A Wizard’s Second Rule

In my previous post (which was awhile ago – it’s amazing how an engagement and trying to get wedding plans underway can steal your attention!) I discussed the Wizard’s First Rule from Terry Goodkind’s The Sword of Truth series.  Today I move onto the Second Rule. Just as the first had some pretty interesting implications for the average person in everyday life, so does the second.

“The Second Rule is that the greatest harm can result from the best intentions.  It sounds a paradox, but kindness and good intentions can be an insidious path to destruction. Sometimes doing what seems right is wrong and can cause harm.  The only counter to it is knowledge, wisdom, forethought, and understanding the First Rule.  Even then, that is not always enough.”

When Richard, the wizard in training, questions this rule, that kindness can be harmful, the wizard gives him some obvious examples: it may seem kind to give a child candy, but if we continue giving him candy and he stops eating good food we’ll actually be doing harm.  The child will become sick. Another example would be when a person breaks her leg and we bring her food, take care of her.  At first this is obvious kindness, but as the person starts to heal she finds it difficult to walk on that leg, painful even, so we keep bringing food and taking care of her.  The longer we do this, the more difficult it will seem for her to get up, to go through the pain of learning to walk again.  Eventually her legs will shrivel up and she’ll become bedridden indefinitely.  Our good intentions will have caused more harm than good.

The wizard then goes on to discuss the rule in less specific terms, “Good intentions, being kind, can encourage the lazy, and motivate sound minds to become indolent. The more help you give them, the more help they need. As long as your kindness is open-ended, they never gain discipline, dignity, or self-reliance. Your kindness impoverishes their humanity.”

These words really had me thinking.  I could see their truth in the small and the large and realized I had had some of these thoughts before.  I remember meeting 18-19 year old boys, their first year away from home, who didn’t know how to make their beds, do their laundry, or cook themselves a meal. Growing up in a household where my brothers and I were often responsible for these types of tasks at a young age, it shocked me that others weren’t.  I’m sure it was just a result of their parents trying to be kind, to take care of their babies, but they then ended up sending those babies – turned young men – out into the world without the basic skills to take care of themselves.  A minor example, that could be rectified easily by the boys finding people to teach them how to do these tasks or fumbling through to discovery themselves . . . but still.

The rule also has implications that are much more concerning.  Wisdom and forethought may have told these boy’s mothers that they would be doing a stronger service to their sons if they made sure they at least had these skills. But if the mothers didn’t think about it, what about our government?  How many people are on social assistance for an indefinite period of time – long past the point where they should be able to get out and find their own jobs?  How many of these same people then come to expect support, feel entitled to it, and raise children who have the same expectations and never become contributing members of society? Take it even further, and how many of these people are using that kind social assistance to support their drug or alcohol addictions – call me judgmental, say I’m unaware of the underlying issues, but I’ve met some of these people and seen the way they live – all in the name of kindness, compassion, and generosity.  Wouldn’t it be kinder to spend that money to enable these people to provide for themselves? To let go of their addictions? To overcome their fear of trying to make it on their own? (And yes, there are of course programs out there that do this – and kudos to them!)

The wizard talks about a similar scenario and questions where the fault lays.  Give a beggar a coin because he says he needs it to feed his family.  Now, rather than feeding his family the beggar uses it to get drunk.  In that state he kills someone.  Is it your fault?  Your intention was to help feed a family, but the route you chose to provide that help led to a death.  Could there have been another, wiser, way for you to provide help? He warns that violation of the second rule “can cause anything from discomfort, to disaster, to death.”

Think of your life, as I’ll think of mine.  Are there any ways in which you’re trying to be kind to someone, trying to give help, but really you’re causing harm? But really you’re enabling them to not be as competent, as capable, as able to survive in the world as they could be if you withheld some of that so-called kindness? Think of your own life – is there any way in which you’re letting someone do for you what you could do for yourself and thereby preventing yourself from being the person you could be? Even further – is there any way in which some of these good intentions are causing harm, or could lead to harmful consequences in the future?.  Don’t shun kindness, but be cautious  and thoughtful with what kindnesses you bestow.  Be a wise wizard 😉

A Wizard’s First Rule

White-haired and -bearded wizard with robes an...

White-haired and -bearded wizard with robes and hat. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A couple months ago I posted about my new interest in fantasy – based on one of my brothers encouraging me to read his favourite fantasy series.  I’ve now gotten through the second book – an almost 1000 page delight and am taking a break before delving into the next . . . 10 of them I believe.  As well as having great characters, actors, and the type of writing that goes from character to character, leaving me frustrated that it’s another 80 pages before I get to find out what’s going on with so and so (but that is also a great trick to keep the reader reading), the book also poses some questions that I can take back to my life.

I’ll be careful not to drop too many (or any if I can) spoilers in consideration of those who may decide to pick the story up, but some of the things that have me thinking are the rules all wizard’s need to know and understand as they progress with their wizardry. I’ve only been introduced to the first two – but look forward to learning the rest.

The wizard’s first rule is simply that, “given proper motivation, almost anyone will believe almost anything . . . They will believe a lie because they want to believe it’s true, or because they’re afraid it might be true. People’s heads are full of knowledge, facts, and beliefs, and most of it is false, yet they think it all true . . . they can rarely tell the difference between a lie and the truth, and yet they are confident they can, and so are all the easier to fool.”

In the novel, the wizards use this as an intricate part of working their magic, at times the magic is little more than this knowledge – people believe they’re being controlled by magic when really they’re being controlled by someone else’s wits.  Now, the ellipses in that passage are where I took out the wizard saying ‘people are stupid.’  I took it out because, although that is true, sometimes there’s more than stupidity at work.  Sometimes, as it says, we believe a lie because we want to believe – sometimes it’s about faith, or hope, or – as he mentions – fear, deep fear, rather than just stupidity.

I think it’s that wanting to believe a lie, or fearing the truth of lie, and so believing it is what messes us up.  Think of the person who is told they’re stupid, unworthy, not enough . . . they believe these things.  Not because they want to, but because they’re so afraid they may be truth, that some unnamed part of of them takes over, telling them they are in fact truth.  On the other side, think of that woman who stays with the man everyone tells her is no good, simply because he tells her he’ll change, they’re meant for each other, she’s the only one who can help him be better, everyone else just doesn’t understand.  She wants it to be true, needs it to be true, because if it isn’t what does that say about how she’s been living her life? and so she believes.

Go further down into the rule and if we haven’t found ourselves in the first two parts, we can probably find ourselves in the next.   “People’s heads are full of knowledge, facts, and beliefs, and most of it is false, yet they think it all true.”  I know I’ve found myself there.  There were things I had believed so truly, so firmly – and at last I had to come to doubt the truth of their validity.  I wonder how much more is out there, how much I firmly believe that deserves to be assessed – that I need to figure out for myself to know whether they are things of truth (at least as far as I or anyone else can define truth), or things I just believe to be true because I was told so.

Going further still, I wonder how often I am still faced with a lie, believe it to be truth, and so am blind to being able to tell the difference.  I try to believe the best of people, I try to give people the benefit of the doubt and have often believed words when repeated actions have shown me different.  I feel that I am outgrowing this . . .  which makes me both sad and proud.  I want to believe the best in people.  I want to trust that the people around me are well-meaning, and honest, and people I can believe.  But after years of having friend after friend consistently let me down, take advantage of me and show through various small actions that they were not actually the friend I’d believed them to be, the friend I tried to be toward them, I’ve had to realize that I can not always choose to believe the best in people. (I’m happy to say that the friends I currently have, and let remain in my life for the long term are people I can believe).

Knowing and fully understanding the wizard’s first rule has two purposes for the skilled wizard.  The first is to be able to use this rule to work his magic upon others (hopefully for the greater good, but this is not always the case.)  It’s a part of the rule I’ll probably try to avoid. . .though I suspect I may end up using it on my future children a time or two – only for the greater good of course!  The second reason is to be aware, so the wizard never lets the rule be used against himself.  This is the reason why I’m holding onto this rule.  People try to use it all the time.  Hopefully, I won’t find myself the witless victim again. And hopefully now, neither will you!

Visit sometime in the next week to hear about the Wizard’s Second Rule – I found it even more thought provoking!

So art goes to art

I came across this piece today.  I wrote it a couple years ago at a spoken word workshop at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia.  Our group assignment was to choose a painting or display and each create something based on it. I liked the idea of using art to create art.

Inspired by Carol Hoorn Fraser’s Couple I -1971

Couple I

Couple I (Photo credit: nichameleon)

My heart grew when I thought of you
Reached the innermost spaces of thought.

Blind I follow.
Mute you stand.

Your mind the catalyst,
My soul the seed.

Roots that stretch
Sprouts that flower
Away from you my lifeblood goes
Ever deeper, ever higher
Toward you, we mingle
Just below the horizon.

Where no eyes witness
Our innermost parts entangle:
Ever stronger
Ever brighter
Ever one.

The sky a channel
For freedom, thought

The earth a refuge
Where, when I hold the shears
And you the knife that at any moment could sever

I pause

As your hand stops

I’m reminded
All that is outer is transient.

A passing cloud is the threat
Until a sky’s water covers us
And roots
Beautiful and strong
Grow more so
With what we thought for a fleeting moment could destroy
Grow more so
Blossoming into the iridescent frenzy

Of you
Of me
Of us.

Rooted

Blind to all that shears

Steady

Under a hazy, yet constant sky

The here and now

“Eternity has nothing to do with time.  Eternity is that dimension of here and now which thinking and time cuts out.  The experience of eternity right here and now is the function of life.” These words were spoken by a man who died mere months after saying them.  I wonder if he believed them as he said them.  I wonder what they meant to him?  The first part seems clear enough.  How could eternity have anything to do with time if it’s eternal?  If something’s eternal, there’s no way to measure it.  Measurement is essential to time’s existence.

It’s the here and now that’s harder to deal with.  If those words are true, and I have an inkling that they are, then this very moment, and this, and this are eternity. It saddens me.  It’s so hard to be here and now.  Though I suppose it should excite me.  It means each moment is endless – I guess.

It means I should be aware enough of my moment to recognize what it’s offering.  Or at least to know that I can be – if I so choose.That’s hard work, it’s tiring . . . but also a gift.  I just did it. I sat down at the computer feeling tired and disheartened and basically like a failure because of a series of things I’d failed at in some way in the past hour.  One mess up leading to another to another and to add to it, increasingly becoming frustrated at the way it seems my body has been betraying me lately (disconnected from the failures but disaster builds upon disaster.)  And so, wanting to test my words I closed my eyes and tried to focus on the now – feeling everything around me – my foot propped on the window ledge, the pain in my gut, the frustration in my soul, until I hit upon something that allowed me to feel the moment.  A song I’ve perhaps never really listened to and that in that here and now took me away from myself to something beautiful.  It also gave me a vision of a scene in what’s shaping up to be my next novel and as a result, though nothing’s really changed from 15 minutes ago, I feel more connected to me. That moment, at least, wasn’t a waste. This one isn’t either.

Maybe that’s all it’s really about.  Working to compile as many moments as we can that aren’t wastes, learning to do that naturally, and not beating ourselves up for those ‘other’ moments.

It’s so easy to live our lives focused on tomorrow, next year, ten years from now, or in hope of an afterlife.  And yes, there’s definitely some value in planning for some of those ‘times’ but at the same time  it makes no sense to miss today because of it.  One thing about time, we can’t go back in it.

“The experience of eternity right here and now is the function of life.”  Yeah, I think the guy who told us all to follow our bliss may have gotten this one right too.  Wherever you are, thanks Mr. Campbell for some words to ponder.

Check the rest of this post out at norfolknovelist

What great suggestions! For any fiction writers out there I’m sure you’ll take something away from this. I know I will.

Maggie Cammiss

It was my turn to take our writing group last week and as my theme I chose a topic I’ve written about in the past – Characterisation.

As well as what the story is about, readers are interested in who it’s about. They want a protagonist they can empathise and identify with throughout the story, but these characters won’t necessarily be nice people; some memorable characters from literature have been downright horrible – think Heathcliffe from Wuthering Heights, Vanity Fair’s Becky Sharp, Patrick Bateman from American Psycho, Pinkie Brown from Brighton Rock.  Whether likeable or thoroughly villainous, we need to believe that the characters we create are real, breathing people or our readers won’t believe in them either.

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Thanksgiving reminders

Sometimes it amazes me how easy it is to just get busy.  And how in getting busy we let other things, things that are important to us, slide out of focus.  This blog is one of them.  Focusing on getting the first several pages of my manuscript in proper condition to send to the publisher who was interested in it is another, and making time for the people in my life is the most important thing that I’ve let slide out of my focus in the past several weeks.

This past weekend was Canadian Thanksgiving.  It’s a time to spend with family and friends, be gluttons, and take a moment to be thankful for all of the blessings we have.  I was able to go visit my family in NB for the early part of the weekend, and then come home in time to spend Thanksgiving Monday with my fella’s family, which meant I was a glutton twice!

I also definitely took some time to relax and let the worries of work leave me for several hours.  A drive through what to my mind is back woods NB, a hike among the fall colours, and taking in some beautiful views with my love were certainly some of the highlights of the weekend.  Beyond that though, I found it particularly hard to let go of the life that was awaiting me back home.  It was hard to be fully present with my family.  Hard not to think of the way time away would steal from the time I should be working.  As a pertinent side note, I had a sample life coaching session several weeks ago. The most revealing thing this life coach said to me is that she noticed I used the word ‘should’ a lot while talking about my life.  Apparently I have what seems to be a ridiculous, presumably stifling and perhaps damaging sense of responsibility about the many ways I feel I should be spending my time.

The thing is though – the time I didn’t make to really spend with the family this weekend, the time I don’t make to call that friend I haven’t called in too long, to meet for that cup of tea with another, or that I don’t give to spending some time with me is the time I’m really wasting.  Yes, work needs to be done. Yes, responsibilities need to be met.  There’s no denying that.  But I have this sneaking feeling that if I put those other things first (within reason) I’d still get the work done, and probably have more energy and mental clarity in the process.

It was a weekend to be thankful and I have so much to be thankful for.  And so much that I don’t show that thankfulness for enough.  At the end of a Thanksgiving day run, the fella, upon seeing a rundown apartment, started commenting on just how lucky we are and just how often we don’t see that.  We let our stresses, our pains, our frustrations blind us to the fact that we’re some of the most blessed people in the world.  If you’re able to read this you’re probably wealthier than a staggering number of people in the world, not to mention more educated.

I’ve read so many times in so many ways the importance of being thankful daily, of taking the time to acknowledge the things in our lives that we are grateful for and though I do, it’s certainly not consistently.  I challenge myself, and you (if you don’t already) to do that.  Just be thankful, take the time each day for a brief moment to think about what you’re thankful for.  Ask a loved one what the best part of their day was and be thankful for that – together.

The land of peace

“For it is one thing to see the land of peace from a wooded ridge . . . and another to tread the road that leads to it.”

                                                  – C.S. Lewis

The above quote is taken from Lewis’ Surprised by Joy. Reading through the excerpts I’d copied out of the book years ago, I found myself again awed and challenged by this man’s thoughts and made uncomfortable by what they brought back to my mind – thoughts I often choose not to deal with.  There was fodder for any number of posts but most of them would require me to open with topics and in ways I’m not quite prepared to be open with on this forum . . . largely because there are people I know who read this! Perhaps that will be saved for a semi-autobiographical novel one day! 😉

Back to the words above – they struck me – yes, it’s definitely one thing to see the land of peace, and another thing entirely to tread the road that leads to it.  And even if we start that journey it’s, again, another thing entirely to allow ourselves to enjoy that land of peace rather than find/create stress or problems where we are and look ahead to what must really be the long desired land of peace.

I wonder if it’s a personality thing – I think it probably is.  There must be people out there who are generally satisfied and content with their lives, who feel that they are living in the land of peace, who can look at the problems, concerns, wrongs, offences, stresses, etc. in their lives and still stay in that land.  I seem incapable of it, at least consistently.  Now don’t get me wrong, there are certainly moments when I feel peace, but most of the time I’m in a semi-state of stress.  This may be heightened by the crazy amount of work (paid and otherwise) I have right now – which is great – but even in slow times I find I often find ways to push peace from my life.

I often find ways not to be as happy as I probably could be . . . Now in one sense that keeps me striving toward those things that I desire, but in another it wastes so many of the precious moments I have.  And of course . . . thinking of those wasted precious moments does what? Stresses me out! Prevents peace.

Now let’s see . . . what is peace anyway, perhaps I don’t really understand it.  My handy Oxford Dictionary says – quiet: tranquility, mental calm; serenity.  Yeah – I understand it, and although I have had real moments of mental calm and tranquility in my life (generally while in nature, during a tender moment with one of my nieces or nephews, or dancing in one of those states of ecstasy I sometimes get), for the most part a state of mental calmness is something non-existent for me.  I can’t seem to turn my mind off for a moment.  I’m analyzing  observing, assessing, critiquing, contemplating.

Meditation comes to mind – although I have a feeling I’d have major trouble with that too.  But, I suppose it’s probably something that improves with practice . . .

Okay – no great realizations, no answers, only the belief that if I could learn or figure out how to not only see that land but exist in it more I would do better justice to this gift of life I’ve been given.

Relatively speaking, I’m young.  From someone who perhaps has more experience than I do, from someone who has figured out how to let peace into their lives – any words of wisdom?

* I think it was actually Augustine‘s quote – which Lewis put in his book

* Another observation as I read through this . . . my moments of mental calmness seem to come when I’m fully engrossed in love – be it something or someone that allows my love of it to engulf me.

* And another addition! – I took the above picture on a walk home from staying at a friend’s house in Daegu, Korea – I was up all night hacking with a horrible cough and left as soon as it was light enough to not disturb her slumber any longer. (Although she was amazingly hospitable and didn’t show any signs of annoyance at the horrible noise I was making all night!) I was awed by the scene and the peace that flooded over me as I took the city’s morning beauty in.