A Constitutional Odyssey

Copyright © 1960-2001 by Barnabas D. Johnson

Creative confusion remains much beloved among the Arakam, who greet each other daily with “Absul Skrami?” — which translates, crudely, into a question: “Do you have some nonsense to share?” The standard answer is “om” — which means both “me” and “universal riddle” — but another frequent response is “Absul Skramos!” — essentially, a declaration that one clown deserves another’s company. Avowed by lovers, it is a flirtatious affirmation of interdependence.

Part One

The Arakam had a pre-historic fascination with mirrors, originating perhaps from meditative moments spent gazing into pools of still water. “Arakam” means, literally, “of God” (!a’Ra) “peaceful” (kam); it also means “good still water” and “mirror-maker” — and is itself the mirror of “Makara” … arguably the third holiest concept of Arakam religion.

Among the ancient Arakam, almost everything was arguable. What was not arguable was that which keeps “Makarati” — the Argument — alive. To be a’makarati meant, and still means, to be “with it” — just so, impeccable in presentation — to be a maker of the “!a’Makarani”: the best presentation to date.

The Makara, as we shall see, is probably the oldest trinity of global religion, and possibly the holiest concept of some current world religions, but its status among the ancient Arakam was creatively confused. Some considered it the holiest or at least second-holiest concept of their religion, but according to Infolli Hythlodias (350-270 B.C.), the greatest theologian, philosopher, musician, poet, and law-giver of the ancient Arakam, the Makara depended on Jura, the Path of Inquiry into Goodness.

Hythlodias taught that “Jura” meant essentially what Socrates meant by the word “areté”; but he thought that Socrates’ student Plato never really understood the concept. Pondering this, Hythlodias would often laugh … and sometimes mutter under his breath about Aristotle.

Or to Aristotle?

One could never be sure. Aristotle had died in his arms in Chalcis, long ago. Hythlodias seldom spoke of this until, in advanced years, he sometimes got lost in the weeds of an argument with his imaginary friend … lost partly because they had hastened from Athens with only a few bags of manuscripts. But lost, also, in a deeper sense: As Hythlodias sank into senility, he wrote some of his most thoughtful poems about unarticulable gratitude.

In his final years he still played his flutes, and whistled. The ancient Arakam were superb whistlers, and Hythlodias was the very best. Music was his passion, his service, his art. He had composed a song at age 17, The Wizened Music Man, which foretold the most striking aspect of his old age. Here it is as discovered and translated by Sara Jankyan in 1937, when she was employed as ancient manuscripts curator at Armenia’s great Matenadaran. As all Jurlandians know, Jankyan, a brilliant linguist, mother of Jurlandia’s first president under its new Constitution, Emil Mendel (1923-2013), was executed in 1946, a victim of the Arakam Show Trials.

Hythlodias’ melody is lost forever.

Here are his words:

The Wizened Music Man

There was a wizened music man at hand,
An aged minstrel, wanderer of the land.
His only treasure was his little flute
Carved lovingly himself of rosewood root
When he was learning, just a beggar’s child,
To shape each song with laughter, young and wild.
His gnarled old fingers, roughened so
By angry tides, by wind and snow,
Were nature’s greatest paradox
When they his rosewood flute did touch.

With gratitude he faced his twilight years.
New songs made art of bitterness and tears.
And thus he lived, and piped, and sang, to teach
Beyond the clouds and stars, thereby today to reach
Some strangers who a purpose for their lives must find:
His purpose was to know and love



Jura was the ancient Goddess of the Milky Way, whose pre-language symbol was first a circle with a line through it and then, essentially, “…(—)…”, on which — as we shall see — the Jonah story, the Naga serpents of Angkor Wat, the “parenthetic tails” festooning Chinese rooftops, and so many other symbols of what the Incas called “Hamarev” — “finding-making” — are based. All denote the necessary cooperation of “Man” with “God” in discovery, invention, creation, regeneration, co-causality, and co-creation … in a word, what “synergism” first denoted.

According to Hythlodias, Jura ordained the “Makara Dance of Three” — Aha and Haha (a duality), and Kubis. These three were and remain forever defined in terms of each other, a ditty of ideational equipoise, a perichoresis. They also tend to invite “additional parts” to harmonize with them: indeed, they call forth coherent multitudes. Together, they “make” Makara and “are” !a’Makarani. In prehistoric, nomadic times, the Arakam sang, danced, whistled, and “impeccably walked” Jura (verb: jura’ta) and thereby made Makara: Aha and Haha, monitored and guided by Kubis, balanced upon an intricate moving carpet, the Divine “Mappings” — the !a’Ra-tam — of Jurata, the Impeccable Journey.

For those ancient nomads, !a’Ra-tam mapped and penetrated a physical territory abounding with metaphysical implications; they discussed it, debated its contours, catalogued its wonders and terrors, analyzed and categorized and synthesized everything they knew or speculated about, and — based thereon — proposed modifications and improvements … as seemed appropriate to their role within an elaborate mindscape of physics and metaphysics which, they believed, could not “exist” without their !a’Ra-tam reflections upon their societal !a’Makarani.


This mosaic of evolving maps and blueprints the Arakam named “Jurlandia” … the “place of landing” of their ancient and ongoing quest for meaning, for a home, for Jura’s Place. Indeed, the ancient Arakam thought they had invented the idea of “having a place” and what that implied — agriculture — as befit the Chosen People they believed themselves to be.

And then along came Hythlodias, who preached human equality … and so much more, including the idea that “place” is only a contemplative pause-point along the road towards Jurlandia. As he said: “Jurata makes Jurlandia, and Jurlandia transforms Jurata; but, focus on either, and — as in night vision — they disappear; yet, focus on !a’Makarani, and … Jurata and Jurlandia emerge. That is Jura’s Way.”

Hythlodias would recite and sing ancient musings from when Jurlandia existed only as a thought experiment, the topic of a never-ending conversation from one campfire to the next; later, after the Arakam settled, Jurlandia came to reify Arakam speculations about the meaning of life, of thought, and of their beloved road, Jura. As Hythlodias explained, Jurlandia must remain an ongoing experiment, a journey of multitudes, the embodiment of Aha-Haha-Kubis pointing the Way towards the Nameless Music of the Spheres, !a’Ra.

This “!” symbol before some “words” denotes that they are not words; the Arakam articulate this symbol with a “knack” of the tongue off the roof of the mouth, which Hythlodias could express with perfect pitch, for more than one octave, at modulated volumes — thereby imparting further meaning.

He said “!” ordains Kubis and calls forth Aha and Haha, and hence rules !a’Ra. Because !a’Ra rules Jurlandia, there is no need to say or write “!Jurlandia”; its governance by Kubis is assumed.

Aha and Haha are essentially limitless theological concepts. Kubis, however, “limits” both and in that sense governs everything, including !a’Ra, that of Divinity.

Hythlodias said God can do anything except “makara” an absurdity. Then, invariably, Hythlodias would laugh.

Hythlodias asserted that without Kubis there can be no Aha and Haha, but without Aha and Haha there is no point in having Kubis; therefore, they are equally important: they “walk” Jura, the eternal Mother of God, and makara !a’Ra.

They !a’Ra-tam (a gerund): walking, journeying, flying by the seat of your most impeccable pants, composing !a’Ra.

Arakam language was and remains gerund-rich: “rivering” denotes or points towards both banks (all banks in a delta) and the water flowing between or among, by which mountains are washed to the sea. Such gerund-rich languages avoid false and misleading dichotomies; they tend to prefer “trichotomies”; indeed, Makara requires this preference. Thus, for example, the Marxist idea that “economics” is the fundamental datum of analysis ordaining and controlling “law” is impossible to take seriously in the Arakam language; to the Arakam, “law” and “economics” (and so much else) are co-causal, each co-creating the other. No language is better than Arakam — now, Jurlandic — for expressing the idea that biological species and meta-biological ideas coevolve, all “creating” the environment within which each develops, transforms, dies, regenerates.


Creative confusion remains much beloved among the Arakam, who greet each other daily with “Absul Skrami?” — which translates, crudely, into a question: “Do you have some nonsense to share?” The standard answer is “om” — which means both “me” and “universal riddle” — but another frequent response is “Absul Skramos!” — essentially, a declaration that one clown deserves another’s company. Avowed by lovers, it is a flirtatious affirmation of interdependence.

Among the ancient Arakam, ideological seriousness and certainty were distinctly frowned upon; this trait seems to have survived alien invasions, religions, and ideologies, although — as we shall see — the Arakam have paid a high price for their ancestral commitment to freedom of inquiry, thought, expression, and (in rough translation of Hythlodias’s most famous exhortation) “freedom from the glorious absurdity of !a’Ra, by which the deepest truths of Humanity and Divinity are revealed.”

This “freedom from the glorious absurdity of !a’Ra” can be limited only by Kubis, without which inquiry, thought, expression, and everything else nudges away from creative confusion towards destructive chaos; as a corollary, according to Hythlodias, anyone dismantling an idea has to be prepared to propose a better substitute. This implies the cardinal rule of Arakam governance: Do not topple the “leading” — the Skramas, or Chief Clown — without, in the same breath, choosing a successor. This point became central in the post-1991 constitutional debates.

Hythlodias, the Greatest Skramas, taught that Aha and Haha, governed by Kubis, “compose that of Divinity within Humanity” by virtue of a self-reforming process which alone can triumph over all self-referential paradoxes (“I know nothing”) and societal absurdities (the famous liar’s paradox). He taught that Aha and Haha transcend logic and experience because they depend on a “self-regenerating Kubis” — not a thing but a verb, a gerund, a co-creative relationship, the “Art of Jaha” (pronounced “ya-ha”): of self-conscious, self-governed journeying towards “prudent-happiness-making” … the deepest yearning of all humans … ?a’Skrama-tam.

Hythlodias said, “Your bliss is reflected in your neighbor’s eyes, in your future’s conscience, in your aged child’s dying smile.”


Among recently-discovered writings is Hythlodias’ account of Aristotle’s commentaries on Socrates’ assertion that, in the art of governance, “necessity is the mother of invention.” It was Socrates, through Plato, who first traced the origins of governance in terms of agricultural settlement, human specialization and tool-making, and the need for coherent planning, building, and maintenance of major public works, water systems, harbors, and defenses. Socrates traced the origins of “the art of law” in similar fashion.

Aristotle apparently built much further on Socrates’ ideas than scholars have heretofore realized. According to scholarly tradition, major Aristotelian “writings” (mostly compilations of his students’ notes) regarding law and governance, and much else, were irretrievably lost, some less than a millennium ago; now, a trove of ancient Armenian translations of Hythlodias, recently discovered at the Matenadaran, has surfaced; some of these writings were well-known to a few Armenian scholars before and during the early Soviet period. The Matenadaran also contains many ancient Greek manuscripts, not all of which have been studied by scholars who (like Abelard and Heloise in 1117) could recognize the significance of what they were looking at.

As Abelard’s beloved Heloise is the “key” unlocking the mystery of “Medieval Man” (for it was her translations from Greek and Hebrew to Latin that allowed Abelard to glimpse the paucity of contemporary understandings of Greek philosophy), so too, perhaps, Sara Jankyan might be the key to a new Age of Rediscovery.

According to President Mendel, his mother found manuscripts during the decades before the second World War that reported discussions between Hythlodias and Aristotle on their journey from Athens to Chalcis in 323 B.C. Aristotle, a non-Athenian like Hythlodias, was fleeing Athens following the news that his most illustrious student and patron, Alexander the Great, had died at age 33 in Persia. As Aristotle explained to Hythlodias, alluding to the trial of Socrates eight decades earlier, “I will not let Athens sin twice against philosophy.”

In his final months, Aristotle summarized his life’s work for his last pupil. He explained that, during his many years as a teacher, he had changed his mind on many matters. The subject on which he had most matured recently, he said, was what he called (following Socrates’ metaphor of the kybernetes, the steersman), the “cybernetics of society”: the art of self-reflective governance. He had joined Plato in condemning democracy — “mob rule” by incompetent demagogues, which ran roughshod over individual liberties, etc. — but in his old age he was developing a theory of constitutional governance in which individual liberty and majority rule would be “bounded by justice”: what Solon, the great Athenian law-giver, had long before called isonomia, equality under generally-applicable law that prospectively binds all … including the institutions of government.

Aristotle concluded that isonomia “called forth” demokratia. If we are to be equal under the law we must be equal in the making of law. But isonomia had itself been called forth by an even more fundamental conceptualization of equality: equality in personal liberty, and hence in human dignity. This, too, however, had to be bounded by isonomia.

In his final musings on this subject, Aristotle concluded that liberty, justice, and democracy were and must forever be mutually-defining and co-causal, a perichoresis. Each is a necessary component of Nomos, the Emanation of Logos.

On the journey to Chalcis, Aristotle became almost obsessed with the co-causal, coevolutionary processes linking natural and made environments. He said our tools — including our systems of governance — shape us as much as we shape them, and he speculated about the ways in which a “global civilization” might eventually require and shape a meta-intelligence, a Global Mind, focused — as all wisdom must be focused — upon choices, actions, and reflections aimed at further wisdom. On his deathbed, Aristotle said:

Socrates’ concept of the ‘art of governance’ implies the eventual development of “knowledge agriculture” that cultivates and harvests what the Great One called “self-knowledge” about our world about the success or failure of our various efforts to build a self-knowing, self-governing, and self-transforming global civilization founded on liberty, justice, democracy, and the Rule of Law based on the Rule of Reason. Socrates was the first to understand that, here on Earth, God’s work must truly be our own.

According to Mendel, speculations and proposals about these matters were central to Hythlodias’ subsequent work and writings. Mendel himself did pioneering work on these subjects during his youth, based largely on his mother’s research at the Matenadaran, and he became the nucleus of the so-called “Arakam Circle” — a remarkable group of Soviet prisoners at the Arakam Camp during the 1950s — whose discussions shaped future deliberations about the proposed Republic of Jurlandia following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

As Mendel has written: “According to Hythlodias, the Path of Jura requires disciplined reconsideration and reconceptualization — that every generation must ask itself ‘abiding questions’ that make it squirm, that fuel discontent among its youth, that impel its elders to warn and cajole and … but … also, to smile knowingly, and occasionally to laugh uproariously, if only in recollection of their own youthful clownings.”

Mendel’s favorite Hythlodias saying is, “Aging minds grow nimble defending the rights of youth to humble their elders in !a’Makarani.”

Hythlodias said everything that is non-trivial has a story. He said the deepest truths always start, “Once upon a time … .” To little children in ancient Arakam he told this bed-time story:

Once upon a time … long, long ago … in a land far, far away … there lived … a story, waiting to be told: Two wolves met in a wood. Neither knew the other. They went through a ritual — smelling, sniffing, snarfing, baring their teeth, nipping. This experience was well known to all wolves, but of course it had no name. They understood fully that bared teeth “point to” biting … but, if the baring is not followed by a bite, the “smile” points to friendship. Similarly, the nip points to a bite, but it does not point to what a bite points to; it points to “not-bite”; it is a kiss. It beckons Love as Jaha beckons ?a’Ra. [Then Hythlodias would beckon ?a’Ra by softly whistling the Lullaby to Jurlandia, and the children would hum dreamily along. Then Hythlodias would sing the words softly, sweetly, and other adults would gather round him and harmonize.] Ah, my little ones, this nameless beckoning — Aha, Haha, Kubis, the generous harmonies of Jaha, the hopeful singing of multitudes — calls forth ?a’Makarani. This is Jura’s Way. This is Jurlandia’s constitution. Sleep, little ones, and gain strength for the Journey. Dream, little mirrors of Jura, and gain sustenance from ?a’Ra the Nameless, whispered … Aha.

Arakam Makara ?a’Skrama-tam, Arakam ?a’Makarani Jurlandia.

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Part Two is Under Construction

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