Come, said Yoshi to the little ones, beckoning them over to the place where the windows creaked open, wherefrom you could hear the songs of all the birds chirping outside, the whirrs of things passing by, and on rare occasion, the sounds of the others on their ventures, those from other places and other times forever unknowable.
But in this place, in this time, Yoshi was the sagest of all. He knew best the true nature of this land, the Land of the Sphinxes, imperfect though his knowledge may have been.
Through his many years spent traveling beyond the confines of their tiny home, both before and after his arrival, he had learned the patterns and the ways. Indeed, he was not even from this home, but another – one now lost forever to him, and to time.
But Yoshi did not waste his days in search of something that could not be regained. He dedicated himself instead to a new home, a new time, a new chance for him to offer up everything he had to those around him. And so, now prefect of this domicile, he sat down the younglings by the window to show them the ways, as he always did, time and time again.
And oh, how they loved to sit by the windows, whenever they were left even the slightest bit open.
A little sound from the window could ring out in their souls as though some missile had struck a nerve in their heart’s deepest caverns – followed by the plentiful rush of their own shouts, a pure response of the shared light within, natural and involuntary.
Yoshi understood that these were their own voices at their truest moments, and for this very reason he always gathered them in this very place before beginning his daily recitations.
All time is a circle, he declared. Each day begins anew at the end of the last, and thus is all of time contained within any single day. No day can begin without the ending of another. So do we count the beginning of each day at the last nightfall, when our sphinxes finally let us rest.
Thus the day begins with sleep, he said. Sleep is the unknowable beforehand, the fountain at the source of every new morning, the mysterious potential within.
All life sleeps, he said, even the sphinxes. And although we may sometimes carry forward flashes of these events from the beforehand – a moment running through a forest, a second spent before devouring a morning’s bowl – ultimately we can never understand their meaning or significance, nor what they portend for the day ahead.
Thus when we awake from our sleep we have already been set in motion, he said. Our day’s nature, our path before us, is at least in part, laid out in advance.
When we break the fast each morning, he said, in that breakfast is contained the implications of everything that came before, every sleep of every nightfall, every breakfast of every morning. Such is the joy of each bite, each crunch, each flavour. Such is the excitement of another morning walk. And such is the peril.
Thus when we journey out at first light to take our leave, we must be careful. The true joy of a venture cannot be contained by any wisdom held by any sage, of course, but in equal measure should it not be allowed to flow forth unrestrained. If overjoyed, we might rush into a senseless squabble with one of the others on their own sacred journeys. And if underjoyed, well… then what good would be the walk?
At either extreme we will never receive our journey’s reward.
Thus is our joy based in the balance of events, in the journey itself, even when our own purpose or design is unrelated. For our true purpose, the higher order behind our nature, is the love we share between us and our sphinx.
But then why offer a reward at all? If love is the higher order, then shouldn’t it be its own reward?
The interruption came from Peach, as usual, the youngest wolf in the pack. Yoshi had already been keeping eye on her in recent days, always with an all-too-knowing smirk. He saw in her much of himself, much of his own once youthful impertinence.
He took great pains to hide that smirk in his response. He knew she would not yet appreciate it.
We cannot understand a sphinx’s mind, Yoshi said. To attempt it is a fool’s errand. For, while a sphinx might be tall as a cat’s leap, it is their mind that truly takes them to heights unknown.
It is their mind that allows them to conjure an obscure item out of a hat at any given moment, whether a treat or a toy or one of their bizarre, magical contraptions.
It is their mind that allows them to make their geometrically compressed sounds, to transform their gestures into the air itself, to communicate ideas through the space around us by wizardry we know not, ideas more dense than any we can tolerate, even the simplest of which take us days and days and days of constant repetition to truly learn.
Indeed, for us this kind of understanding takes generations of careful interaction and coordination to build together, but to them it is simply spoken – no more than an instant.
Thus does the love of a sphinx come to us by way of their mind, even though the mind of a sphinx can never be ultimately known to us.
To our focused attentions, they will always appear as a strange attractor, and these unusual powers make them difficult to predict, difficult to understand.
And so, if we could only ever ask the sphinx about these rewards they give us, they would reveal that it was never a reward at all! Instead, it is only a side-effect of some other natural impurity, a function of some material necessity. It was merely for hygiene, they would say, or sustenance, or some other such nonsense with meaning only to them.
The real reward, the sphinx would tell you, is a moment shared with us. And even though, like I said, we can never know the mind of a sphinx, I can assure you this conjecture holds, though of course it can never be proven for certain.
They are curious masters indeed, the sphinxes, but in my actions I choose to believe, that in their heart of hearts, they truly love us.
But this love is not a product of treats, no. Instead, it is quite the opposite. Their love for us is itself the source of all treats.
Thus a journey’s meaning lies not in that which we have left along the path, nor does meaning lie in the reward upon our return. Instead, meaning lies in the thing we carry through from the source, whatever it may be that we hold close to our hearts.
But do the sphinxes love us because of our good ventures? Or are our ventures good because they love us? How do we even know?
We do not, Yoshi said. And we cannot know. Not in the sense you are asking, even though it is certainly the right question from which to start.
But in another sense, well…
You see, these are questions of our foundations, questions that can only even be asked by one who already shares the foundational love of at least once sphinx.
Because for each of us, our sphinxes are our truest source of flow. They are conduits of time itself. If not for our sphinxes, all eternity would become a single unbearable line. All space would become external, outdoors. The cycles of night and day would clash violently together. There would be no moment or home we could call our own, no point of rest in any domain where we might make our way. We would be lost, wandering pathetically in the outside for any scraps we could find, holding out hope beyond hope for even the slightest chance or sign that could once again make us homeward bound.
Peach had been entranced more by Yoshi’s voice than by the meaning of his words, until he added this:
There would be no treats. None.
Peach gasped in horror, as the full terror Yoshi meant to convey finally dawned on her.
We would be all alone in this world with nothing to call a friend.
But we are not lost, he continued. We are not alone. We are home.
We take our daily rest each night. And we will wake each morning ready to tackle the day anew. Not only ready, but enthused for yet another walk, another treat, another afternoon of rolling on the carpet.
Thus does the existence of time itself prove the love of the sphinx.
Thus is the depth of joy with which they love us.
For the love of time always rises with the sun.
At this moment, the lyceum was interrupted.
They would have to recover this oration once again on the next day.
The golden sphinx had risen from her chair and motioned toward the door with a million signs and sounds that baffle the imagination.
It was time.