Category Archives: Sword of Truth

Books for Conservatives–Faith of the Fallen

Possibly the best book in the series

Once again I come back to my favorite series of books Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth series.  Partly because I’ve gotten away from this when I shouldn’t have…and partly because we have a lull in election season so I can concentrate on something else for a little while.  So, as I’ve done the first five books, here is book six, Faith of the Fallen.

This is probably my favorite book in the entire series.  As I have said I love this series for not only providing a well paced and character driven fantasy series, but because each book is thematically tied to what the author has the Wizard’s Rules…a series of 11 short simple ethical statements. These 11 wizard’s rules that are actually possibly the best set of rules I have ever seen for living one’s life, because they don’t discuss specific acts, which are always dependant on situations and variables, so myriad that no hard rule on behavior can ever fully cover them.  But Faith of the Fallen is probably my favorite, not just because the plot is even more character centered than most of the other books in the series, but because I love the wizard’s rule more than any of the others.

Wizard’s Sixth Rule:

The only sovereign you can allow to rule you is reason.

Explained as:

The first law of reason is this: what exists, exists, what is, is and from this irreducible bedrock principle, all knowledge is built. It is the foundation from which life is embraced.

Thinking is a choice. Wishes and whims are not facts nor are they a means to discover them. Reason is our only way of grasping reality; it is our basic tool of survival. We are free to evade the effort of thinking, to reject reason, but we are not free to avoid the penalty of the abyss that we refuse to see. Faith and feelings are the darkness to reason’s light. In rejecting reason, refusing to think, one embraces death.”

–Faith of the Fallen pg 319

Again, I’ll be vague in the plot summary so as not to spoil anything if you haven’t read the books to this point (but really this is, hands down, the best book in the series).

The hero of the story Richard Rahl is forced to leave his wife Kahlan to save her life.  He is blackmailed by the sorceress Nicci subject of his enemy the Emperor Jagang, that he must travel with her into the heart of Jagang’s Imperial Order and do exactly as she says or the lives of his beloved will be extinguished.  And while you might expect torture or mind games you find something much worse in the Imperial Order: communism.  Complete, total and utterly inefficient communism.  Government control of everything. Government corruption rampant.  Starvation.  Misery.  Masses living lives under a crushing totalitarian regime that makes life not worth living.  Nicci’s plan to crush Richard’s will and let him see the evil nature of mankind and turn him to her side…I will put in one spoiler: this plan fails (but that was kind of obvious).

I’m not sure but I suspect that Goodkind did an extensive amount of research on life in the USSR, Soviet Blocs and Maoist China as the world depicted in the Imperial Order could have easily come out of any textbook or autobiography on life in those nations.  The inefficiency, the corruption, the lack of basic needs due to stupidity of a system that is at every step controlled by an overarching authority.  Every aspect of life, from care of the environment to daily quality of life to even being able to enjoy sex is polluted and destroyed under totalitarianism.

What does this have to do with the idea that reason is the only thing that guides your actions?

It has to do with the fact that there is this thing called human nature.  Human nature is always trying to find the best in life.  We are naturally selfish from the most rational of us to the least rational of us; human nature has this odd behavior of caring about our needs first.  Now granted the more rational and educated a person is the more they think toward long term and spiritual and emotional benefits to themselves than the immediate but we are all motivated by self interest, it is simple basic fact.  And everyone agrees that it cannot be changed, from the radical atheist that sees us as nothing but being motivated by a biological imperative to survive to the wises of spiritual masters who tell you to love yourself as much as you love any other person, who tell you to reach enlightenment as your primary goal, who even tell you that you are connected to everyone and that the good you do for others is good done to you, every person with even the smallest fraction of intelligence acknowledges that human beings are motivated by self interest. Now you can accept that fact and accept that it cannot be changed, or you can choose to deny it.  Now if you accept the fact that mankind is motivated by self interest then you would try to make sure that your nation had laws that would try to move that self interest in the most useful ways, encouraging policies and practices that benefited not only the individual pursuing self interest, but also everyone they associate with.  Or as Adam Smith observed, “It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we can expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.”  Capitalism is that system.  Or you could try to deny facts, deny reason, and suggest that both the biological and spiritual imperative toward self-interest can somehow be destroyed by government fiat and try fascism or socialism or communism or some odd mixture of all three (I think it’s called Obamaism).  You can accept something about human nature to be true and work with it or you can deny facts and try to change what cannot be changed. Which plan is guided by Reason and which is guided by only irrational faith and feelings.

And at every level of the economy from the individual level to the nation wide Faith of the Fallen shows how this rejection of reason is a rejection of humanity.  At first it merely leads to inefficiencies but will soon corrupt and destroy whole systems and lives—killing hope, drive, happiness and in the end, life.  And in opposition to this an embrace of self-interest is an embrace of life in all it’s glory (the book makes this point very clearly near the end with artistic point).  Now I know that any liberal that has stumbled upon this review is probably having seizures by my praising self-interest trying to list all the terrible things that self-interest can lead to.  Yeah?  Duh.  Self-interest is a fact.  The question is whether you are using reason to guide your self-interest or if you let your feeling guide it.  Reason by nature thinks long term and by nature looks for win-win scenarios. Even without compassion or empathy guiding it, reason is a benevolent force. It is only when you let compassion or empathy rule instead of informed reason that you do things because it feels right, ignoring whether or not it will actually work.  And the book makes this very clear. Self-interest in itself is neither good or bad, it is merely a fact. You can either choose to let it be ruled by reason, which seeks a win-win, or you can try to deny it which builds nothing but misery, resentment and a viciousness to lash out at others. But then again to judge between the two requires reason to guide you.

And the other greatness of the philosophy of this book is that it shows how this principle permeates not just economics, politics, and military strategy.  It extends to even issues of art.  Inevitably art that embraces the denial of reality, the idea that self-interest must be condemned, must at all time deny the existence of heroes or greatness in the individual for to have such examples would be to give something for people to aspire to which in itself is another example of self-interest driving us, we want to be like the people whom we admire.  Thus intelligence, strength, character of both the hero and the common man must be denied and only suffering and inadequacy highlighted.  Charity is also perverted from an act of personal humanity and an acknowledgement of the potential in others, to nothing more than a duty from which no one should take pleasure in.

As always the relationship between the characters is even more enjoyable than the philosophy in Terry Gookind books…but as I said I don’t like giving away too much…although I would add that watching the character of Nicci go from being only motivated by the illogical desire to destroy self-interest to embracing life and reason is a hopeful one.

My one caveat on the sixth rule as Goodkind writes it is a small one.  He suggests that faith is opposed to reason. I would say that there are two kinds of faith, rational faith and irrational faith.  Faith about things that are not contradicted by reason (a belief in God for instance or what drives most people that they can do something that others say they can’t) is not a flaw in human reasoning but one of its greatest abilities.  It is only faith about something that reason directly contradicts (like the belief you can change human nature into something better than it is through laws and government power) that should be opposed and resisted.

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Books for Conservatives: Soul of the Fire by Terry Goodkind

So as I try to get through the 11 (Perhaps 12? I don’t know if the new book is as philosophical as the rest yet) book series that is Goodkind’s Sword of Truth in as short a time as possible I come to the fifth book, Soul of the Fire.

The book itself is more toned down than the previous volumes in the series. There are no major battles between armies, and few even between individuals. As a whole the thing reads more like a political thriller than epic fantasy as our heroes Richard and Kahlan try and convince the Kingdom of Anderith to join their D’haran Empire (the people dedicated to freedom, choice, capitalism, and individual rights) instead of siding with the invading Imperial Order of Emperor Jagang (the people dedicated to savagery, communism, genocide, dehumanization of the individual, and slavery…you know like socialist government in history). Strangely enough this is a difficult choice for the people of Anderith. Oh and Richard has to deal with the problem that magic is disappearing from the world. So there’s that problem too.
And while the story is exciting as is, as always, the theme, the Wizard’s Fifth Rule, that raises the Sword of Truth books above mere epic fantasy.

The Wizard’s Fifth Rule is:

“Mind what people do, not only what they say, for deeds will betray a lie.”

Further elaboration in the book states,

“People will lie to deceive you from what they truly mean to do. Watching the actions they take will prove their true intentions.”

This is a lesson that society has very sadly, and very dangerously forgotten. What people say and what they are, are often two different things. This is true of all levels of our lives. The friend who says they’re always there for you, but never is; the boss who says he has your back, when he does everything he can to undermine you; but nowhere is this more an important fact of live than in politics. Politicians are the poster children for the violation of this rule.
Politicians will say one thing and then do another.  This is not a shock.  Yet the way people the world over, it is more than apparent that people listen more to the words and the campaign slogans more than the actions of the politicians they are voting for.  This would be a good time to remember the Wizard’s First Rule: People are Stupid.  (The Second and Third Rules also seem to be in play here as well).  But while there is the obvious contradictions between words and actions suggested in on the first reading of this law that we should all pay attention to there is something more here.  There is the long term view suggested by the rule: “Watching the actions they take” actions, plural, are what need to be watched.  Why?  Because sometimes the most villainous of people will perform some actions that are in line with their words only to cover their long term goals.  It’s their true intentions that you have to look for, to look for the intent behind the actions.  That can sound a little paranoid, but it doesn’t need to be as you just have to look at the whole career of any politician to see if there is an obvious pattern of lying and corruption.

As this rule deals more with personal actions over a period of time, it requires that my examples focus more on a single individual than on a more general concept.
Case in point John McCain. A so called Maverick. He says he’s a conservative but his key piece of legislation is McCain-Feingold a piece of legislation that limits the first amendment right of the average person while only allowing for an increase in the rights of big money special interest to create and fund multiple PACs. A Maverick literally to this day owned by alcohol special interests and who was involved in the Keating Five scandal back in the 80’s (he took millions of dollars in campaign contributions to tell regulators to back off of a corrupt S&L). Mind what he does not what he says.  A man of such high character that he divorces the wife who waited for him while he was sitting in a prison for the first rich floozy who came along. Yes this is a man whom we should all support. He’s in the pocket of special interest, takes bribes from them, influences regulators and passes laws for them and cheats on his wife. Indeed this is a man who lives up to the image of character and principle that he presents in every single commercial. Such deep abiding principles that his position on how to deal with illegal immigration seems to change with the ocean tides. “Watching the actions they take will prove their true intentions.” Not to mention such acts as supporting the cowardly withdrawal from Somalia without first trying to defeat the warlords there. At the same time he argued to supply Kaddafi with weapons through the early 2000’s but then back the genocidal butchers who oppose Kaddafi, thus giving moral support to the worst president in history. “Deeds will betray a lie.”  And dare we forget that he let every single one of his campaign people go out and blame his VP choice for why he failed. As a politician there has not been a single thing this man has done that even remotely shows intelligence, character, ethics or even human decency. In his personal life leaving his first wife is bad, the idiot of a daughter he raised is even worse. There is nothing to like, admire, or even tolerate about this man.  But then again maybe they saw what this country failed to see, a bleeding heart liberal that will always support evil whenever he finds it.

But he says he’s a Maverick. He’s says he fights for the common people [while limiting their rights]. He says he stands for conservative values [while having never supported a single one]. He says he is worthy of bearing the Republican mantle, while supporting not a single one of its supposed principles (there are a lot of weak willed liberals in the Republican party, but none worse than McCain). A Maverick (who will do anything to gain the praise of the liberal press…he’d even sell his soul, if he had one).

I go off on him because he actually got the Republican nomination (and to go off on Obama’s hypocrisy would just be too easy). The same people who are “mad as hell and not going to take it anymore” in the Tea Party are the same ones who voted for this degenerate excuse for a homosapien. And they may say they didn’t vote for McCain in the primary…well fine then they voted for Romney who did nothing to portray himself as a conservative or Huckabee a liberal on economics and lunatic on religion (the worst both worlds). And people wonder why I have my doubt about the long term success of the Tea Party for bringing about conservative values (however any comments about the Tea Party being racist are beyond ridiculous.

Why? Because they believe what he said, not what he had done.

Liberals are just as bad. They heard “hope” and “change” and voted for the dimwit over a woman whom, while I don’t agree with everything she does, had a track record for results and you knew where she stood.

The moderate are the worst. The ones who say Obama ran as a moderate. Are you kidding? Just because he said he was a moderate, give me one act, just one that would suggest such a thing.

The problem is that, because of Wizard’s First Rule, people listen to what people say.

Of course the worst is when you have a mixture of results. I am going to go to the most extreme example to make a point, not because I don’t have more moderate examples.

Adolf Hitler. He gave Germany a solid economy. He gave Germany a well built infrastructure that stands to this day (even after being bombed to hell). He gave people jobs, a purpose, and a passion for life. This is the worst example of the Fifth Rule the person who provides results with his words…but at what cost? In “Soul of the Fire” it’s a control of the lives of a kingdom for a generation…with Hitler it was only at the cost of enslaving entire ethnic groups (followed by killing them) and invading and butchering every surround country. A small price to pay for economic stability….or so the German people deluded themselves into thinking. In personal charity the right hand should not know what the left hand is doing, but in politics the two cannot be separated.

Venezuela supports Hugo Chavez because he gives them cheap gas, to hell if it’s at the cost of their freedom. Bolivia supports socialist Evo Morales because he doesn’t take a large salary, to hell if he’s destroying what little economy the country had. Russia supports Putin because he reminds them of when they had a myth that they were a strong and relevant country, to hell if it’s at the cost of all the freedoms they wanted. America supported Obama because he promised them stuff, to hell if he can’t deliver.

In each of these cases they may say or do thing that say they are honorable people who are doing what is right…but to look at the consequences in each case reveals nothing but destruction and chaos.  Whether it’s intentional or just incompetent doesn’t matter, people, and especially politicians, need to back up their words with action and results, nothing else matters.

Actions and their results are the only thing that matter when judging a person, and especially a politician. Yes there are exceedingly few examples of people we can point to who always do the right thing for the right reason, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t care about such things.

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Books for New Agers: Temple Of The Winds by Terry Goodkind


And so we come to the fourth book of the Sword of Truth Series. Wait weren’t the other books “Books for Conservatives”? Yes, yes they were, but the theme of this book more suits a spiritual lesson than a political one.

First, of course, my very brief synopsis that tries not give out spoilers for the whole series but still makes it seem like a book you should read. In this volume Richard and Kahlan have to deal with Emperor Jagang’s first major move against their kingdom: the releasing of a deadly plague that threatens to kill everyone in their kingdom. And the only way to stop it is to betray one another. It really sucks to be the hero sometimes.

But it is this threat of betrayal that leads directly into the book’s main theme, the Wizard’s Fourth Rule:
There is magic in sincere forgiveness; in the forgiveness you give, but more so in the forgiveness you receive.

(Yes, there is a reason this is getting published on the same day as this week’s meditation).

The Sword of Truth Series is based quite heavily on Ayn Rand’s Objectivist philosophy (this will become really evident when we get to the 9th rule which it takes word for word from Atlas Shrugged) but in many ways Goodkind has created a philosophy somewhat superior to Rand’s beliefs in these books. Rand is famous for saying that there are only two ways to deal with people, through reason and through force. This sadly completely ignores the third way people interact with each other—through love. And it’s moments like this that show Goodkind knows much more than Rand.

As I suggested in the meditation for the week, forgiveness helps you out. Not forgiving someone for something often takes far more energy, far more time, far more effort in our lives than forgiving them and moving on. And it’s very refreshing to let it go and not carry that around anymore. In fact it’s almost cliché to list the psychological benefits to forgiving people even if you don’t tell them you have forgiven them, whereas holding onto grudges creates long term health problems from the constant stress. But more than the physical benefits, it is the spiritual benefits that this rule provides that are more important.

Whatever religious tradition you follow, there is likely a theme of forgiveness, of letting go of the past and moving on. The reason for this is that within every rational religious tradition is the idea that there is something of the divine within us. We sometimes do not live up to that, but forgiveness is the recognition that the divine within us is more important and more lasting than any mistake. Forgiveness lets you ignore the dark part of our lives and admit that those times are temporary and already past, that what exists now is only that part of the divine.

Forgive. Not necessarily forget, someone may screw up to the point where you can no longer trust them, but you can still forgive them even if you never trust them again. But you do need to sincerely forgive those around you because it is the only way to see yourself as something better than a collection of your mistakes, which we all have made. We probably all fall short of perfection in living up to this rule, but that doesn’t mean we should give up in trying to live up to it. Just forgive yourself the moments where you were not your best and move on.

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Books for Conservatives: Blood of the Fold by Terry Goodkind.

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
And
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.

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