Love as thou wilt.
They are fools, who reckon Elua a soft god, fit only for the worship of starry-eyed lovers. Let the warriors clamber after gods of blood and thunder; love is hard, harder than steel and twice as cruel. It is as inexorable as the tides, and life and death alike follow in its wake.
Jacqueline Carey has written an intense, moving series of books about the people of Terre d'Ange, and their movements through their familiar, yet altered world.
I've loved the series for quite some time, following each book as I can, going back and rereading from time to time, reacquainting myself with Phèdre nó Delaunay and her adventures, and the lives and cultures she touches and interacts with.
I am not the only one. I still remember, with only a slight gloss of nostalgia, the wonder of finding Kusheth on the grid. I may have been one of the few who took the advice to keep on the path in all seriousness; having read what Kushiel, lord of punishment and pain, dealt out to Phèdre, his Chosen...well, suffice it to say that, virtual world or not, I wasn't ready to do more than blink at the deadly items for sale in the shop.
And anything that involved drowning; bleeding out; or being strapped to a metal frame while car battery current ran through it--well, let's just say that was never my idea of fun.
At one point, there was a Terre d'Ange on the grid as well; I never had the time to go there, I think it left some while back. Yet another loss.
I spent slightly over a year, dancing for Lindens, escorting for more. I played many roles and many games with my clients, but the one ideal I always tried to hold to was Phèdre's: Love as thou wilt. And more than that, I suppose I was also thinking thoughts of the Firefly universe, and Inara Serra's gracious Companions.
I was never a Geisha, trained to the arts of conversation and performance; I was never an anguisette, trained in the arts of covertcy and pain. But what I was, I did my best to bring to my clients: if I didn't like them, at least a little, I couldn't escort for them more than once; and many of my clients, at that point--at least for a time--became friends.
Perhaps it was a case of expecting too much, reaching too high; I don't know. I never saw myself, even as an escort, as having any particular "station" in life; and to this day, I do not see that I did anything inherently wrong. All women sell themselves at some point, all of us; for protection, for prestige, for power; for companionship, for comfort, for coin; it simply remains the manner of sale to be determined. This is not a bad thing, in itself, this is not meant to be insulting; it simply is, it's life. It's our lives.
Everyone, man or woman alike, sells themselves at some point. Employment is trading work for payment; barter is trading goods for different goods, or goods for service. I see no difference in selling sex, companionship--or even Companionship--for Lindens; it's part and parcel of what everyone does to survive.
But I do admit, my view is far from the most popular. And I could wish for a bit more of the grace of the Court of Night-Blooming Flowers, in daily life on the grid: the thought that in all things we do, we should try to do them with grace, and love.
Love as thou wilt. Because love is a wonderful, and terrible thing. And because it, and what we do for it, because of it, should be honored as the wonderful, terrible thing it is, and can be.
Despite the wreckage of my past, I remain convinced that my choices had merit, at least at the time I made them. I cannot believe less of my choices now. Wherever they lead me, I can commit to that at least: that I choose the harder path of love, over war. And if I am not capable of love, at least I can tolerate, or ignore. Sharpening swords is for the young, and in six months I'll have been three years on the grid. I am, at the least, no longer young.