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Providence as a Chrons Thematic
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PostPosted: Fri May 12, 2017 3:50 pm    Post subject: Providence as a Chrons Thematic Reply with quote

+JMJ+

So as to not further derail the original thread, I think that it may be best to split off the discussion on a thematic of Providence in the Chrons which started in the RE-READING THE ENTIRE CHRONICLES thread.

Back in Winter 2015, he discussion began right about HERE, when I interjected the term "Providence" into the discussion. This is for reference, since I'm not going to split-it-off from this point.

I didn't make a new thread when I resurrected the discussion in Spring 2017 since I wasn't sure whether it would attract any play and I didn't want to beat a dead horse. However, Zarathustra and Wayfriend have since posted, so I think splitting the thread is … well … condign. Wink
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PostPosted: Fri May 12, 2017 3:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

+JMJ+

Wosbald wrote:
Zarathustra wrote:
Wosbald wrote:
"Providence" is used. Fact.


You know, I'm tired of just taking your word on this. Quote the text where it occurs. Show us the context and page number so we can look it up ourselves.


Well, I decided to do a search on google books. I did searches for "providence", "provident", "providential" and "providentially". I got no hits for "providential".

Not having full access, I'm not sure whether every use was returned in the results. And some of the results didn't have a page number, nor was the entire sentence always available in the preview. Nevertheless, here are the results I got, with extra context where needed, and I arranged them in the order which, to me at least, seemed most telling.

Quote:
"Well, damn," Covenant muttered. "If that isn't providence, I don't know what is." He felt unexpectedly cheered, as if an old friend had taken him by surprise. "Hell, I don't even know what the word means." — The Last Dark, p. 102

------------------------------------

Providence in all sooth. Even here, so many leagues away from the wonders of the Land that he had known in life, there were still gifts—
Now he prayed that food and water would sustain him well enough for what lay ahead. — The Last Dark, p. 103

------------------------------------

Linden started to say, Don't worry about it, but the Ironhand continued without pausing. "In truth, we knew not how to measure your need against our own. And we did not imagine that we would encounter no aliantha along our course." Then she grinned grimly. "However, great Narunal is provident. We do not lack for water." — The Last Dark, p. 152

------------------------------------

As the horses slowed, Branl stated with quiet satisfaction, "The Land is provident—as is Rallyn. Here we will find both water and sustenance. Corruption's wars did not extend into this region. Nor do the blights of Sarangrave Flat." — The Last Dark

------------------------------------

Then she snatched herself back, startled by what she felt. "My God, Liand," she breathed; but she should not have been surprised. Over and over again, the Land had demonstrated its provident richness. "I think that you can affect the weather." — Fatal Revenant, p. 379

------------------------------------

Before long, however, as she and her companions rounded a hilltop on their way to the next rise, something ahead of her tugged at her senses, and when she looked toward it, she saw a clump of aliantha.
No wonder she loved the Land. Its providence delighted her. — The Runes of the Earth

------------------------------------

His feet were numb: he could not feel his way. Instead he simply assumed that the sand shelved down gradually. Relying on blind luck or the Land's providence, he lurched into the current. — Against All Things Ending, p. 279

------------------------------------

discover the space he needed, except by accident or providence.
Another intersection. This time, Clyme turned right into a break so narrow that he was forced to squeeze along it sideways. Groaning, Covenant wedged himself between the walls. — Against All Things Ending

------------------------------------

"Being sailors," Coldspray continued, "they have borne with them a goodly quantity of rope. Such providence will surely serve us well." — The Last Dark, p. 374

------------------------------------

"Aye, Manethrall," assented the Ironhand. "The Ramen are provident as well as courteous. For many reasons, we grieve those Giants whom the Land names the Unhomed. Among our sorrows is this, that their fate precluded us from hearing their tales of both the Ranyhyn and the Ramen." — Against All Things Ending

------------------------------------

"Fortuitously," Cabledarm proclaimed to Linden, "we are Giants, and provident. In addition to water, we bear treasure-berries. They will feed us well enough for the present, and perhaps for the morrow as well." — The Last Dark, p. 301

------------------------------------

As she did so, she found that the Mahdoubt's providence had done her more good than she had realized. Her muscles protested, but they did not fail. Indeed, they hardly trembled. Food and springwine and soothing warmth had eased her weakness, although they could not relieve her exhaustion, or soften her heart. — Fatal Revenant, p. 291

------------------------------------

The Mahdoubt had come. But surely she had no power to compare with the Harrow's? She could cross time. And she could pass unseen to appear where she was needed. She was provident and considerate. But she had evinced no magic like that which the Harrow had repulsed Stave and the Humbled. — Fatal Revenant, p. 352

------------------------------------

Linden had told Bill that Roger was not dangerous enough for guns. Now she knew better.
Providentially, Sandy answered the phone almost at once. "Hello?" — The Runes of the Earth


Coincidence? You decide.

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PostPosted: Fri May 12, 2017 3:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

+JMJ+

Zarathustra wrote:
Wow, I was getting a little frustrated in that discussion. Sorry about that, Wos.

I'm not sure what you think the quotes prove. I acknowledged that Donaldson uses the word(s). I think the quotes back up my point that he's not talking about anything divine, supernatural, or external (transcendent). Most of the time, he's talking about people satisfying their hunger or thirst, rather than something spiritual.

Quote:
"Well, damn," Covenant muttered. "If that isn't providence, I don't know what is." He felt unexpectedly cheered, as if an old friend had taken him by surprise. "Hell, I don't even know what the word means." - The Last Dark, p. 102

Here SRD explicitly calls into question the meaning/usage of the word, letting us know that we shouldn't take it literally. His protagonist is using the word ironically, and then calling attention to this fact for the readers. They found some food in an unexpected place. That's lucky, not miraculous.

Several other quotes are along the same lines: the Land providing food and water. Again, this is a natural, physical, "earthly" (or "Landly") connotation of the word. It plays upon the reverence humans once held for things like the return of spring and nature's bounty, which were greeted with such gratitude as to invoke feelings of "holy" and "miraculous." But it's just nature doing what it does. Using providence in this sense to describe perfectly natural things is only an expression of the gratitude of the characters, the fact that they don't take such things for granted. It's similar to the distinction Donaldson was trying to point out between viewing nature with Healthsense and seeing it as mere "scenery."

Quote:

discover the space he needed, except by accident or providence.
Another intersection. This time, Clyme turned right into a break so narrow that he was forced to squeeze along it sideways. Groaning, Covenant wedged himself between the walls. - Against All Things Ending
Here "providence" is used in conjunction with "accident." In other words, it means "lucky."

Quote:
"Being sailors," Coldspray continued, "they have borne with them a goodly quantity of rope. Such providence will surely serve us well." - The Last Dark, p. 374
Here "providence" means "planning for the future."

Quote:
"Aye, Manethrall," assented the Ironhand. "The Ramen are provident as well as courteous. For many reasons, we grieve those Giants whom the Land names the Unhomed. Among our sorrows is this, that their fate precluded us from hearing their tales of both the Ranyhyn and the Ramen." - Against All Things Ending
Here "provident" is a characteristic of people, on par with other mundane characteristics such as being courteous. It means "generous," in this context.

Quote:

As she did so, she found that the Mahdoubt's providence had done her more good than she had realized. Her muscles protested, but they did not fail. Indeed, they hardly trembled. Food and springwine and soothing warmth had eased her weakness, although they could not relieve her exhaustion, or soften her heart. - Fatal Revenant, p. 291

Again, "providence" is equated with satiating one's hunger and/or thirst. Getting your grub on. Nothing supernatural there.

Quote:

The Mahdoubt had come. But surely she had no power to compare with the Harrow's? She could cross time. And she could pass unseen to appear where she was needed. She was provident and considerate. But she had evinced no magic like that which the Harrow had repulsed Stave and the Humbled. - Fatal Revenant, p. 352
Again, "provident" is a characteristic of a person, on par with "considerate." This is just like the Ramen example. Once again, it means, "generous."

Quote:
Linden had told Bill that Roger was not dangerous enough for guns. Now she knew better.
Providentially, Sandy answered the phone almost at once. "Hello?" - The Runes of the Earth
It means "lucky" here.

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PostPosted: Fri May 12, 2017 3:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

+JMJ+

wayfriend wrote:
Providence is just deus ex machina from a different point of view.





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[END OF THREAD-SPLIT]
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PostPosted: Fri May 12, 2017 5:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It seems to me that the following excerpt bear on the topic.

Quote:
"Attempts must be made, even when there can be no hope. The alternative is despair. And betimes some wonder is wrought to redeem us. Expecting death, I have sacrificed only my sight.

"Therein lay Kevin Landwaster's error - aye, and great Kelenbhrabanats also. When all hope was gone, they heeded the counsels of despair. Had they continued to strive, defying their doom, some unforeseen wonder might have occurred. And if it did not, still their glory would have surpassed their failure."

Quote:
Stave did not waver. "Ur-Lord," he insisted, "is it conceivable that the Creator's abandonment benefits his creation?"

Covenant scowled at the outcast Master. "Think that if you want. Hell, believe it if you can. It's as good as any other explanation. I can't imagine what the benefit might be. But maybe that's just one of my blind spots." Harshly he concluded, "Anything is better than giving up."

With his lone eye and his impassive mien, Stave regarded Covenant as though the Unbeliever had made his point for him.

It is ever thus. Obliquely Linden remembered Mahrtiir's advice before she and her friends had left the wreckage of First Woodhelven. Attempts must be made, even when there can be no hope. The alternative is despair. And betimes some wonder is wrought to redeem us.

Apparently Stave shared the Manethrall's conviction.

There are always surprises. And sometimes they help.

Quote:
Then he turned Mishio Massima toward Linden. His eyes blazed with need. "Linden, I'm sorry. I have to do this. Eventually we all have to face the things that scare us most. And I'm not actually convinced that the Worm can't be stopped. I just don't think we can stop it. There's more going on here than just the Worm and Lord Foul and Jeremiah and more enemies than we can count. I don't know what it is, but I don't believe-I don't choose to believe-that the way things look to us right now is the whole story. We have two white gold rings and the Staff of Law and Jeremiah's talent. We have friends who have never let us down. All of that has to be good for something."

He might as well have added, And betimes some wonder is wrought to redeem us.
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PostPosted: Fri May 12, 2017 5:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

+JMJ+

Zarathustra wrote:
Wow, I was getting a little frustrated in that discussion. Sorry about that, Wos.

I'm not sure what you think the quotes prove. I acknowledged that Donaldson uses the word(s). I think the quotes back up my point that he's not talking about anything divine, supernatural, or external (transcendent). Most of the time, he's talking about people satisfying their hunger or thirst, rather than something spiritual.


No prob, bro.

As to what it "proves", that's always a hard row to hoe, of course. I'm simply trying to riff on a few "remarkable points" in the text.

  1. Terminologically-speaking, "Providence" is almost unique to the LCs. It is only used once in TOT (Chapter 2) and twice in WGW (Chapters 4 and 7).* Considering the earlier Chrons' strong thematic emphasis on Freewill and the Decisional Crisis, this already makes its use in the LCs somewhat remarkable. At the least, the question is curious and merits further interrogation.

  2. The incidence and prominence of the term "Providence" generally increase throughout the LCs. This increase is so true, that, even though the term is used quite a number of times in RotE and FR, I didn't even begin to pick up on the possibility of a Thematic of Providence until AATE.

  3. The most remarkable occurence seems to be in the double-usage which bridges two sections of TLD's Chapter 5 (pp. 102-3). Here, Providence is affirmed "in all sooth [truth]" — unequivocally affirmed as true, even though Covenant has no idea what the word means. It is as if the concept's existential reality is wholly alien to him, yet he recognizes it like the unexpected return of an old friend. Anamnesis?

  4. And regarding the "surprising" (revelatory?) presence of an old friend, mayhap this signals the return of a character who has been conspicuous in the LCs only by his absence?


-------------------------------------------

*Occurrences outside of the Last Chronicles

Quote:
------------------------------------

"For a moment, Linden paused to consider the continuing providence of the Haruchai." — The One Tree, p. 13

------------------------------------

"Once again, Covenant was wanly abashed by the providence of the people who had sought to serve him." — White Gold Wielder, p. 75

------------------------------------

"That sight made Covenant long for Sunder and Hollian. The Graveler of Mithil Stonedown had left his home and people to serve as Covenant's guide through the perils of the Sunbane; and his obdurate skill and providence, his self-doubting courage, had kept Covenant and Linden alive" — White Gold Wielder, p. 154

------------------------------------

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PostPosted: Fri May 12, 2017 6:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

+JMJ+

@WF,

Thanks. I'd vaguely remembered the existence of the quotes you give but despaired of ever finding them, except upon a projected reread. I was banking on you sourcing them. Somehow, I knew you'd come through. Wink
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PostPosted: Wed May 17, 2017 12:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

+JMJ+

[BEGINNING OF 2ND THREAD-SPLIT]


-------------------------------------------------


Zarathustra wrote:
Donaldson wrote:
... any attempt at *meaning* which relies on some kind of external superstructure (God, Satan, the Creator, the Worm, whatever) for its substance misses the point (I mean the point of my story). -SRD


I don't understand why the argument doesn't end there. The ONLY sense of "providence" that is consistent with Donaldson's own explicit characterization of the POINT of his story, is one that avoids any external connotation and focuses on a purely human meaning. In this sense, providence can only mean "lucky" at best.

You can continue to miss the point if you want. But you're only talking about your own personal feelings, in direct, explicit contradiction with SRD's stated intentions.

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PostPosted: Wed May 17, 2017 12:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

+JMJ+

DrPaul wrote:
The central issue in the Chronicles is the ability of humans to make choices that make a difference, even in the most seemingly hopeless situations - as Covenant eventually does in the First Chronicles, as do Covenant and Linden in the Second Chronicles, as do Covenant, Linden and Jeremiah in the Last Chronicles, and as do various other characters at crucial junctures. If it is not those human choices that make the difference, but Providence that delivers a happy ending, the whole point of the story is lost.


-------------------------------------------------


[END OF 2ND THREAD-SPLIT]
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PostPosted: Wed May 17, 2017 2:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

There's no contradiction here.

Quote:
"Attempts must be made, even when there can be no hope. The alternative is despair. And betimes some wonder is wrought to redeem us. Expecting death, I have sacrificed only my sight.

If you unpack the lines, what do you find?

It's about choosing.

At that moment when things seem hopeless, that's the moment you need to recognize that you still have a choice. You can always choose how you face doom. The choice that is your only truly human power, the power to choose how you feel about a hopeless situation.

It's about resisting the lure of despair.

Despair is never the only option. There is always the choice to struggle on, and that's not merely an academic choice. It has value. Because you can stand up for what you believe in. And because ... you never know. A gambler plays as if he is going to get the one sole card in the deck that makes his hand. The only path with no chance to succeed is the path of forfeit.

And it's about providence.

Betimes some wonder. If you keep hope alive, then hope may prevail. Something you were unaware of can lead to a different outcome than the one you expected. Other's who are fighting the same battle may create the opening you need. You may have underestimated your position, or the efficacy of your friends. A miracle can happen.

What is providence?

Providence is both divine and mundane. "I am the help God sent you." The mundane form it takes - the arrival of a new ally, the sudden calamity that strikes your foe, the coincidence of something being where it's needed - is only one aspect of it. It's up to each person to decide what that means. Is it random luck? Or is it the hand of fate? Or is it the will of the Creator? Only your own brand of religiosity will determine how you view it. But one thing for sure is God doesn't send lightning bolts from heaven - he works in other ways. He does not, as we say, reach directly through the Arch. God's help may be indistinguishable from a crew of Giant sailors catching up with you at the door of Mount Thunder.

So does providence obviate everything about you?

Well, they say luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity. There are two parts to this equation. Providence doesn't - can't - help the person who gave up. It only helps those who chose correctly in the face of hopelessness. Nor does it make that choice for you - it is still your choice, your human choice, and you still need the strength and the wisdom to make it. Providence takes nothing away from what one earns by resisting despair.

If the characters in the Chronicles had chosen despair, and then providence rescued them ... that would make the story meaningless. But that's not what happened, not once. Instead, characters are rewarded for making the right choice when it was a hard choice. Perhaps in another story, the characters could make hard choices in the face of hopelessness, and fail - that would be realism, but it would not be this story.

In this story, "choices like that" matter in a very real way. The effective (non-futile) choice wins the day. Providence compliments what the characters accomplish, it never obviates it.
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PostPosted: Thu May 18, 2017 12:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

+JMJ+

@Wayfriend,

That pretty much sums up, in a better and succincter manner, everything that I was wanting to say.

Yes, one can accept both SRD's quote (as cited by Z) and Providence as being an LC thematic.

One doesn't have to deny either a commendably passionate commitment to Freewill throughout the bulk of SRD's work or the introduction of a complimentary, balancing theme in his mature work. There is no need to pit these two against each other.
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PostPosted: Thu May 18, 2017 4:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I can understand readers trying to insert religion and spirituality into the Chronicles because it's important to them. But I don't see this on the basis of the author's words themselves, either in the text or in the GI.

I quoted the following in the previous thread, but it hasn't been included in this one, where it is particularly relevant.

Quote:
Patrick Supeene: Dear Mr. Donaldson:

I have really enjoyed reading the Thomas Covenant books and your short stories. I find your vocabulary astonishing and your descriptions extremely vivid.

I wonder, though, about your use of the word "transubstantiation," in The Runes of the Earth. My understanding is that the term refers to a change in substance that is not accompanied by a change in the accidents. After the consecration during Mass, what was bread and wine still looks, tastes, feels, etc. like bread and wine. The accidents remain, but they have no substance in which to inhere. The substance has become Jesus Christ, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity.

Many thanks for the outstanding literature you have produced.


I'm afraid I don't understand your question. By your definition, I've used the word correctly--at least far as I can tell. What's the problem? Is it your contention that the word can only be used in reference to the Christian sacrament of communion? In that case, yes, I've mis-used the word. But I like to think that words can be used as metaphors, or can be extended (in some form) beyond their most literal denotations. That, it seems to me, is part of the glory of language. Why can't the general concept of "incarnating the sacred in the mundane" be applied in contexts that have nothing to do with churches, priests, or even coherent religions?

(03/01/2006)


Not only does Donaldson explicitly deny a transcendent, supernatural interpretation of his story, but he gives us explicit reasons to suspect that he uses religious language in nonreligious ways as metaphors for something that's entirely human.

All of the wonders that are wrought in the Chronicles are wrought by the characters themselves. That's why the Creator is no longer a character, to highlight that He had no role in creating the wonders! This is not a story about Creators, except in the sense that humans are themselves creators. With the Creator conspicuously absent from the story, there can be no confusion that the protagonists themselves wrought their own wonder.

The Chronicles are existential humanism, not religious allegory. They are a mythology for the prospect that "divine" and "holy" can mean something entirely removed from external connotation, and instead be contained entirely in the choices and actions of humans. It is a way to see the mundane world as something more than mundane--not by injecting it or investing it with meanings that go beyond (into Creator territory), but instead in ways that PRESERVE mortality, evil, sickness ... Banes, Worms, and Lord Foul. Reality is still "holy" even though it contains things like mortality, finitude, and despite.

It's not about settling into a non-contradictory, complimentary relationship with the Divine. If that were the case, the Chronicles would be no different every single religious myth ever created, which are all dualistic* in the sense of combining heavenly with earthly. If you actually think Donaldson merely wanted to reiterate the same point of every religion in history, to retread the same exact ground, then you are missing the point of his story (and by extension you're accusing him of being extremely unoriginal). He has SUBVERTED religious meaning in a similar way as Nietzsche did with Thus Spoke Zarathustra, using the same language of religion to create an entirely different meaning, a human meaning.

* [Edit: and since dualism is inherently contradictory, the claim that Providence and existential humanism aren't contradictory is itself highly suspect. Even if that were the goal--which I emphatically deny--it is unclear whether it can be achieved in principle ... much less whether Donaldson himself achieved this goal which has eluded philosophers for centuries.]
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Meaning is created internally by each individual in each specific life: any attempt at *meaning* which relies on some kind of external superstructure (God, Satan, the Creator, the Worm, whatever) for its substance misses the point (I mean the point of my story). -SRD

Remain faithful to the earth, my brothers, with the power of your virtue. Let your gift-giving love and your knowledge serve the meaning of the earth ... Do not let them fly away from earthly things and beat with their wings against eternal walls. Alas, there has always been so much virtue that has flown away. Lead back to the earth the virtue that flew away, as I do–back to the body, back to life, that it may give the earth a meaning, a human meaning. -Nietzsche
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PostPosted: Fri May 19, 2017 2:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Some more thoughts.

When I think of Providence, I think of Lord Mhoram's Victory.

There he is, battle-blasted and emptied of power, his staff shattered, as the Giant Raver prepares to deliver an evil green coup de grace. And then, at the last possible moment in which it might have meaning and effect, the krill ignites. That's all Mhoram needs. Bam! Good night, Raver.

We the readers know what happened. Covenant had recovered his ring from Dead Elena, and the krill echoed his return to power.

But, from Mhoram's point of view, it could only be providence. He had no knowledge of what transpired with Covenant. To him, the krill burned for no reason he could see. It just did. A miracle. When he needed one.

There's an aspect of providence that's like that. It only seems like a miracle because you don't have all of the information. If you had perfect knowledge, it would be obvious.

Can you imagine if Covenant had no idea about Linden and She Who Must Not Be Named? If, from his point of view, Her giant fist squashed Lord Foul out of the blue? It would be a miracle, right when he needed one.

Of course, Covenant did know, and we knew, too. Is that still providence? I think so. I don't think whether or not we know why it happened makes a difference. It only changes how miraculous we feel it was.

Consider this: If the krill had sparked up thirty seconds later, Mhoram would be dead, and it would have made no difference. Two minutes earlier, and the Giant may have seen the krill in time to prepare a defense, or summon help, or flee. But the krill happened exactly at the right time, when Mhoram seemed broken and beaten, and the Giant stood over him, defenseless against a surprise attack. So, the timing is providence, too.

Of course, it's all constructed by the author to happen that way. If they make it dramatic and fulfilling, it's great story-telling. If they make it too preposterous, it's deus ex machina. I will say, for the sake of argument, that Donaldson does it well.

But what that means is that providence is part of a good author's toolkit. The fortuitous surprise; the miracle when you need it. Sometimes, they give you the inside information about why it happened; sometimes, they leave it a mystery, maybe they explain it later on, or never explain it at all. But authors can and do deliver miracles.

Do miracles make all the characters' struggles meaningless? No. No one can say Lord Mhoram's Victory was meaningless. As I said above, it can complement and validate characters' struggles and decisions, at least if it's done right.

But also consider the angle about information. It's only a miracle because you don't have all the information.

The corollary to this is also useful to remember: anything might seem like a miracle to someone.
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PostPosted: Fri May 19, 2017 5:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

+JMJ+

Zarathustra wrote:
*[Edit: and since dualism is inherently contradictory, the claim that Providence and existential humanism aren't contradictory is itself highly suspect. Even if that were the goal--which I emphatically deny--it is unclear whether it can be achieved in principle ... much less whether Donaldson himself achieved this goal which has eluded philosophers for centuries.]


Considering that monism is, in equal measure, inherently contradictory, where might this be leading us?

For my part, this seems to be leading us unto that exact spot whereat hardworking Wayfriend has been kindly blazing a trail, viz., into "the eye of stability in the core of the contradiction". Into the tensive steerage 'twixt the twin pillars of the paradox.

It's amazing how all these thematics keep coming together, recurring and networking. That is, once they are allowed gel organically.


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PostPosted: Fri May 19, 2017 5:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wosbald wrote:
Considering that monism is, in equal measure, inherently contradictory, where might this be leading us?
The contradiction in dualism is the idea of two metaphysically diverse substances interacting, like mind and body. If they're utterly distinct, then what possible common ground can they share upon which to interact? It's the same puzzle that Fist and Faith mentioned in the free will discussion: how does a ghost pass through walls and yet still pick stuff up?

There is no corresponding contradiction to monism. A reductive monism, like materialism, might leave something out of its account--like mind--but a neutral monism need not suffer such flaws. But regardless of the alleged flaws of monism, it has no bearing on the claim that Donaldson was trying to form a non-contradictory union of the Divine and the mundane.

Wos wrote:
For my part, this seems to be leading us unto that exact spot whereat hardworking Wayfriend has been kindly blazing a trail, viz., into "the eye of stability in the core of the contradiction". Into the tensive steerage 'twixt the twin pillars of the paradox.

It's amazing how all these thematics keep coming together, recurring and networking. That is, once they are allowed gel organically.
Well, thematics have a tendency to "come together" when you conflate ideas that weren't intended to be conflated by the author. The "eye of the paradox" that Donaldson mentions over and over is the place that both Covenant and Mhoram get to when they find the balance between passion and control. That's the paradox that makes up Covenant's character arc. Over and over Donaldson has examples of characters who let passion get the best of them (Giants, Kevin, Covenant) and others who let control become too rigid (Bloodguard, Masters, anyone clinging blindly to the Oath of Peace), until he finally shows us characters who balance these. Not only does he make this his narrative focus, but he talks about it in numerous places in the GI.

I don't see the textual or GI evidence of him talking about the "eye of the paradox" in terms of a complimentary relationship between freewill and Providence (in the Divine, external sense ... rather than just "lucky"). If you can find it, then presenting that might be more convincing than A Team memes. Laughing

Another quote from the GI:

Quote:

Writing in ways that evoke themes of 'sin and redemption' is as natural as breathing to me. It's bred in my bones. But I don't actually think that way about my writing. I think in terms of reductiveness and dehumanization, affirmation and integrity. However, putting my views in your terms: 'we all have to work out our own salvation, with fear and trembling' (I'm paraphrasing someone, but I can't remember my own source <sigh>). It can't be given to us; so things like ritual and religion are usually (but certainly not always) useless. And to the extent that religion and ritual distract us from the fact that we have to work it out for ourselves, they can be an active hindrance to redemption.

(Meanwhile, if you want to bring things like faith and hope into the discussion, you'll have to define your terms. People often throw those words around in ways that communicate only confusion.)

(03/17/2010)
This quote reiterates my point: when he is writing in the language of religious themes, he's doing so because it's "bred into his bones," as he says. But he's not thinking of them as religious themes, he's actually thinking of them as existential themes, such as: reductiveness and dehumanization, affirmation and integrity. He says so right there! He's telling you what's in his mind when he writes stuff that sound religious! What a resource! The author's own words! We don't have to guess!
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Remain faithful to the earth, my brothers, with the power of your virtue. Let your gift-giving love and your knowledge serve the meaning of the earth ... Do not let them fly away from earthly things and beat with their wings against eternal walls. Alas, there has always been so much virtue that has flown away. Lead back to the earth the virtue that flew away, as I do–back to the body, back to life, that it may give the earth a meaning, a human meaning. -Nietzsche
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PostPosted: Fri May 19, 2017 6:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

For the record, I never said anything about the author promoting any religious ideas about salvation or life meaning -- and sure as hell discussed the opposite quite distinctly.

That's for the record, not for Zarathustra. He poops where he will poop, no fighting it.
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PostPosted: Fri May 19, 2017 7:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I was talking to Wosbald, WF. You and "the record" have fun talking about my poop. It's not a subject that interests me. Maybe we need another thread split. Laughing
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Meaning is created internally by each individual in each specific life: any attempt at *meaning* which relies on some kind of external superstructure (God, Satan, the Creator, the Worm, whatever) for its substance misses the point (I mean the point of my story). -SRD

Remain faithful to the earth, my brothers, with the power of your virtue. Let your gift-giving love and your knowledge serve the meaning of the earth ... Do not let them fly away from earthly things and beat with their wings against eternal walls. Alas, there has always been so much virtue that has flown away. Lead back to the earth the virtue that flew away, as I do–back to the body, back to life, that it may give the earth a meaning, a human meaning. -Nietzsche
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PostPosted: Fri May 19, 2017 9:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

+JMJ+

Zarathustra wrote:
I don't see the textual or GI evidence of him talking about the "eye of the paradox" in terms of a complimentary relationship between freewill and Providence (in the Divine, external sense ... rather than just "lucky"). If you can find it, then presenting that might be more convincing than A Team memes. Laughing


Even if you read Providence as "Luck" (which, as WF felicitously points out, is easily doable), you've added a second variable to the mix which is in positional tension with Freewill. This, itself, would seem to problematize your assertion that "[a]ll of the wonders that are wrought in the Chronicles are wrought by the characters themselves".

To take "betimes some wonder is wrought to redeem us" and to seemingly rewrite it as "betimes we work some wonder to redeem us" (which would leave no room even for Luck) sure seems to be mighty awkward, to say the least. To me, such an imperative would seem to demonstrate an unwelcome residue of monism.

No matter how you read the text, it seems to me that you still have the problem of how you can have both "Luck" and all of the wonders being "wrought by the characters themselves".

That is, unless you want to dismiss both Luck and Providence, and instead, simply charge SRD of having capriciously added a narratively useless element.

----------------------------------------------------------

wayfriend wrote:
For the record, I never said anything about the author promoting any religious ideas about salvation or life meaning -- and sure as hell discussed the opposite quite distinctly.


Quite rightly.

Also, I would add that the fact that some ham-fisted partisans have attempted to convert the Chrons into a thinly veiled religio-ideological manifesto (to which SRD rightly and repeatedly applied the brakes) would not justify correspondingly ham-fisted attempts to convert them into a seculario-ideological manifesto. Both of these nervously solicitous tendencies create small, constricted, impoverished readings which only cheat the reader, himself, of the fullness and richness of an relaxed, organic, authentically human reading.*



*Sorry, Z. Don't mean to sound too harsh, but, FWIW, sometimes your readings seem to strongly lean towards this second tendency.
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PostPosted: Sat May 20, 2017 1:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wosbald wrote:


Even if you read Providence as "Luck" (which, as WF felicitously points out, is easily doable), you've added a second variable to the mix which is in positional tension with Freewill. This, itself, would seem to problematize your assertion that "[a]ll of the wonders that are wrought in the Chronicles are wrought by the characters themselves".
We've been talking about numerous definitions of providence/provident since the beginning. I believe it was Vraith who listed them (there's still quite a few relevant posts in the other thread). And I've noted several different meanings in the list of quotes you provided at the outset of this thread. Yes, it can be read as "luck." It can sometimes be read as "prudent planning." It can sometimes be read as "generous," (for characters) or "bounteous" (for the Land).

If you can accept that Providence (the Divine sort) can take the form of characters suddenly appearing to help each other, why can't luck also take this form? Just because characters have wrought their own wonders doesn't mean this isn't a lucky thing to have happen (especially for others whom they help), or that luck isn't involved in their own actions while they create these wonders. If there is no contradiction in the Divine and the mundane interacting, there certainly is no contradiction in luck and the mundane interacting, because luck *is* mundane.

That's the whole point. We get used to thinking of mundane as synonymous with "routine," "typical," or even "boring." We lose the wonder for the mundane by forgetting that things which are rare, precious, lucky, improbable come from the same exact mundane world that also contains death, drudgery, and despite. Reawakening our recognition of the "divine" (little "d-," metaphorical) in the mundane is the point. It's a reason to sustain hope in the face of death and despite. Sometimes the world itself is wonderful, and perfectly mundane wonders appear to surprise us.

I should have said, "All the important wonders are wrought by the characters." I was thinking of Linden raising Covenant from the dead, creating a new Forestal, and L/C/J creating a new Land. Things like that. But some wonders just happen, like finding food where you didn't expect.

There's no contradiction here.

Wosbald wrote:
To me, such an imperative would seem to demonstrate an unwelcome residue of monism.
Not sure what you mean.

Wosbald wrote:
Also, I would add that the fact that some ham-fisted partisans have attempted to convert the Chrons into a thinly veiled religio-ideological manifesto (to which SRD rightly and repeatedly applied the brakes) would not justify correspondingly ham-fisted attempts to convert them into a seculario-ideological manifesto.


I'm not saying that he's writing a manifesto. But Donaldson has told us numerous times that he's writing from a secular, humanist perspective. And he says that trying to see it otherwise misses "the point" of his story. On the other hand, he also claims not to be writing *about* anything other than characters and their story (i.e. no themes whatsoever, if you can believe him).

Donaldson wrote:
So you could--if you were so inclined--say that my stance as a story-teller is one of "existential humanism."


That's probably the most explicit version of what I'm talking about. It's quotes like that which give support to my interpretation. However, he goes on to say that this isn't what he's writing about.

Donaldson wrote:
As for me, I don't think about religious themes--or *any* themes--when I write. I concentrate on two things: 1) telling the story to the best of my abilities; and 2) giving as much of myself to my characters as I can. In retrospect, of course, I become aware of all manner of themes. But I don't consciously strive for those themes while I'm writing.

(06/05/2011)



Donaldson wrote:
I must insist: I DO NOT HAVE A MESSAGE. Certainly not in the sense that "allegory" implies. I'm not trying to convince you of anything, teach you anything, demonstrate anything, or advocate for anything.

My *message,* if I have one, is simply that good stories are worth reading. Why? Because, in my experience, they expand us. How? By engaging us in extremely specific individuals experiencing extremely specific dilemmas which we would not have encountered otherwise, but which (precisely because they are not us) can increase the range of what we're able to understand and (perhaps) empathize with. Polemics, by definition, is about generalization. Story-telling, by definition, is entirely consumed in specifics.

...My stories are not *about* anything except my characters and their emotions; their dilemmas and their responses to those dilemmas.


However, I think he recognizes on some level that even this assertion about his work--as with any author--can be questioned:

Donaldson wrote:
Under the circumstances, it's remarkable that audiences do often achieve a degree of consensus. Both Lewis and Tolkien claimed that their works (Narnia and LOTR) were not allegorical. At a guess, I would say that 90% of readers dismiss Lewis' assertion and accept Tolkien's.

Of course, we could discuss whether or not the text of "The Chronicles" qualifies as allegory. But first we would have to define allegory. By any definition that I'm familiar with, I dislike allegory in general, and I strive against it in my own work.

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Remain faithful to the earth, my brothers, with the power of your virtue. Let your gift-giving love and your knowledge serve the meaning of the earth ... Do not let them fly away from earthly things and beat with their wings against eternal walls. Alas, there has always been so much virtue that has flown away. Lead back to the earth the virtue that flew away, as I do–back to the body, back to life, that it may give the earth a meaning, a human meaning. -Nietzsche
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PostPosted: Sat May 20, 2017 5:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

+JMJ+

Zarathustra wrote:
If you can accept that Providence (the Divine sort) can take the form of characters suddenly appearing to help each other, why can't luck also take this form? Just because characters have wrought their own wonders doesn't mean this isn't a lucky thing to have happen (especially for others whom they help), or that luck isn't involved in their own actions while they create these wonders. If there is no contradiction in the Divine and the mundane interacting, there certainly is no contradiction in luck and the mundane interacting, because luck *is* mundane.


I believe that I already made myself clear in agreeing with WF that Providence is formally indistinguishable from Luck. So, yes, Luck can "also take this form", as you say.

My point was simply that your acceptation of Luck adds a rogue element, viz., an element which seems to create a conflict with your assertion that "[a]ll of the wonders that are wrought in the Chronicles are wrought by the characters themselves".

To reiterate, it doesn't seem as if you can affirm both 1) Luck and 2) all of the wonders being "wrought by the characters themselves".

That's about it in a nutshell. Just a simple little observation.
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