Everything that follows is true.
As far as I know.
Centuries ago, in the time of kings, a young autodidact discovered the linguistic interface to the human mind. Some say he was the first wizard. This we cannot know for sure.
The source of the wizard’s power was a simple discovery. He learned that when he described to people a better version of themselves, they automatically rewired their minds to become the person of his description. At first the wizard used his method to control one person at a time. Before long he learned how to move entire crowds.
And then he was dangerous.
News of the wizard’s power spread across the kingdom. The king dispatched his soldiers to hunt down the wizard and kill him before the wizard’s power grew to rival his own.
But it was too late.
The wizard had anticipated his own death. Working feverishly, the wizard managed to condense all he had learned into four words. But there was a risk of leaving those four words and their immense power in the wrong hands after the wizard’s death. The world was not ready.
The wizard wrote his four words on scrolls and ordered his people to hide them in a maze of less-important words. The wizard hoped that someday a new wizard would find the hidden words and unpack their meaning. And he hoped that by then the world would be ready for such power.
Centuries passed. The words survived, but no wizard came to unlock their true meaning. Many pretenders tried. Wars were fought in an effort to understand the four words and the decoy words surrounding them. It was futile. The words were hidden too well, in plain sight, as wizards do.
Hundreds of years later, in another kingdom, five wizards rose. Each of them started life as bright, curious autodidacts. Individually, each of them decoded the hidden message from the original wizard and unlocked the power of the four words.
History does not tell us why five wizards suddenly rose at once, and in the same kingdom. We only know it happened.
Armed with the power of the four words from the original wizard, each of the wizards amassed fame and power. And each started to notice the unusual successes of the others.
One of the wizards was deeply unattractive. Yet he had the power to seduce any woman he chose.
That is a tell.
One wizard lived like a rich man despite having no net wealth.
That is a tell.
One wizard could inspire men to great acts, using words alone.
That is a tell.
The wizards met each other and shared their secrets. They were good people, by the standards of the day, but their powers caught the attention of the king. Men with so much power were a risk to the throne. So the king raised an army to move against the five wizards.
The five wizards heard of the king’s plan and combined forces to defend against his army. The ugly wizard was dispatched to seduce the king of another great power and persuade him to fight on their side. The wizard succeeded. But it wasn’t enough.
Another wizard used his powers to raise an army of passionate men who would fight and die for the wizards’ cause.
The remaining wizards manipulated the opinion of civilians and raised money to support the war.
The wizards knew their odds of survival were low. So they followed the example of the original wizard and created a linguistic maze to hide their secrets until future wizards could unlock their power.
The five wizards condensed the original wizard’s four-word linguistic code down to three new words that were a better fit for the times. And they buried the three words in a dense document where none but a future wizard would find them.
Against all odds, the five wizards and their legions of followers prevailed in a long, bloody conflict against the king’s forces. After the war, the wizards lived to very old ages, as wizards often do, and passed peacefully.
The words created by the five wizards changed the world in their time and continue to be the most important code in the operating system of human beings. Those three words have toppled dictators, moved mountains, and fed the hungry.
Perhaps someday a future wizard will improve on the code left behind by the five wizards. But I doubt it, because I believe you will never see three more beautiful or powerful words.
I have a link to an image of the original parchment created by the five wizards. The three words that matter are the first ones on the page.
The original wizard’s four-word code still survives as well. And it has escaped its linguistic maze to join less-important words from popular culture. But no matter now many words you put around the original four, none can change its meaning. The four words, in their time, told us of our better selves.
See if you can find those four words on this modern sign.
I also wrote this.