[1] Author's Preface

On the evening after my Wise and Munificent Master commissioned me to begin this task which has become my life's work, I was visited by a dream while I lay slumbering on my veranda. In it, a  vision came to me of a world in which the sun was not fixed in place, but moved across the sky from East to West and sank beneath the horizon at night. I was terrified by this phantasm of an alien land, where one could never be sure where one was at any moment, and where the weather changed from hour to hour, and where nothing was still. I imagined myself commissioned to travel in such a world and give an account of its inhabitants and climates, subject as they were to a moving sun. I thought such a task impossible, and I grew yet more afraid when I considered the consequences for my family and I when my Wise and Munificent Master became disappointed at my inevitable failure. I resolved to flee, and never to return to my home.

When I awoke, my real task - which had seemed so daunting and difficult the day before - now appeared so simple as to be a relief. I wondered about this dream (as I wonder about it still), and whether perhaps it was sent by my ancestors to help me by reassuring me that my quest could in fact be a success. It proved to be a continual source of help to me on my long and lonely voyages, when I would often look up to the sky in whatever distant and exotic location I found myself, and ponder the immovable nature of the sun, moon, and firmament, and how those heavenly bodies, in their constancy, give all life on earth trust and confidence that things are as they should be. The dream would make me thankful that, whatever else in my life might change, the universe at least would not. And that thought would calm me like no other.

Therefore, as well as to my Wise and Munificent Master, I dedicate this volume to whomever among my ancestors it was who sent me that dream that I saw that night long ago, and thank my Wise and Munificent Master for allowing me the privilege of doing so.


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