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Letters from an Ancient Mind

My dear young friend,

Just how many enemies do you think you need in life? Surely you have found by now that one is quite sufficient for your days. You are only making a greater enemy of a lesser one by your actions.

It is quite the case that the man is an ass. Indeed, as you point out – at far too great a length, you are much too verbose – the man simply lacks any credible evidence of being a leader of men. I regret to inform you that those who are above him often find such men of great use, especially in performing unpleasant tasks they would not themselves touch. Some shovels are reserved for the manure pile.

The true question is this: what shall you do about it? Have you tried Christ’s method? It is recommended by the highest of authority.

First, you must begin by doing good to this man. This does not seem natural. Indeed, it is not natural; it is divine. Our Lord did much the same for us at the Cross. I can assure you that he will suspect nothing, for your motives would never enter his mind. Seek the good you can do him, and do it.

But our Lord continues: bless those who curse you. This is more difficult. Doing good may be seen as currying favor; this will be seen as incomprehensible. Let it. It will baffle your enemy to a great degree. Speak kindly to him; speak kindly of him. He is well accustomed to dealing with anger; his skill in dealing with peace is not nearly so polished. Thus you see that you transfer the battle from his ground to your own.

Then you must seek ultimate victory. Go to your Lord in prayer; lift up holy hands and ask for his blessing at the hands of Jesus. Surely you would not deny even this man his salvation? If you would pray for his salvation, which is the greatest of blessings, what smaller blessing is beneath your contempt?

Remember, my young friend, that in war you have but two choices – to destroy your enemy utterly or, after defeating him, to make him your friend. The first is beyond your power. You may defeat him again and again, only to find his hatred and effort redoubled each time. Do not let the taste of victory deny you the joy of triumph. Make this man your friend, whatever the cost.

You might well ask how I know this. As I read your letter I could see the man’s face, for I know him in my own life. We are now friends. He is still an ass, but a friendly one. And you know how well they bear our burdens.

Wishing you complete triumph, I continue,

Isaac the alchemist

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