26.Aug.2010 The Ring Culture of Nanah’d
Aside from hypothetical conjecture, every human has experienced an intimate knowledge of something that is very real for them, that they in turn are being challenged to explain to others, to convince them or convert them, of that something’s reality. Why is this important? Because I intend to relay my own personal experience- something very real for me, because it occurred to me. But, I will begin at the beginning, before I entered the picture.
There once was a key that opened a box. This key and this box may still currently exist, but if so, they are lost so far as tangible proof is concerned. I am of the opinion that they must have at least existed at one point in time, because of the story and it’s relation to my experience. The story involves a ring. I saw the ring. Therefore, I believe in the ring. Subsequently, I also now believe in the story of the ring.
The story of the ring is, in my mind, more comparable to the Greek myths than the fables of the Brothers Grimm, in that there is only one variation of the story. Whether other variations have been lost throughout time is still a matter of contention and conjecture for both Greek mythology and the story of the ring. The importance lies in there being but a sole surviving variation which, in itself, lends a certain credence to the story, improbable as it may seem. There is also an honesty imparted from the tale’s simplicity. Although to be fair, much can be said about the veracity of any story with an abundance of detail, the minutiae locking itself more firmly in the land of reality than in the simplistic dimension of fairy tales. But that debate is for another time.
The story is very short and goes exactly this way:
There once was a key that opened a box. Inside the box, there was a ring. The ring was no ordinary ring.
That is the entirety. The story itself is beautiful in that it follows no successful structure. It has no beginning, no middle, and no end. No protagonist, no climax, no struggle. One may make the argument that it is entirely symbolic or metaphorical in nature, and yet having nothing in the story for juxtaposition, and no historical insight into context, this is a rather weak argument. Upon analyzing for a deeper meaning than mere structure, one discovers that the mystery of the story lies not in the existence or nonexistence of the ring, but in what makes the ring “no ordinary ring”. It is my firm opinion that, despite what scholars may posit, this mystery is the true reason the story has been passed through the generations, and not the beautiful simplicity of the story’s structure.
Hypothetical debates aside, there are also tales of those who have experienced the ring’s physical presence and tangible effects. However, there has been no conclusive, public proof so as to belie the true characteristics or powers of the ring. I am among the quantum of living men who have experienced the effects of the ring firsthand, but I must say, I am more concerned with, indeed fascinated by, the cultural history that once surrounded the ring than I am the actual ring itself.
The ring grants its wearer immortality. Gaining this knowledge and power is typically where most contemporary men who wear the ring stop their investigation. But I must contend that, being a wonderful distraction, this power (or the means of its function) is not nearly as intriguing to me as the effects of this power, and its properties of everlasting life as the center of the culture of Nanah’d.
Having access to everlasting life, I have been able to gather, if I may say so, an impressive amount of data. But even with my extensive knowledge, and the combined efforts of my colleagues, it was never ascertained as to whether Nanah’d was the actual “birthplace” of the ring itself, or merely the one time in history the ring and its power were centerpiece to an entire culture; spawning traditions, rituals, and other such common cultural phenomena.
This dearth of knowledge is mostly due to the inception of Nanah’d’s record-keeping roughly two hundred and forty-three years after the public announcement/discovery of the ring, which was subsequently labeled the “Ring of Nanah’d”. No other proper name has ever been bestowed upon the ring, and since the town’s destruction, it has simply been referred to as “the ring” or “the ring of the story”. The details of Nanah’d’s destruction are also unclear. It appears through most texts to have been a rather quick natural disaster; a flood, volcanic eruption, earthquake, or the like. Pre-ring traditions and post-destruction period aside, the historians of Nanah’d kept very detailed accounts of the several hundred years the ring was at the heart of Nanah’d’s culture, many of which, I’ve been fortunate enough to uncover.
The ring, being an article of jewelry, was obviously limited in its applications. It follows then, that Nanah’d was ruled as a monarchy. Again, whether this was the case before the ring’s introduction, or after the ring’s presence offered no conceivable alternative, is of course, both pure speculation and irrelevant. In their early accounts, specifically Nanah’d Ahu Guanta (roughly translated as “Nanah’d, The Birth”), historians record only in that there was much bloodshed in the initial struggle to obtain the ring’s power. However, it is noted that this violence quickly dissipated, as no harm could come to the ring’s wearer. Fighting for the ring, then, was ultimately of no use. With this knowledge, what is truly remarkable is that this ring which granted immortality still passed from one owner to the next, and with it, the leadership of Nanah’d. Learning of this, I conjectured that the ring might have in some instances been removed peacefully, but without the owner’s consent; say, during sleep. After all, a single ring cannot change size and shape to fit each owner accordingly, so by simple mathematical probability, it can be stated that the ring must have fit a bit too loosely on a few of the rulers of Nanah’d (easy removal during unconsciousness), and a bit too snugly on a few rulers (particularly difficult removal during sleep). The next work I found however, Bruc Nanah’d Mehai Jedorn (roughly translated as “Nanah’d, Day-to-day Stories”), specifically recounted that the ring was willingly given each and every time from the old ruler to the new ruler. A tradition,which of course would only come to be reinforced and engendered as time went on. This tradition is spectacular for two reasons; one- the reigns of leadership fluctuate wildly in their durations; and two- this tradition was the single most important aspect in shaping the culture of Nanah’d .
The first point is perhaps not as intriguing as the second now that the culture of Nanah’d is dead; however, had the culture survived, it would have surely been the most interesting from a psychologically investigative point of inquiry. The terms of rulership varied wildly in their duration. No tradition was ever put in place as to a minimum or maximum length of a particular monarchy. This again points to the purity of the system and lends itself to a few interesting cases. The first I can recall is a husband and wife who ruled simultaneously (informally, of course), by trading the ring between each other and thus playing to their differing strengths as natural leaders for any given situation. This union was the only time in Nanah’d’s recorded history an informal partnership was observed, and though it was seemingly successful, its rarity in success is mirrored in the infancy of the United States of America, when it was highly likely for the president and the vice-president to come from different political parties. There are also a few cases of human weakness, answering questions that would otherwise have remained. For instance, one of the rulers gave the ring to his mother, who he learned had passed away a few hours previously. Controversial as this decision was, it was allowed by the society of Nanah’d. The mother reportedly “ruled” from her bed for less than a week’s time before leadership was transferred back to the son. The details of how this transfer took place are unknown. Then there is the case of a man who teased the promise of a few hours with the ring to whomsoever would bed him. This of course famously ended when one of the women, Mi’irst Klobs’b, refused to give the ring back, instead becoming arguably the most wise and successful ruler of the entire history of Nanah’d. Yet, even these inescapable imperfections further prove that the system worked correctly more often than not.
The second point seems on the surface to be obvious, but I will explain precisely why this cultural phenomenon is so remarkable as a unique structure in history. The records show the ring was passed as often to successors unrelated by blood as it was to familial relations. This is but a symptom of something larger and more remarkable: unadulterated positive incentive. Pure incentive to become a model citizen in order that one might obtain a tangible reward, this is in stark contrast to most civilization’s intangible utilization of religion as an underlying motivation for good behaviour and social pacification. Another detail of note, in regards to the purity of the system: age was of no consequence, as even the very eldest and physically feeblest could be, and in a few cases were, given the chance to rule, the ring rendering their proximity to death inconsequential. Younger citizens were rarely offered the opportunity, but there is at least one account of one of the more experimental rulers passing his throne to an eight-year old child, for the child’s “lack of corruption” and “ineffable curiosity”. Of course, this is not the first time in history a child has ruled. The Dalai Llama and Tutankhamen both come readily to mind as examples, although their success as leaders is still openly debated, whereas the rulership of this child, Brug A’ly’aff by name, was unanimously recorded as a very prosperous time for Nanah’d. It must also be noted that Brug A’ly’aff held one of the longest periods of leadership before he gave up the throne to live modestly on the outskirts of the town so his body could finally catch up to the level of maturity his mind had reached many decades earlier. From birth to death, anyone was eligible to rule over Nanah’d, provided they showed great enough potential. The power of such an idea put into practice! Every citizen modeling themselves to the society’s communal ideal of perfection. I feel also that now is the right time to point out that it is surely one thing to debate the pros and cons of immortality, and the appeal or lack of desire for it hypothetically, but it is certainly quite another to avoid the desire and curiosity once it is an actual opportunity in practice with a very real chance to obtain it; a desire most definitely made more enticing when the means were as simple as being an ethical and moral person. It is noted that there were dissenters, as there always are, who considered the rulership an arbitrary and imperfect lottery, dependent on one person’s opinion and range of knowledge; but these people were recorded as few and far between. As for the king’s network of informants, it reportedly numbered in the hundreds of thousands, and was constantly growing; all on a volunteer basis, as the act of volunteering to report good deeds was seen in and of itself, a good deed. This is but one example of the layering of Nanah’d’s pure incentive, and has yet to be found in any culture before or since. At this point, I must also settle a matter of personal contention- over the years, there have been discussions about the definition of “pure incentive” in regards to a tangible reward as opposed to “being good for good’s sake”. These discussions, if handled correctly, are very quickly thrown out, as it can be demonstrated soundly and empirically that no one in his/her right mind will choose an intangible reward over a tangible reward, if they are comparable. Indeed, this is arguably the reason the ring supplanted any form of religion in Nanah’d; as the greatest intangible incentive religion has to offer was a tangible opportunity available to every citizen, provided they followed their naturally-inherent morality and code of ethics.
I’m sure that relaying my findings and thoughts to you will in no way provide the verisimilitude of experiencing the ring itself, but perhaps I have increased your understanding or sparked in you some small curiosity; and curiosity is the first step on the path to empirical, individualistic truth.