I just bought the new Goodkind book which reminded me it had been a while since I reviewed a book in his Sword of Truth Series. We left off with the first two wizard’s rules:
People are stupid
The best intention can lead to the worst consequences.
Both are basic principles of any rational form of conservatism and thus we come to third book of the Sword of Truth series Blood of the Fold.
This is probably one of the weaker books of the series, to be honest. One of the strengths of the series from a plot and character point of view is the relationship between its two heroes Richard and his wife Kahlan. A book which has them together for almost none of the book thus comes off as rather weak. It, in many ways, is bridge piece between the first two books which pit Richard against the villain Darken Rahl (a fascist lunatic) and the villain of the rest of the series, the Emperor Jagang (a tyrant who believes in all the evils of socialism and wishes to force it on everyone). (With villains like this it becomes obvious why I love this series for more than just the wizard’s rules). This book also has a secondary villain who represents the small-minded religious fanatics that we are all tired of dealing with. I suspect that the religious fanatics may have had a larger role if the book had been written post 2001, but as it was it was written in 1996, when religious fanaticism was more annoying and less genocidally deadly in the view of most Americans. The writing is still crisp and enjoyable, but I will admit the plot is a little weaker than most of the other books in the series—but it’s a necessary part of the series (you can’t just skip the dull chapters in a book and you can’t skip the duller volumes in a series and expect either to make sense.)
Now what still makes this book well worth the read is, as always, the Wizard’s Rule that forms the core theme of the book: Passion Rules Reason.
“Letting your emotions control your reason may cause trouble for yourself and those around you.”
And, as with all the rules, we all fall victim to its warning at some point.
For instance a couple weeks ago I misread an article on a law passed by liberal California. I missed a key contingency in that law while reading the article. I became so giddy in being able to once again insult liberals that I ignored that key part of the law. Now this law was ridiculous (moving to get rid of the Electoral College) but it was not as suicidally stupid as I first thought it to be. But rather than do my usual thing of wait a day or two to publish an article that deals with real issues (the flippant humor can usually go out immediately, but I like to usually let bigger ideas sit for a day or two so I see if there is anything I need to add/change) I was so eager to once again stick it to liberals I published the blog as soon as it was spellchecked. My passion for showing up liberals checked my reason, and a day later when someone pointed out that I had missed that rather important point in the law I had to take the post down.
And don’t roll your eyes; we’ve all leapt before we looked. We’ve all acted on emotion before thinking.
And often following emotion without reason only leads to destruction. Do you think those rioters in London were driven by emotion or logic? Do you think Islamic fanatics are driven by passion or reason? Do you think almost all marketing is playing to your heart or your mind? Notice it’s Democrats who play toward hope and change and Republicans who play to $14 Trillion Debt and dull budgetary cuts…who is playing to reason and who more to logic? (Not that Republicans are guiltless in playing to emotion…I’m just saying when is the last time you saw a rational argument laid out by a Democrat?)
And of course more than any other emotion we fall victim to: fear. A terrible emotion that holds us back from doing what we need to, what we should do, what we have to do. Often in the battle between fear and logic, I’m sorry to say logic does not always win. How many people have not stood up to a dictatorial boss, even though logic said it was the right thing to do because of fear? How many people have passed up a good investment opportunity because of the fear it might fail…or more predominantly how many people bought homes they couldn’t afford because of the fear that the price would go up even higher if they didn’t buy now. How many budget deals were passed because of the fear that our credit rating would go down if we didn’t even thought reason told us that the credit rating was going down because of our debt, not because we didn’t take on more debt. I can think of at least one. How many trillions were spent because we were afraid that we would have a depression if we didn’t spend, ignoring the fact that deficit spending never helps an economy?
Yeah, fear is an emotion that rules us too often. An emotion that needs to be eradicated if you ever have the chance.
Now, that is not to say that you should never act on emotion. There are lots of times you should. But, contrary to some odd Vulcan logic, it is because passion and emotion are actually logically called for in those instances. Reason will tell you when and where to follow your heart…however just listening to your heart will never tell you when and where to use your brain. Which is why we all need to listen to our brain first, and our heart second.
I know this isn’t easy. Never has been. Most of Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, the cornerstone for all rational systems of ethics and morality, deals with training and habituating your emotional responses to be in the right degree at the right time.
Or think of it this way. When you are lead by passion instead of reason, you are far more likely to transgress those first two wizard’s rules. When following only your heart, you are more likely to make stupid mistakes in judgment. When following only your heart you are far more likely to care only about your good intentions and not about the long term results of your actions.
And passion will always rule reason if you don’t train your passions to be subordinate your reason and will. It’s not easy, but it’s worth it.