in the Shadow of Greatness


February 22, 2002

Revelations in misery

Blogs reveal incredible things about people. For one, that most people are much more alike than they are different. You might admire an acquaintance, or envy a talent that someone has, but the person you admire or envy has their own set of frustrations and problems that seem much more important to them than the gifts they also have. No matter how smart, how young, how wise, or how rich someone is—- from a certain viewpoint, the specific communication of distress is probably the first, the foremost, and the most eloquent in our long sentient history.

Humans are good at bitching. Misery is immediate and very hard to ignore. And blogs are probably a healthy vent to misery. Humanity certainly has a common need of that. You won't find much misery in my blog.

For one thing, I'm an incredibly ordinary person with very ordinary misery. Why would mine be more interesting than yours? In fact, I'm sure that yours is more interesting than mine, so I set it aside. For another thing, I find that human experience, even misery, is a reward of perception. Not an original thought, but even pain tells us we are alive. Something like: I think, therefore I am able to imagine the gap between what I am, and what I might be. Now what if humans were immortal? (Ha! Caught you. You forgot that everything here is connected to Zelazny's Amber, didn't you?)

More than one observer of Amber has taken the actions of the royals as very similar to kids in a sandbox. Petty. Immature. Small-minded actions that we can see on any playground. Elevated, of course, to some degree of perfection (as we are only shadows.) In our shadow, children are both sensitive to every nuance and capable of forgetting nearly all hurt. They sob or rage or love with their full attention. They are the center of their own world; they never walk a mile in someone else's shoes, but they may covet a ride on someone else's 'morgenstern'. What if children were immortal? The classic examples are scary. Children would be mercurial, arrogant, loving, and capable of much destruction. Creating things would be intriguing to them, but always frustrating—- as it never quite comes out as they see it in their minds. Immortal children would be fae. Wouldn't they? So are messiahs or saints not human? Are mature leaders and wise wizards unnatural? Were they never children? Is there any point in a person's life when s/he isn't a child? When the world isn't about themselves? One shadow-pattern I see in older people is that they are more about themselves than others, that the clearest horizon is their own opinions, frustrations, actions, petty grievances, and hampered expectations. Old people begin to wear what they want, when they want to, and to hell with social pressure. They talk about their own pain a lot. Some say that old people go 'back to childhood'. Instead— we might wonder why they ever left childhood. Because of: Friends. Loves. Children. Life throwing something at you that exists outside yourself. And as shadow-folk age, their small list of important friends, loves, children, and things gets smaller until they are focused in on themselves again. They do return to self-interested 'children' unless they keep up that list of important 'others'. Random, the homicidal punk, matures when he realizes that his son has been used for target practice and the world of beauty may be unraveling soon. He senses that his son is more vulnerable than he is—- that Martin needs Random to do things that Martin may not quite do for himself. Likewise we might figure that Random believes Vialle needs things that only Random might provide. And so he changes, he matures. No amberite seems to get any older until he has some distance from his own pain.

Filed under : Amber, Real Life at 22.02.2002