Sunday’s Wisdom #200: The Equality of Death

“My point is, everybody dies, son. Some now, some later. From brothel girl to emperor.”
– Jigo, Princess Mononoke

Well, now that’s a rather morbid quote for my… two hundredth quote?!

Wow, I’ve actually been doing this blog for two hundred weeks, now? Coming up on four years. Huh. Cool.

So, that seems like an unusual quote to pick for such an auspicious number, doesn’t it? Well, as it happens, this is one of my favorite quotes of all time, and it touches on something rather dear to me.

When Jigo says this to Ashitaka, he’s trying to console him about how he killed two samurai thugs in a battle earlier, he having stepped in on behalf of unarmed peasants. Death rather abounds in this movie, including where the two are camping at that moment: the ruins of a village that was peopled not so long ago. It’s a brutal, unavoidable truth: everybody dies. It doesn’t matter how, or when, or where, or how good or bad we are, or how afraid we are, death will find us all eventually. It’s simply a fact of life.

But I take a little something more from these words. However scary death might be, it’s also the ultimate equalizer, I think. As Jigo says, it doesn’t matter where we are on society’s ladder. From the lowest to the highest, we are all mortal. We all die.

So, how much does that social ladder really matter, hm?

If we are all equals in death, are we not all equals in life as well?

Now, I don’t mean that the circumstances of life either could or should favor all of us equally. No, certainly not. I’m saying, no matter how one might cry about how great they are, or how much they have, or how much they’ve accomplished, they are just as mortal as everyone else. There is no “low” or “high” that matters in the long run.

People talk about being “special” in this way or that way, but there is no “special,” I think, which truly matters. “Special” might seem like an innocent enough word, but I’ve yet to hear it used in such a way that does not involve stratifying our society, putting things, and people, above or below one another. And that is abhorrent.

How much wrong in our society is rooted in the idea of “special?” Racism, sexism, supremacist ideologies, ethnic cleansing, genocide, slavery, imperialism, the division of classes as “upper” and “lower,” and so on, heck, even spoiled children, it’s all based on this idea of someone being “special,” and therefore somehow worth more than another person, which makes the other person worth less, which makes them worthless. It is an obscene idea and the root of division and devastation, the ultimate of which is the corrosion and destruction of that greatest of human capacities which we call “compassion.”

After all, if one is “special,” then how much compassion can one truly have for one’s “inferiors?”

Compassion is, at its root, an acceptance that another person is as valuable as oneself.

And thus the great division of humanity.

But all such divisions crumble and shatter in the face of death. Why? Because it makes us all absolute equals.

Death is the reminder that no man stands above another in eternity.

The emperor is not truly above the brothel girl. They are equals.

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Season 2: The Redemption of Iron Fist

Danny Rand is redeemed. 🙂

Iron Fist was easily the weakest of the Marvel-Netflix Defender-themed shows. I still enjoyed it, no matter its relative unpopularity, but I was not blind to its problems. Then I was disappointed again with a how Danny was treated as a character in Defenders, as they had to jump through hoops to advance the plot, and his character, especially, suffered for it. While I was never pessimistic about the show’s second season, I still felt uneasy about it. Sure, they built Danny back up a bit with his appearance in Luke Cage, but it would have broken my heart if they’d failed him again, ya know?

Thus, I am even more immensely pleased than usual with what they actually did.

Where the first season of Iron Fist was weak and left a few things to be desired, its second season is an absolute triumph.

There are only ten episodes, instead of the usual thirteen. As I’ve commented, in almost every review about these shows, about things dragging on for a few episodes too long, that seems a smart choice. This show never slows or slackens or drags or feels too long. It’s a reasonable length for the story they tell, and it’s a very good story!

First of all, the characters are all characters. Nobody’s a prop. Nobody’s a villain just because, or a hero just because. People are complex, and they all develop in some way. The show is deeply about one’s own identity, who one is and who one chooses to be and why. By natural extension of that, it’s also about the struggle with one’s inner demons, either overcoming or succumbing to them. That is the story.

Speaking of which, the plot is fantastic. It’s intricate without being convoluted, compelling without being being ham-fisted, emotional without being melodramatic, etc. And all of it is driven by the characters. It’s their choices, their desires, their relationships, their virtues and their vices and their hopes for redemption, which combine to create this plot.

To mention specifics while skimming entirely around spoilers:

As Danny and those close to him are trying to protect the city of New York, old friends return as new enemies, haunting the heroes with their mistakes and the fallout of their actions. What follows is a gripping, heart-rending tale, full of twists and turns, of shifting relationships among a group of people who are the closest thing to family any of them has, driving them all to choose who they might become. The cascading consequences of these events, as it happens, rises into a flood which could swallow the city, and countless lives, in its path. It’s a battle not only for a place, but for the ties which bind them, and for the ancient power of the Iron Fist itself.

Oh, and the fights are all done properly! 😀

Seriously, this has to be some kind of record, for just how much of an improvement the second season is over the first. The plot, the characters, the combat choreography, the themes, the music (is beautiful!), the cinematography, all of it is so well-crafted, and infinitely better than before. I would easily put it in the higher tier of Defender shows, right alongside the second season of Luke Cage and the first season of Daredevil.

So, yes, I liked it, quite a bit! 😉

Rating: 9 stars out of 10.

Grade: solid A.

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Sunday’s Wisdom #199: Becoming a Man

“Our time together, it’s a ritual, a symbol. It means something to your father. I hope it was not entirely forgettable for you. But it doesn’t make you a man. You do that yourself.”
– Inara Serra, Firefly
Episode 7, “Jaynestown”

I thought of this last week, while talking about boys and men, and how the former becomes the latter. It might seem a little redundant, but this, especially touches on something dear to me.

I remember, once, a long time ago, I had a roommate who had two country music CDs which he was always putting on for us to listen to. I endured it more to keep the peace than anything else, as I knew we weren’t going to be in company with each other for very long. Nothing against country music in general, just these two albums. One, I remember distinctly, was singing about a guy’s first time having sex, going into certain details about the full moon, the wet grass, etc. I hated that song, and still do, partially because I was raised to see sex as something sacred, and therefore too important to go bragging about. But I also hated it because of one thing it said about the girl he was with becoming a woman as he became a man.

You can probably guess why I thought of this while talking about how one does not magically turn a boy into a man. You don’t teach a boy to be a man, and becoming “a man” does not happen just because of a single act. And I don’t just mean sex, I mean everything. You don’t become a man by having your first fistfight, shedding your first blood, making your first kill as a hunter, getting your first job, or anything else.

I also want to make it clear, I don’t mean to diminish the importance of such milestones. Most cultures throughout history have had rites of passage, consisting of trials and ordeals and rituals where a boy achieved something and became recognized as a man for it. There is something to it, to having a specific accomplishment you can point to and say, “I’m a man now.” It’s a line one steps across, one which encourages a change of mindset, a development of mind and heart. If one is a man, after all, shouldn’t one act like a man?

However, I think, somewhere along the way, we got very, very lost. We started treating the symbolic act as the differentiation between boy and man.

And if there’s anyone who can talk about that, it’s Inara Serra. She’s a “companion,” which is to say a very high-class courtesan, perhaps even a priestess of sorts in her own right. She has, to put it bluntly, had a great deal of sex with a great number of people. In this episode, she was hired by a magistrate by the name of Higgins to bed his son and “make him a man.” The son in question was anything but a child, but still a virgin and probably disappointing to his father in some unrelated way. So, Inara did as she was hired to do, but didn’t stop at sex. She’s a people person, able to sense what they need and how to manage them, and so, in the time after their copulation, she offered this sage counsel as well.

The junior Higgins, for his part, is a decent enough fellow, but in the shadow of such a dominating father, he probably became quite passive, which is likely the source of both his previous status as a virgin and also his father’s frustration. After it’s done, he’s opining that he thought he would feel… different. I mean, isn’t he supposed to be a man now? That’s when Inara tells him, “A man is just a boy who’s old enough to ask that question.”

She explains her meaning with this quote. I heartily agree, and think it’s something our society has largely forgotten.

The things we do to separate “boy” and “man” in our society, all the symbols and rituals and rites of passage, they may be milestones, and sometimes important ones. But, in my view, becoming a man (or a woman) is a process, not an event. It is what we do every day that makes us who and what we are, and that includes manhood.

Heh, interestingly, the magistrate who hired Inara to turn his son into a man? Well, his son immediately did something that defied him, and he hated it. It was like, “Turn my son into a man! …no, I didn’t mean ‘turn him into a man who defies me!’” Haha!

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Sunday’s Wisdom# 198: Teaching Manhood

“How long do you usually get to teach a boy to be a man?”

“Wrong question. You can never teach that. You can only teach the things you think a man ought to know, mayhap have some say in the kind of man he becomes on his own.”

-Idgen Marte & Allystaire, Stillbright
By Daniel Ford

Advice for a parent to live by, I think.

And have I mentioned how much I love this trilogy? 😉

These two grown-up heroes are, at the moment, talking about Gideon, a young man they have been made responsible for. Allystaire is a knight, he understands the value of physical fitness, so his daily routine includes training Gideon, to help him get stronger. This, however, is only a part of what he does, and only a part of the task ahead of him. He intends to teach Gideon everything he can, everything of value. So, when Idgen Marte asks about teaching boys to be men, he begins by correcting her with the above quote.

He definitely understands the enormity of the task before him, and futility of trying to make a boy, any boy, into a man. He can’t make a boy into a man, the boy becomes a man on his own. He might be able to influence what kind of man he becomes, but maybe not. All he can really do, then, is try to teach the boy the things he will need to know when he’s become a man, things like honesty, cleverness, humility, compassion, and the ability to work hard.

That comes home particularly in the face of some responsibilities which I am currently facing, but I think it applies very much in a more general sense. There’s this idea, and I think it’s a harmful one, that parents, teachers, and other mentoring figures either can or should somehow just take this child standing before them and magically make them into a fully-functioning adult. “I’ll do the easy part and provide such-and-such, you do the hard part and make them mature and capable.” It just doesn’t work that way, ya know?

Raising a boy into a man (or a girl into a woman) isn’t about turning them into one. It’s about loving them enough to take the time, every day, to show them what a man is. Do what you can, teach them what you can, and let them become who they will.

Or, at least, that’s part of it, anyway. 😉

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Sunday’s Wisdom #197: Hard Work

“It is not luck you need now; it is hard work and the willingness to do it.”
– Allystaire, Ordination
By Daniel Ford

Continuing my newfound love of Ford’s Paladin Trilogy, a quote from its titular lead character. 🙂

This is actually fairly close to last week’s quote. Allystaire has done something incredible, finding and rescuing the surviving population of a small village, Thornhurst, after they had been attacked, enslaved, and horribly abused by a crew of reavers. It was quite a lucky break these people got, having such a mighty knight come to save them, bordering on (and actually including) divine intervention. But now that they’ve been delivered, they have a tremendous task ahead of them: burying their dead, rebuilding their home, and continuing with life. There’s nothing that mere “luck” can do to help them with that, even if it were to strike twice.

All they can do in the face of such tragedy and such a task ahead of them is to get out of bed every morning, work hard at whatever needs doing, and then rest well each night. That takes a kind of strength which most kings and their generals would balk at. It is one thing to have the power to destroy, but the strength to endure? The ability to pick yourself and each other up after being hit so hard, after being destroyed? That is something else entirely.

And the key, as Allystaire, is so simple: hard work, and the willingness to do it.

It occurred to me, as I read this, how much that applies to us in our lives. I mean, we have sweepstakes and lotteries and all the slot machines and poker games of Vegas, with thousands and millions and billions of dollars flowing through an entire industry catering to people’s hope and desire to completely change their lives into something incredible and luxurious all at once… through luck. But how much good has luck ever done anyone?

Hard work, on the other hand, now, that has been the hinge on which the world has swung. Poor people have become wealthy, entire civilizations have flourished, incredible achievements of every kind, the vast majority of those names which history remembers (and those it has forgotten), everything, it all came down to hard work.

Overcoming hardships requires hard work.

The lazy man, the idle man, the man who, for whatever reason, does not put in the work, that man will overcome nothing. He can wish all he wants for his luck to change, but good luck often comes in proportion with one’s sweat.

And where people keep looking for instantaneous, overwhelming improvements to their condition, hard work improves things slowly, so slowly, day after day after day. One day, you’re a refugee in your own village. Six months later, you have a lovely, blossoming village on its way to becoming a town, and you sleep comfortably under your own roof, with a full pantry. Ten years later, you’ve had such a happy life that the dark times are a distant memory, if also an ever-present ache. A generation or two later, and your descendants are living comfortably instead of in squalor.

Step by step, day by day, we build a better life with our own hands. That, not waiting on the whims of fortune, is how it’s done.

Hard work, and the willingness to do it.

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Book Review: Ordination

So, life as a responsible adult is very busy. There’s a great, big pile of reviews waiting for me to write them, including books, anime, and television shows, and a pile of movies that I forewent watching and reviewing when they came out in theaters. But, busy or not, I could not let my experience with Ordination, by Daniel M. Ford, go by without comment.

This is one of those books that justifies and rewards my entire extended experimentation with new titles and new series. I’ve had a few hits with that, but also a few misses. This is one of the better hits, definitely.

As the first part of The Paladin Trilogy, Ordination follows a man as he becomes said paladin. Allystaire is a former lord, a fallen, exiled knight, clever in the ways of battle, and every bit as subtle as the great hammer which is his primary weapon. He is, in many ways, anything but the stereotypical image of a paladin, both for the reader and for the world he is in, which sings of handsome, gallant warriors of long ago, and now gets a rough, battered, not-exactly-handsome brute. But when chance or fate puts him in the right place at the right time, it is his choices, not some beautiful exterior, which make him a hero. Those choices ultimately boil down to one vital piece of his character: the capacity to truly care about other people, as well as the resolve to act on that compassion.

Over the course of events, Allystaire finds himself called by a goddess, whom he calls the Mother, to act as her agent in righting the wrongs of the world. He strikes down evildoers, he heals the sick and the wounded, he protects those in need of a defender, and he stands directly against all those greater powers, be they arrogant nobility, murderous sorcerer, or religious fanatic, which oppress and make victims of common men, women, and children.

Not to make him sound “perfect,” of course. Certainly, he is well-regarded by those who follow him, and he strives to live according to the principles he espouses, but he has his flaws, his limitations, and his past, including his mistakes and his losses. In short, he is human, which makes him both a believable and an enjoyable character.

Indeed, there is something about all of the characters in Ordination which make them feel real to the reader. Be they major characters who join Allystaire, such as the female warrior Idgen Marte, the dwarfish alchemist Torvul, and the young girl Mol, or minor characters like Renard, Leah, Henri, and Norbert, or others who come and go as either friend or foe, there is simply something impressively human about them. As a would-be storyteller myself, I can recognize superior craftsmanship when I see it. These are not archetypes, these are people, dealing with all too real tragedies and hopes. I find myself actually caring about them on some level.

And they are most entertaining to watch, too!

If I have one complaint, at all, it’s how Ordination ends. Specifically, it’s a bit like the ending to Fellowship of the Ring. It’s obvious that Ford’s entire trilogy will function best when it is complete and can be read from beginning to end with minimal interruption. Fortunately, the second book is long since published, and the third is about to be, so I lucked out! 🙂

It says something pretty good when the only complaint about the end of one book is how it doesn’t immediately continue into the next. 😉

That goes into the narrative, the story, the structure of it, the pacing, the obstacles the heroes face, etc. Without going into too much (must avoid spoilers, ya know), I will say that I never wanted to put the book down. It was well-paced, substantive, realistic (for a fantasy novel, of course), it never bored me, but it also never overdid anything to try and get me to read more, and so on and so forth.

The texture of the world, also, speaks of competent world-building. The medieval setting, the long-running war, the other deities and supernatural powers and their adherents… I honestly have nothing to complain about here.

And, of course, the themes, involving anger and forgiveness, change and redemption, compassion and power, justice and mercy, all of these and more. What comes through most clear, so far, to me, is the hope of a light born anew in a world of darkness and despair. There are forces which fear hope and hate compassion, even as they fail to comprehend such, for their power is built atop the backs of others. And now some new power challenges that approach, dares to build others up instead of tearing them down? Impossible! And intolerable.

To wrap this up, I simply loved this book.

I loved Ordination, I’m already reading the next book, Stillbright, I look forward to Crusade, and I am interested in anything else Ford has written or will write. 🙂

Rating: 9 stars out of 10.

Grade: A-Plus.

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Sunday’s Wisdom #196: On the Limits of Justice

“Ya din’t kill those men t’heal anythin’. Be a trap t’start thinkin’ that way.”
– Mol, Ordination
By Daniel Ford

I just stumbled onto the Paladin trilogy by Daniel Ford, and you may expect a pretty glowing review of the first book quite soon. 🙂 Not least of the reasons I like it are quotes like this and the circumstances surrounding them.

At this point in the story, we’ve seen the main protagonist, Allystaire, come upon a ruined, deserted village, find a surviving young girl named Mol, follow the trail of the bandits/slavers who burned it and carried off nearly the entire surviving population, rescue said survivors, and lead them back home. Oh, and he killed all the slavers, nearly every one, in a glorious, terrifying slaughter. But now comes the hard part: burying the dead and helping the survivors move on.

Allystaire is, at this moment, wondering what he could possibly do to help these people heal after such a tragedy. They all lost dear loved ones, so many bodies that they need an entire field to lay them to rest in a mass grave. The pain of that loss is enormous, and Allystaire is lamenting how little good his slaughter of the bandits seems to have done. He feels no pity for the men he killed, they being thieves, slavers, rapists, and murderers, but their deaths have healed nothing.

That’s when Mol tells him this, and she is absolutely right.

Killing the slavers may have been about justice for the crimes they committed, and saving the people they took, and protecting all of their future victims, but it was not about healing.

Killing people heals nothing.

They can be as evil and deserving of death as you can imagine, but the pain and injustices they have inflicted are already over and done. It is a thing of the past now, impossible to change. The harm has been done. It cannot be undone, and certainly not by doing further harm.

The healing of one person will never be accomplished through the harming of another.

People in pain often make the mistake of thinking that their pain will go away if they can just remove its source. But it is a brutal truth is that removing the culprit will accomplish nothing of the sort. It’s a trap to try and heal anything through further violence. Like quicksand, once that mentality has hold of you, all you’ll accomplish with your thrashing about is hastening your descent into a suffocating darkness.

Justice does many things, things which are vital to the survival of civilization, but it does not heal. It’s a sword, not a medical kit.

Not to diminish its importance, of course. One simply needs to keep in mind, it’s only one part of the equation.

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A Game of Thrones Fan-Theory: The Targaryen Lannisters

I remember once hearing a fan-theory about Tyrion Lannister, guessing that he may not be Tywin’s son at all but, rather, the son of Mad King Aerys Targaryen. I dismissed that one immediately, didn’t think it was remotely credible. But, as I’ve read the books that Game of Thrones is based on, A Song of Ice and Fire, by George R.R. Martin, I’ve begun to think that it might actually strike very close to the mark, just slightly askew of it.

I theorize that there is a Lannister, or, rather, two Lannisters, who have Targaryen blood. They were raised as Lannisters, and so that is what they are, but they are also Targaryens. They are “Targaryen Lannisters,” if you will. But not Tyrion. No, I believe it’s actually his siblings, Jaime and Cersei.

That might seem as far-fetched to you as Tyrion’s supposed descent from Aerys seemed to me, but if you’ll follow me, it may seem quite obvious by the time I’m done. 😉

To be clear, I don’t believe this is true for the TV series. I believe it is strictly limited to the books. Martin himself has commented that the differences between the two are cumulative, growing on top of each other from the start until there are wide distinctions. So, perhaps it’s not really a “Game of Thrones” theory so much as it is a “Song of Ice and Fire” theory. Point being, I will be referring only to the books, rather than the show, to support this.

On the show, Jaime and Cersei are Lannisters, plain and simple.

In the books, Jaime and Cersei are Targaryen Lannisters, I believe.

As for proof, the first thing to remember is that when George R.R. Martin is writing it, there are no accidents.

See? The kung fu turtle agrees.

Ok, that might be oversimplifying things a bit. I rephrase:

When a multitude of “coincidences” align, it’s probably not coincidence, especially when Martin is behind them.

To start with, a scene between Dany and Barristan quite clearly spells out that Mad King Aerys absolutely wanted – not loved, wanted – Tywin’s wife, the Lady Joanna. But, as I understand it, Tywin soon took her out of Aerys’ reach at Casterly Rock. That happened fairly early on, which is another point against the notion of Tyrion being the king’s son, but if Aerys simply managed to get to her soon enough, then it is possible that Tyrion’s elder twin siblings could have been the result.

Alone, that’s just speculation, but there is a surprising body of potential evidence in Martin’s work.

My suspicions first became aroused when my chaotic mind took note of two small details in two important scenes, both of them told from Jaime’s perspective.

The first is when his “father,” Tywin, wants to relieve Jaime of his post in the Kingsguard and send him back to inherit Casterly Rock. Jaime refuses, so firmly that Tywin renounces their relationship. “You are no son of mine!” he says.

The second is when Jaime is speaking with his aunt, and she mentions Tywin’s true heir. Her words were to the effect of, “You are such-and-such and Cersei is such-and-such, but it’s Tyrion who is truly Tywin’s son.” She said something similar to Tywin a number of years prior, and he refused to speak to her for half a year over it. She was referring to their similarities: growing up mocked, in the shadows of their fathers, becoming cutthroat and ruthless, so cunning and forceful that other men would do well to fear them.

Now, both cases are meant figuratively, to some extent, but I couldn’t help but notice the coincidence of their joint meaning. If Jaime were not truly Tywin’s son, then neither would Cersei be his daughter, and so Tyrion, the one who Tywin dismissed and treated horribly, would be Tywin’s only true son. How poetic would that be?

It wasn’t much, at the time, but it still stuck in my head.

“Could I really be so thoroughly vindicated?”

It was Cersei who actually got me thinking about this as a real possibility, though.

Again from Jaime’s perspective, we see Cersei reacting in a strange, aroused way to a great fire. She commanded, as Queen-Regent, that the Tower of the Hand be burned, all of it. All the assembled nobles were, of course, duly impressed, but Cersei? Cersei’s reaction reminded Jaime directly of Mad King Aerys. When he set a great, consuming fire, like the one that consumed a certain Lord Stark, he, too, was aroused, much to the discomfort of his wife, who was on the receiving end of his brutal, savage lust.

Elsewhere, in Dorne, the Martells are happy to receive, from Cersei, the gift of a skull, supposedly having belonged to a gigantic man who raped and murdered their kin. There is some suspicion, but, as one of them says, Cersei would be mad to give them a different skull and try to pass her humongous minion of as someone else, which is exactly what Cersei did.

Cersei demonstrates, countless times, a combination of madness, especially in fear of her brother and a prophecy, and idiocy. The list of examples is so long that I’m not even going to try to include it here.

So, Cersei is basically mad and going madder, quickly, in startling similarity to the Mad King. Considering the tendency towards madness among Targaryens and the lack of it among Lannisters… well, that’s another coincidence.

“Sanity” and “Cersei” do not belong in the same sentence.

In fact, the Targaryens went mad so often that it became said that when one of them was born, the gods flipped a coin and the world held its breath. How significant is that?

Cersei claims so many times that she and Jaime are one soul in two bodies, in essence, having two heads for one soul, like two sides of a coin. Jaime’s unfolding story makes it clear that most of his sins were done in following Cersei, and as he departs from her, he becomes a better man. They are still very similar, but differences emerge, with Jaime becoming more stable as Cersei goes insane.

So, with fifty-fifty odds, Cersei is obviously mad, while Jaime is not.

Of their children, one is also mad, one does not seem to be, and the third is undecided as of yet but seems fairly simple-minded for his age.

Aerys was mad. His son Rhaegar was not. His son Viserys was. His daughter Danaerys is not. Fifty-fifty results, again.

While there are other Targaryens, such as Aegon and Jon Snow, who also break this trend, both young men are said to be Rhaegar’s sons, and thus immediately descended from a more sane branch of the family. Also, considering the things each of them get up to, their sanity is somewhat debatable. 😉

Heck, even the Baratheon descendents of a purported Targaryen bastard display some madness. Robert Baratheon had a mad hatred of House Targaryen, while Stannis… oh boy, where to begin with him. Renly might have been the most sane of the three, but we didn’t get to see much of him. They certainly would balance the overall scales of mad vs not mad, even if both of Rhaegar’s sons are sane.

“Mad? I prefer the term LIBERATED FROM SANITY!”

And then there’s what Jaime and Cersei may be most famous for: incest.

This is another hallmark of the Targaryen dynasty. If I depart from the books for a moment and look at the show, Jon Snow and Dany are revealed to be relatives in the same scene they couple up, having fallen for each other pretty quickly. Perhaps there’s something in Targaryen blood that calls to itself within the family?

Then, not only are Jaime and Cersei guilty of incest, but the books also reveal that there was one person, and only one, which Cersei was more attracted to than Jaime: Rhaegar Targaryen. He is, after all, a full-blooded “dragon,” not a half-bred one like Jaime may be.

I’m even reminded that the theory about Tyrion pointed to Aerys’ ugliness as a possible source for Tyrion’s dwarfism, but that makes little sense, given that he sired the handsome Rhaegar and the beautiful Dany, not to mention how Jon and Aegon are said to be very easy on the eyes as well. Why not two beautiful Lannister twins as well? Meanwhile, Tyrion’s ugliness would be no one’s fault but Tywin’s, whose soul was so rotten that his corpse filled the Sept of Baelor with its stench.

Yep, this guy sired half a dozen beautiful babies.
Genetics is weird.

That’s not remotely the end of it. Especially with a little imagination.

Imagine being Robert Baratheon, destroying Targaryens and supposedly having children with Cersei, but having more Targaryen children pop up under his nose. Certainly the truth of who produced these three golden-haired children managed to evade him, so why not this?

Imagine being Tywin Lannister, and as he destroys other people’s entire houses to further his own legacy, he’s unaware that his legacy is already ashes at his feet. Imagine his outrage when Aerys knighted his son to the Kingsguard, only for Jaime to not truly be his son at all.

Heh, imagine the Martells, so outraged at what was done to their family, such that they reach out to join with the last visible remnant of House Targaryen, a maneuver which proves most costly… and here Myrcella is actually a Targaryen right under their noses.

Imagine the entire plot, furthered by Varys and Illyrio and all the rest, to restore a Targaryen to the Iron Throne… and, in fact, there already was one!

Imagine the third dragon’s head of prophecy being a Lannister. Hopefully Jaime, but how messed up would it be for it to be Cersei?

Not as if Martin has ever messed with his fans and turned all sorts of expectations upside-down and inside-out before… right? 😉

“Whoa…”

So, to wrap this up with a summary:
1) Aerys did want Lady Joanna. Was he successful?
2) Tywin and his sister separately discredit the strength of the blood-ties between Tywin and Jaime.
3) Cersei is mad, while Jaime is not. Which is in accordance with…
4) Half the known Targaryens have been mad and half haven’t been.
5) Jaime and Cersei are as incestuous as the Targaryens, and the only one Cersei found more handsome than Jaime was also a Targaryen.
6) Even the beauty of the Lannister twins is in line with that of the Mad King’s other children.
7) Finally… just imagine what it would mean. 😉

Is it at all definite? No, I think not. But there’s a remarkable amount of coincidence, possibility, and potential in all these hanging threads which would simply be tied off in a neat knot of intrigue if it turns out that Jaime and Cersei were the Mad King’s children.

What do you think? Have I gone loony, or am I on to something here?

Are Jaime and Cersei Lannister, in fact, bastard Targaryens?

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Sunday’s Wisdom #195: Other People’s Stuff

“I don’t deserve it. I haven’t earned it. You don’t earn other people’s wives‘ fur coats!”
– Doloris Van Cartier, Sister Act

It has been so long since I last saw this movie, and still this quote has stayed with me.

Doloris has not exactly led an exemplary life. She’s a singer in a Vegas club, she’s a mistress to the club owner who’s also a mob boss, she’s selfish and shallow, etc. When she wants more from the married man she’s having an affair with, she doesn’t get it, but she does get a fur coat that is absolutely the envy of the other girls. Doloris likes it, until she sees the name written inside it: the man’s wife. He didn’t even spend money on it, just gave it to her like a hand-me-down. She is devastated, and fed up with where her choices have brought her, to the point she is determined to end the affair and leave Vegas. I remember the moment where one of her friends/coworkers urges her to keep it anyway, because it’s a nice thing and she deserves it. That’s when Doloris replies with this quote, and she absolutely has the right of it.

The world tells us to want what other people have, that we deserve what other people have, because it’s fancy and expensive. But no matter how fancy it is or how much it costs, no matter how much we like it or how much we want it, it’s not ours. You earn what is yours, not what belongs to someone else. If you take it, you are taking it. If it is given to you by someone else, they are taking it, and so are you. How special and deserving can you really be if you can’t even be given something that is yours, and yours alone?

Even more particular, Doloris was being given this fancy coat as a means for the man giving it to her to keep her, as if she were an object. It wasn’t a gift, it was a collar. A very soft and expensive collar, perhaps, but still a collar, which I believe I mentioned my feelings on last week.

More generally, though, it’s always stayed with me, ever since I saw this, even if I wasn’t able to put it in such words as a kid: you aren’t owed someone else’s nice things. You don’t deserve it, you won’t earn it, you can’t claim it. It belongs to someone else. Not you.

It’s such a simple thing, but we seem to have forgotten it somewhere along the way.

A lot of what is wrong with the world would be a whole lot better if we all stopped trying to have other people’s stuff and focused on earning our own stuff, ya know?

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Sunday’s Wisdom 194: A Cage is a Cage

“A gilded cage is still a cage.”
– From Rika Outcast: A Tale of Mercenaries, Cyborgs, and Mechanized Infantry, by M.D. Cooper

A cage made of gold is every bit as confining as one made of iron, and all the more insulting for supposing that the captive within it values their freedom so little as to trade it for some so-called “luxury,” as if golden bars were somehow more comfortable.

In the specific context of this story, Rika is a woman who has been sorely mistreated by others. The list of crimes committed against her person is so long and horrifying that I can scarcely imagine it without getting angry on her behalf and wanting to burn the entire establishment responsible for it all to the ground, no survivors. I’ll skip the bulk of it here and get to the end point: literally everything was taken from her, including her humanity and her freedom, multiple times.

At this exact moment in the book, Rika is taking a rare moment to enjoy herself with some peace, calm, and quiet. For a moment, she thinks that maybe her life, and her current enslavement, might not be so bad. But, ah! She remembers that she is a slave, no matter the disposition of her masters at the moment. Even if she has a moment to enjoy herself, even if she can find a peaceful moment here and there, even if her keepers are not entirely monstrous… she is still a slave, and subject to their whims.

Her cage may be golden, but it’s still a cage, and “The chain may be long, but it was still present.”

One of her keepers, or “teammates,” technically, actually doesn’t even see Rika as a human being at first. He sees her as an object, a tool. Even when he learns better, he doesn’t realize that Rika was actually bought and sold at an auction. No, he thinks they just had her in a box in a warehouse somewhere. As if that is actually any better!

Another of her teammates tried to empathize with her, trying to compare their experiences, but she shuts that down with a brief, and very light, description of what was done to her. His “bad experiences” absolutely pale in comparison.

In both cases, they simply fail to grasp what was done to her, what was taken from her. For all that they’ve endured, they simply can’t fathom losing what she has lost: her status as a human being in society.

That is what it means to be a slave.

Compared to that, what does any “comfort” matter?

What does it matter what the collar, the leash, and the cage are made of?

No material gain is worth the cost of one’s humanity.

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