In 1933, the Panaceans lost Jack, the campus jackdaw. As they note here, he represented ‘the mortal mind’ in particular its fragility, presumably in opposition to their own eternal souls. He also proved to be a sort of portent, as jackdaws often are: the following year, the Panaceans’ prophet Octavia herself would pass away. Octavia’s passing was a great test to this group, whose faith was supposed to secure immortality. They believed she would return, and bring Christ with her.
The Panaceans were professional attendees. There was always a beautiful post-justification for each unexpected passing, and an anticipated return.
In my story, Jack is back (see The Return), perhaps representing Octavia and the other Panaceans believed to return, but also as a symbol of the faith-like hopes and fears we, in 2018, pin on the progress of Artificial Intelligence as a force for salvation.
While in many ways it feels like ancient history, it’s worth remembering it’s only 84 years since Octavia died. It’s likely we have far more in common with the Panaceans than we think.