Trope-a-Day: Balance Between Good and Evil

Balance Between Good and Evil: Strongly averted in eldraeic theology, the Flamics preferring to espouse the notion that good (i.e., light, the Flame) should cheerfully extirpate evil (darkness, Entropy) from the universe and feel jolly happy about it. Good Needs Evil for contrast, forsooth! The thing about light, you see, is that it comes in many different colors.

Trope-a-Day: Light Is Not Good

Light Is Not Good: Well, the Imperials certainly look the part of “light”, being all shiny and glowy and identifying with all kinds of light- and flame-based imagery, philosophically and religiously, but “good” – well, unless your personal morality identifies the good really strongly with knowledge, beauty, excellence, negentropy, self-integrity, obligation, the inevitable march of progress, and remorselessly enforced free will (among other blue and orange things), not really.  And if your notion of the good runs counter to those things – most commonly with utilitarian commitments to Luddism or collectivism – then Light Will Crush You.

(On another note, it may be noted that while among the eikones of eldraeic religion, the bright lights to aim at, there are eikones of good concepts – order, peace, prosperity, joy, justice, liberty, healing, honor, etc. – there is not one eikone that embodies good, as a concept.  It is, ah, insufficiently nuanced.

Of course, there are none that embody evil, or indeed any concepts on the dark side of gray, either.)

(See also tomorrow’s trope-a-day, Good Is Not Nice!)

The Problem of Evil

A question asked on the conculture mailing list:

How do our various cultures — especially the non-human ones, and also especially the non-terran ones — view this Problem of Evil? Or do they even recognise it as a principle? Or do they see Good as the Problem…? Also, is Evil a “real thing” or a by-product of cultural evolution in a people?

Well, now.

The eldrae don’t really think of Good and Evil as contending cosmic principles.  Those would more accurately be described as Light and Dark – on the one hand, the Flame, the cosmic positive principle of volition, creation, excellence, and energy, and the Darkness, the negative cosmic principle of chaos, destruction, and entropy.  But while Dark may be Evil, in many if not all of its aspects, Light is not exactly Good (and nor is it, well, terribly nice – at least by human moral standards).  Unless you happen to identify the good really strongly with beauty, excellence, negentropy, obligation, the inevitable march of progress, and remorselessly enforced free will, anyway.

Neither of them is personified, strictly speaking.  Light arguably is in the form of the eikones (personifications of concepts) as a whole, but none of them represents the Light itself; they’re shards of it seen through a prism, individual colors derived from the light of the Flame.  Meanwhile, Darkness —

Well, that gets into beginnings.  The fundamental tenet of eldraeic theology is that the universe is fundamentally broken.  It obviously shouldn’t be, but something went wrong at some point, and we’re stuck with it.  (Explanations vary; the Church of the Flame doesn’t really have a consistent creation myth.  One common postulate is that it’s down to Aldéré, Divine Ignition, creator goddess of the eikones, being mad as a hatful of badgers inasmuch as creation is the only thing that matters, and what happens afterwards is “not her department”, which is why she coos every bit as much over the creation of say, Ebola, as the creation of a magnificent work of art; but there are many alternative cosmogonies.)  The Darkness is this brokenness; it’s entropy and its consequences, the reason we live in an imperfect universe in which energy dissipates, destruction doesn’t always lead to new creation, information can be lost, people die, flaws go unamended, and assorted other offenses against The Way Things Ought To Be In A Proper, Perfect Universe persist in happening.

(And that, of course, is just physical entropy.  Mental-spiritual entropy is also responsible for choice-theft and parasitism and envy and sloth and cacophilia and destructionism and humility and most of the other sins in the book.)

It’s almost gnostic, in a way, except that while the gnostics would claim that matter and the material world are inherently evil, the Flamics would claim that matter itself strives, self-organizing into stars and worlds and galaxies, crystals and snowflakes, and life, life everywhere, in one great outcry against the deathward fall of the universe, until eventually it produced sophont life, whose purpose, such as it is, is to continue to strive to make the universe better, and eventually fix it completely, restoring it to the flawless state it always should have had.

“Anything that is broken can be repaired.”

So, to return to the original question, evil (or Darkness, rather) doesn’t have an independent existence per se; it’s merely inherent in the flawed nature of the universe and everything within it.  In sophont terms, it’s that little inner voice that encourages people to take short cuts, to be satisfied with less, to be less than they can be, to bring others down rather than raise themselves up (relative status systems are, they would say, very entropic), to not strive, not achieve, not improve, and to prevent others from doing so.  That’s the hole in the world trying to suck out your awesome; good, or Light rather, consists of not letting it.  But it is a distinctly identifiable concept you can point to, and say “that’s it”.

(More on some related concepts at Blue and Orange Morality and Little Darknesses.)

Eldraeic: Degree Quantifiers and Antonyms

As was mentioned before, the use of degree quantifiers in Eldraeic in some cases makes unnecessary, or redundant, the use of antonyms.  One example which was given, and in which there really aren’t directly cognate words in the language, are “full” and “empty”, expressed as:

quor olmanár

and

ulquor olmanár

respectively.  Another is the question of moral goodness and evil, in which the latter concept – in accord with its philosophical status as a defect or absence rather than a force in its own right – has no corresponding symbol of its own (although its aspects do), being expressed as

ulquor teirquelár

which one could reasonably gloss as a Newspeak-style “ungood”.

But Eldraeic not being a Newspeak-style restrictive language, it’s worth pointing out that there are plenty of cases, unlike these, in which both halves of an antonym pair persist in the language by inheritance from its predecessor languages, and both remain in use.  The nuances of such usages vary, of course, and to illustrate this, I’ll give you three examples: big/small (zahúën calma), true/false (talis urlis) and light/dark (aril dúran).

In the case of the first, either may be used without distinction.  There’s no real difference in sense between saying for something small

calmavár / ulquor zahúënár

(small/unbig), or for something big

zahúënár / ulquor calmavár

(big/unsmall).  The difference is merely one of emphasis, and you can choose whichever suits for taste and meter, etc.

The second pair is a little more interesting; while technically there is no difference in meaning when the same transformation is done, the subtextual implications are rather different.  To claim that something one is told is an

ulquor talisár

an untruth, has the implication that the speaker believes the teller to be incorrect, misinformed, miscalculating, or is otherwise acceptably wrong.  To claim, on the other hand, that what they have told you is an

urlisár

a falsehood, is to implictly accuse them of deliberate deceit, falsification or wilful miscalculation; in short, a lie.

The last pair is perhaps the most interesting.  In all cases, light is simply

arilár

but the common usage for darkness, in the sense of the mere absence of light, is exactly that – “absence of light”:

ulquor arilár

To say

dúranár

Is to imply not merely the absence of light, but darkness with a sense of presence, or malice; it might well be used for such things as the Shadow of Sauron, the environmental conditions of Z’ha’dum, the palpable darkness of a thick forest at midnight in deep winter with the howling of unfriendly wolves all around, the lights going out in Rome, or the long cold darkness preceding the death of the universe; very much not a word used for simple low lighting conditions.

Likewise, its ulquor-converse very much implies Light with a capital L, in an almost religious sense; that light which burns away the darkness in the dúran sense.  Also not a word for common, turn-on-the-lights usage.