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C08P35 – No Guidance Required

C08P35 – No Guidance Required published on 32 Comments on C08P35 – No Guidance Required

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I’m reading The Once and Future King by T. H. White right now, and while the style of the writing bugs me something fierce (COMMUNISM WAS NOT A THING YET IN MEDIEVAL TIMES WHY ARE YOU TOSSING IN MODERN REFERENCES FOR NO REASON STOP IT!) the ideas are certainly interesting. The one I’ve been musing on the most is how Merlin’s living-life-backwards is portrayed. I believe that’s part of the original legend, although it’s particularly hard to say what the original legend is, considering Arthurian myth has risen and fallen in popularity many times through history, and each time new authors add something to it that wasn’t there before. Much of what we associate with the myth – Guinevere and Lancelot, for example – was not part of the first stories. It’s almost as if, hundreds of years from now, the only thing the general public knows about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s detective is based on a fan-fiction of the BBC’s Sherlock show. But I digress.

The idea of experiencing time in reverse is an interesting one. You’d have to learn to speak backwards at all times in order to communicate with anyone effectively. The first time you met a friend would be when attending their funeral, and their birth would essentially be akin to their death as you would experience it, as they would be leaving your life forever. Now, it would certainly be easy to seem wise and prescient. The world’s future would be your past. However, I’m not sure that reputation for mystical wisdom would be worth it. One of the scenarios that seemed particularly tragic to me was if a loved one went mad. From your perspective, insanity would be their starting point, as you had just met. But as you got to know them, you would realize that you were in love with them, and they with you, and at one point they had not been mad. In fact, as time had gone by, they had gone mad with you in their life, and as you aged they would become more sane. And there would always be the question…was it you that made them lose their mind? After all, the deeper in love they fell in love with you…the less you would know who they were. Until you barely knew they existed at all. Which I think is why, although Merlin is often grumpy and wise and funny, he also has a deep, deep sadness to him.

What would be the best or worst thing about living backwards?


Children visit this site. Moderate your language accordingly.

I’d say it’s that you don’t even have the illusion of free will. You see the results of everything you do before you do it, and it’s not that tough to figure out from that what you will do. You learn all of your choices ahead of time, and all you can do is do what has already always been going to be done.

You can’t warn Arthur that Morgan is in his bed. You can’t tell him that Lancelot is not to be trusted around Guinevere. All you can do is watch people make mistakes that doomed the world, because the effect already happened and now you need to let the cause happen.

(All tenses based on your subjective time.)

The odd part is that Merlin still had to choose to stay involved, even knowing the outcome. Why not just leave? If you could guess what came before based on what you knew had already happened (from Merlin’s perceptive) why not say “Screw it, I’m never going to be the boy’s teacher. Let’s see what history thinks of THAT!” …and if he did…what would that mean?? Or at that point, does it turn into a Doctor Who episode?

The problem with this is thinking time in linear. What if both the past, present and furture exist all at one time and our brains are only equipped to see it linear? I believe this is where dejavue comes from, being aware of it all happening at once.
Alternately, or maybe it works the same mode as a matter of perception, the future is all probablity. Some futures are more certain than others, if I drop a piece of chalk it should hit the ground. Unless some one else catches it, it bounces off my shoe or the planet explodes in a firey ball. Couched in Norse myths as I am, I tend to think that todays bad decisions do have to have that future goal in mind. Odin knows he is going to die at Ragnarok, he could avoid it but then the future that should follow from his death might not happen.

It’s fun to think about what life might be like if we could perceive time the same way we can perceive the height, depth, and length of an object. If we could change our view-point on time and see the present, past, and future as facets of one whole that could be shifted.

YAY! I figured he wouldn’t actually be killed, but I’m really happy this guy is admitting that he’s wrong. That almost never happens.
(Also, I forget names. You know who I mean.)

Heh, now you’re reading The Once And Future King? Sure, communism was not a Thing in medieval times, and neither was… well, LOTS of stuff that happens in that story. Everything from Merlin’s little references to the future to the Freudian psychology that gets slipped in there at some point. No… Freudian, uh, slip… intended.

But I never saw it as a story that really happened in medieval times. It’s a story that happens in a fantasy world written by a man who had recently lived through WWII, or “The Great War”, as I believe it was called in England; a war that killed about a third of their fighting-age men. Yes, a third. It was, to all appearances, the end of the world, right up to the moment when America decided it was time for an adventure and came in with guns blazing.

WWII is a big thing in American history books; I have to strain my imagination very hard to imagine the smoking crater it must have left in English history. And this was a man who had lived through it, through the horror of the end of the world, and seen the world not end. He would have been unable to forget the lessons of that: That men may be, at some level, deeply savage; that society may be, at some level, a very fragile or even unreal construct.

A lot of The Once And Future King is really about that. About trying to imagine how people can be shaped to bring out their better natures, or their worst. About the tragedy of not being as good a person as you hoped to be in your childhood. About the terrible, inevitable hand of fate, and the end that comes for everyone, no matter how good they might be.

It’s a really good book, but it kicked me hard right in the existential crisis thingy.

That’s some very excellent context around the author that adds a new dimension to the book. It definitely cannot be separated from the creator. True, it’s re-telling a well-known set of legends, but that is merely the vehicle for the author. Viewing it less as its own self-contained story, and more as a lens through which we explore his mind, is a very, very interesting perspective.

Oh, I think it’s an excellent self-contained story, but every book is a view into the mind of the author. Read enough stories by the same person, and you’ll probably get a pretty good idea of how they see the world. Some authors are more obvious or intentional about it than others, but we are essentially limited by the range of our own imaginations, and it really comes out in the stories we tell.

Good. Freaking Nikel. Maybe now we can all talk about this like adults.

Personally, I think it would be the question of–when does my time with this person run out? Like, yeah, they might tell you about when you met them so you know vaguely when to expect it, but you’d always be wondering, “Is today the day?” Ooh. I couldn’t take that.

True! You might not be around as long as a birth-to-death. Instead it could be an event where you bump into them at a coffee shop, and greet them with excitement, only to discover they have no idea who you are. And in that moment, you’d realize that you’d never see that friend again.

Hmm. It all depends what KIND of living backward it was. There’s the your-past-changes-to-accomodate-choices version that Piers Anthony used for Chronos, there’s the you-know-everyone’s-fate-and-are-stuck-with-it kind, there’s the you’re-not-actually-from-this-universe-and-that’s-why-you-seem-backwards kind, there’s the extreme-precog-living-forwards-but-only-remembering-the-future kind….SO many variations on that theme, each with very different possibilities. It might be a fun writing project to take the same main character and otherwise the same scenario, and test each version on them.

So Merlin was walking backwards at all times? I never knew.

And I’m not sure what Dream Eater meant by Nikel not requiring guidance. Was he calling Nikel on having already made up his mind to kill, or was Nikel already willing to drop the whole thing and just needed some encouragement?

The interpretation of Dream Eater’s words is up to you. I know what I meant by it, but that doesn’t have to be what you get out of it. What do you think makes the most sense?

I think Nikel wanted to drop the whole thing, but needed validation for that choice. He has a conscience and was pretty conflicted over this, especially after he ramped it up to look “strong” (which actually made the situation spin out of his control), but couldn’t back down while he thought it was what the gods would want. Throw in additionally that he needs enough serious opposition from Kali to make it not look like he has the spine of a jellyfish. Kali showing up in rage mode and Dreameater giving him a useful word was the right combination of events to let him back down.

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