sheep have stampeded me, in the past. I got up, shook off the dirt, and dealt with a few minor bruises and cuts from their sharp little hooves. Once upon a time, I had to help clean up after an actual cattle stampede up in the mountains. The cougar that had made the mistake of triggering said stampede was mostly a reddish-colored dirt paste with fur and bone chips mixed in.

                      Frankly, the only North American domestic animal more dangerous than a cow is the semi-feral bison some wildly optimistic types try to raise in places like Wyoming. Although, I hear that there are some other clinically insane types who are trying to introduce Cape Buffalo down in Texas for hunting–Although, it occurs to me that perhaps what they’re selling isn’t necessarily “hunt the buffalo” to Texans, but perhaps “Hunt the Texan”, to the Cape Buffalo…

                      Either way, homie ain’t crossing that pasture or wandering into that labyrinth without something as serious backup, like in at least a .40 caliber chambering.

                    2. I’ve often had the thought that the best way to secure the border is buy a 10 mile wide strip and re-introduce Texas Longhorns…..

  7. Silly Minotaur, Dragons existed long before Humans came down from their trees.

    The only reason that we showed up here after they started telling dragon stories is that we were wondering why they were talking about dragons. 😉

  8. Opens up Silmarillion.

    Compares Aule’s creation of the Dwarves with Morgoth’s *creation of the Orcs (as an act of envy and mockery)

    *Yes, yes, I KNOW Aule only technically ‘created’ the Dwarves because Illuvatar blessed his intention, and Morgoth didn’t ‘create’ anything, only corrupted and deformed what already existed. I used ‘create’ as a kind of verbal shorthand to make a quick point about the nature of making things and try to avoid all the lengthy explaining that I’m right now having to do but realized was necessary to pre-empt the nitpicking so why bother in the first place-AAAARGH

            1. Chuckle Chuckle

              Our Ox may be “slow” but he knows the Labyrinth from back to rear, from right to left, and from up to down.

              You really don’t want to enter the Labyrinth without a guide to get you out.

              You “might” be lucky to find the Ox, you might be “lucky” to defeat the Ox but you’d be out of luck getting out of the Labyrinth without a guide. 😈 😈 😈 😈

                1. Prepared?

                  You only think you’re prepared for the Labyrinth.

                  The Myth left out a lot and the Labyrinth has been greatly improved since then. 😈 😈 😈 😈

                  1. I’ve got Halflings who have trekked through Mordor. Might even be able to get a Dwarf interested if there’s treasure in that Labyrinth.

                    1. Make sure they check if their “life insurance” covers being killed/lost in the Labyrinth.

                      Even if it does, they better be paid up on it. 😈 😈 😈 😈 😈 😈 😈 😈

              1. I believe I can wrangle up a couple of furry-footed hole-dwellers, masters of stealth and exceptional marksmen, and decidedly at home under ground.

                1. Hobbits?

                  They’d get even more lost than you in the Labyrinth.

                  The passages move without intruders know it.

                  Not even other Minotaurs can find their way in it without help.

                  Only Our Ox can find his way through it. 😈 😈 😈 😈

                  1. He’s done the equivalent of insulting Lady Galadriel to Gimli’s face. I have no choice in the matter. To the Labyrinth!

        1. No, it’s whether you love the creator of the source material. That’s what I got from The Silmarilion

          1. I didn’t know Tolkien personally, so I can’t say as I love him with 100-percent certainty. I most assuredly admire and respect him. Same with Bram Stoker, Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu and the other contributors to vampire mythos, and Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.

            Which is why having Captain America say Hail Hydra ticked a bunch of people off.

            There’s a couple of different drives necessary:

            1) I want to express my ability and creativity

            2) I love this genre or storytelling component for what it is

            And you’ve got to have both.

            The way I see it, you can parody, you can *subvert, you can out-and-out deconstruct (so long as you build it back up again) as long as you love the source material and understand what made it great, you’re still on the right track.

            Just look at Terry Pratchett.

            *’subvert’ in the sense of ‘subverting expectations,’ which most self-described and touted ‘subversive’ fiction doesn’t do: when the white male is really the villain every time, to the point where it’s expected, going against THAT would be genuine subversion (of expectations)

            1. *chuckle* I was speaking of Aule and his dwarves. He loved the creator of man, not just the idea of man, himself. He wanted to be more like that creator, imho.

  9. The proper use of Minotaur in fiction is as an allegory for the cattle-like oppression and exploitation of the individual under the evil capitalist system.

    Unless you stick a Fearless Girl in front of the bull. Then it becomes a symbol of evil masculine power again.

    Unless you stick a MAGA hat on the girl, then the bull is a symbol of out of control political correctness.

    Unless you stick and Antifa mask on the bull, then it becomes a symbol of the brave #resist movement against the evil, slimy, MAGA-hat-wearing Fearless Girl who is a gender traitor.

          1. Perhaps not, but before the GREEN CARD LOTTERY spam on usenet…. (yes, I am Ancient… so?).. it was much closer to pristine – it could fake it almost believably.

            1. Rule 34, Sir.

              I’m quite sure that was true in usenet days. If I had to place a bet, I’d put it on Rule 34 being in effect in darpanet days, too (though in code).

              1. I’d say waaaaaay before Darpanet. I’m recalling a pinup* done with ASCII art printed out on the NCR Century 200 we had at high school. Circa, 1969. Source data on 90 column Hollerith cards.

                (*) That version was clean, but…

            2. Um, westmark.

              Though admittedly, in those days the net was sufficiently trusting and pure that you could NFS mount the ‘archive’. Yes, from anywhere on the Internet.

    1. *Blink blink* I think I’m going back to trying to sort out medieval royal pedigrees. They make more sense than the current reality, if that’s a slice of it.

      1. I thought medieval royal pedigrees were fairly simple. How hard can it be, the trees don’t branch?!

  10. Don’t play at it. Take it very seriously indeed.

    Godhood is not for dilettantes. I should know (being the latter not the former).

  11. “We are NOT Gods. You… you… just might be.”

    We only of Creation
    (0h, luckier bridge and rail)
    Abide the twin damnation-
    To fail and know we fail.
    Yet we – by which sole token
    We know we once were Gods-
    Take shame in being broken
    However great the odds-
    The burden of the Odds.

    1. Oh good. I’m not the only one “Kipling” on-line today (blog title for this weekend, “The Old Grey Widow-Maker” from “Harp Song of the Dane Women”).

      1. I admit that I Kipple at the drop of a hat and frequently drop the hat myself. My favorite response to accusations that Kipling was a British Empire apologist is “Sirrah, Kipling gloried in the Empire, he did NOT apologize for it.”.

      1. I was reading the comment above GWBs, and saw his in my peripheral vision, as well as FlyingMike’s name, and thought something was being said about a flying ox.

        Now, that’s a frightening thought, if you’re under their flight path.

  12. This item, found in Karl Rove’s newsletter, is offered up for the edification of our librarian contingent and those who love them:

    The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu: And Their Race to Save the World’s Most Precious Manuscripts
    By Joshua Hammer
    Not only does this volume have the best title of any book I’ve read in the past year, but it will keep you on the edge of your chair until you finish this tale.

    1. Introspective — is that a $20* word for having his head up his butt?

      *Going rate is $5 per syllable, right?

  13. “Personification” . . .
    For a really classy and unexpected Personification story, give a listen to “The Woman in Black,” from the Mysterious Tarveler radio series:
    [audio src="https://archive.org/download/OTRR_Mysterious_Traveler_Singles/Mysterious_Traveler_47-03-09_094_The_Woman_in_Black.mp3" /]
    Not what one can call a Happy Ending for the kids, but …….
    They repeated the tale as “The Woman in Red,” but that version feels a trifle rushed.
    The Mysterious Traveler had all sorts of tales: crime, fantasy, science fiction, horror…

    1. Ah, thanks. I have encountered Mysterious Traveler before (longer trips, satellite radio… radio shows often do well), but not this particular story.

  14. We are creators, but only second order ones. For everything we come up with, God has the perfect Platonic form of it in His “out” box.

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