From: "Nigel Price"
Subject: FW: (urth) Being and pretending Date: Thu, 10 Apr 2003 19:35:56 +0100 For some reason, our wise friend Blattid is having difficulty posting his messages to the list. I forward here his response to one of my recent contributions. Nigel ----------------------------------------------------------------- Nigel, Still (Aaaargh!) unable to post so replying in person. Feel free to repost to the list if you want to reply. > I was interested, though, by the lines which Steve Case cited > from "On Blue's Waters" as being among his favourite Lupine > quotations: > "If I need more courage than I have to live, I will pretend > to have it and live anyway. I did that on the battlefield . . . > I acted the part of a hero. That is to say, I acted as it seemed > to me I would have if I had actually possessed dauntless courage." Without dismissing the correspondence you note below (and which I will reply to), this speech describes the common Christian practice of "assuming the virtue." In other words, we are not perfect in any of the virtues proper to the Christian life, but we pretend we are, and act as if we are, and eventually this behavior becomes habit. Some have even suggested that there is more virtue in acting as if you have a virtue which is not native to you -- for example, it takes more courage to act bravely when you are afraid then when you are not. > I have been rereading TIoDD&OS&OS recently and was interested > in the similarity betweent the above quotation and the following > speech from "The Death of Dr. Island". Nicholas is talking to > Diane about the pros and cons of taking medication for their > respective psychological problems and stating his preference for > carrying out disruptive behaviour whether or not is given any > therapeutic drugs: > > "Not doing it doesn't do any good either-I mean, we're both > here. My way, I know I've made them jump; they shoot that stuff > in me and I'm not mad any more, but I know what it is and I just > think what I would do if I _were_ mad, and I do it, and when it > wears off I'm glad I did." (p97 of the Arrow pbk edn of > TIoDD&OS&OS) > > The use of the word "mad" is interesting here, because in this > context it seems to combine both the traditional sense of "insane" > and the contemporary American usage where it means "angry". (A favorite non-Lupine quote: "I'm not mad. I get mad, but I'm not mad." The speaker is Troy Grenzer, a particularly vicious serial killer, in Peter Milligan's comic SHADE THE CHANGING MAN.) > Just as the narrator in Steve's quotation is brave because he > acts the part of a brave man, so Nicholas is mad because he acts > the part of a madman. > > What can we deduce from this about Wolfe's understanding of > psychology and virtue? That it is the will that is paramount, > that we can choose to be virtuous or wicked? Or that the nature > of our will, whether virtuous or corrupt, will be shown by the > choices that we make? This is indeed a recurring and very important theme in Wolfe. As noted above, it takes the positive form of "assuming the virtue." It has a well-known negative form, also, which I don't think Wolfe has ever stated explicitly -- but then, does he ever state any of his themes explicitly? -- but which Vonnegut has devoted at least two books to, MOTHER NIGHT and CAT'S CRADLE. In these books, he formulates the negative theme in variations of this statement: "We need to be very careful what we pretend to be, because we may find out we've become it." The theme is implied over and over again in Wolfe's books, but especially in the LONG/SHORT SUN series. Demons who pretend to be gods become those gods. "Gods" of mainframe, and especially Kindly Kypris, tend to become (aspects of) the Outsider. Horn pretending to be Silk turns out to be Silk pretending to be Horn. Inhumi who pretend to be humans tend to become humans (at least to the extent of having human souls). Et ceteRA, et ceteRA. (Again, as so often, 5HC turns out to be a "practice run" or "prelude" for the SUN books, as the whole question of who is and isn't an abo turns out to be an early variation on this theme. But it runs all through Wolfe's work.) > In either story, there doesn't seem to be any practical > difference between the person who does things, whether > good or bad, instinctively, and the person who does them > as an act of choice and will. Or is there? Is the person > who chooses in this way actually braver (or madder) than > the person who acts from simple instinct? The question of free will is, of course, another of Wolfe's ongoing themes, one which Silk states rather profoundly in one of the LONG books. I can't quote it exactly from memory, but it's something to the effect that "Perhaps free will is nothing more than the dignity of being permitted to cooperate voluntarily with what's going to happen anyway." Depending on your point of view (or existential "fundamental choice"), this is either a brilliantly happy or a miserably despairing statement; in either case, it's a pretty _accurate_ statement of the situation of our "free" will-in-Time as over against God's "fore" knowledge-in-Eternity (at least as best as I can understand the matter). > Perhaps there is no difference from the point of view of > the observer, but all the difference in the world for the > person themselves, and, therefore, for God too. Yes, but again, it's important to distinguish our in-Time understanding, where moments are serial and the future has not yet happened, from God's in-Eternity view, where all moments are equally present and our free choices have all always-already been made. --Blattid --