To many, the most perfect shape is the circle -- emblematic of unity -- or the square -- for combining with itself in a tile. But in the city Pherasa, the people have long held the spiral above all other forms. For them it is the basis of all aesthetics, and used in architecture, art, religion and war.

a spiral

Naturally, the city of Pherasa itself takes this form, albeit imperfectly: the walls trace a spiral, as do the major thoroughfares. For residents, their location is not defined by distance to the center -- as the crane flies, but by the distance along the spiral arm. And because the space between the walls steadily changes, the most common and abundant professions are found near the exterior of the arm, while the most refined and specialized dwell at the center.

Circles have the advantage of uniformity, but they do not pack well. Squares pack very well, but are unnatural to build and look upon. The spiral is both pleasingly organic and regular. We non-Pherasi might say a spiral is not regular at all, but Pherasi philosophy holds otherwise: regularity is not a function of a uniform number of sides, or uniform curvature, but of uniformity in change -- that is, the acceleration in turning that a man walking around the spiral must perform (or the deceleration in speed with constant turning). For them, acceleration is not thought of as unusual or special case, but the normal case: as an event proceeds, it must increase from nothing to an infinite power; or shrink to nothing. And similarly is a rotation, or other shift in character, peceived as inevitable: all changes are qualitative, and all events involve change.

The inhabitants of Pherasa do not, therefore, see time as a constant frame, with objects that are present, and forces that are constant -- and which sometimes result in visible change. Rather, they see the appearance of events as synonymous with the passage of time. And matter is just what is observed as these evolving events interact in a given moment: life is the intersection and interference of waves on a pond, as pebbles are thrown into it. A spirals' ends never meet; and so does time proceed -- never re-occurring exactly, but tracing the same shape over and over.

They also see space and motion differently. Unlike a circle or a square, which are bounded by a definite radius or length, a spiral continues forever outward from its origin: the tightness of the spiral, the shape of the curve, is what distinguishes one from another. Thus space is assumed to extend forever, even while the character of it may vary. It is natural, they think, for things to change as you approach them: logically, distance defines of all your interactions with something, but so does your angle. The distance between two points is thus not thought to be, ideally, a straight line. Rather, the best approach is a spiral: one can assesses, from all angles, the destination; give the host time to see you (and see that you are not an attacker); and ease your journey as you climb a mountain. This is not to say they are ignorant of geometry: they may know a line is literally shorter. But in most circumstances, a spiral is the "simpler" and easier path.

So too with Pherasi thought. A direct course from one idea to another, or one argument to another, is foolish. It is better to sidle up to something; hint and allude, before gradually, very gradually, showing something to be obvious. With a true spiral, of course, there is never a center, and this is acknowledged as well: one never imagines to be "at" a particular point, in space or in ideas, but merely near it. And argument, or a project, are never completed, merely "small enough."

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