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Letters from an Ancient Mind

My dear young friend,

I confess that you have presented me with a problem which has no parallel in my experience. How is it that you do not pay your laborers by the day? Do they not starve waiting for the end of the month? Should that be done here, it would be seen as a sin to deprive the worker of his wages. What will he eat if you will not pay him each day? I give it up.

Your plight, however, is rather common with slaves. It seems you have been robbed and your thinking machine damaged by one you trusted. Robbery can be amended but trust cannot. I fear I have no remedy for that.

What I can give you, I will. I will tell you how to treat slaves so that you do not have this problem – at least, not frequently. You may pluck from this advice whatever seems reasonable to you.

First, you must remember that your Lord is no respecter of persons. That you are master and the other a slave means nothing to Him. Therefore you must treat your slaves as brothers in Christ. You are doing this not so much for their sake as for your own, so it is to your profit. I would commend to you two thoughts:

You must above all treat them with kindness. It is a sore temptation to beat upon the innocent slave to cool your own anger. This you must not do. Rather, remember it is only God’s grace which keeps you from being one of them. Indeed, this brings great benefit. A kindness shown to one is remarked by all.

You must also be consistent. A slave ever looks to your hands and eyes to know if he has found favor. How is he to know what pleases with you if this changes like the wind? By doing this you mold the mind and lighten the anxiety of your slave. If he cannot have freedom, surely he can be free of worry as it concerns you.

Then you must always remember that as you are given authority you are given responsibility. A slave must eat; he must be clothed; he must have shelter from the weather and the night. These things are yours to perform, and your own luxury must give way to them. A slave who is confident of these things is a loyal worker.

Second, you must be just. It is no kindness to your slaves to allow one to become lazy. The others must then do his work, and the fault will fall to you. If the slave sees the justice in the beating, there will be no complaints. Be sure that it is both just and seen to be just. Likewise, be just in rewarding those whose labors have profited you greatly. Apportion the tasks according to ability; do not expect the aged to work the field, nor the young.

All this my father taught to me when I was young. Often I have seen slaves running away; we have had but two such in my lifetime – neither worth running after. Most slaves run because their masters are cruel or think only of themselves.

I would end with a caution. Our Lord shall return. On that day there will be neither slave nor free, but each shall be rewarded in accordance with his deeds. As master, remember that you too have a Master.

Puzzled, I remain

Isaac the alchemist

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