On Polarity of Opposites.
Game of Thrones.
I wasn’t a fan when GoT first aired. No, not at all.
I tried watching a few episodes and although the acting was good, the costumes sublime, and the cinematography breathtaking, I would inevitably disengage. So, I gave up on it.
One of the Covid19 pandemic positives is that I now have plenty of time to read. Which, of course, is immediately sidestepped with displacement activity and I embrace the distraction of TV.
The dozens of books on my bookshelf can wait for another day, or episode, or series.
GoT is a great displacement activity because it feels anthropological so I can feel a little bit justified. What a great excuse for a therapist to binge watch TV rather than read the Principles of Neural Science.
It also feels like a challenge to me. I have a need to find out what all the fuss was about then. and still is for its loyal fan base.
Battle of the bastards.
Excuse the profanity but that, I believe, is what last night’s episode was called. I missed quite a lot of the detail because I had done my usual thing of disengaging once again. (Well, I was trying for a 7-letter word on my scrabble app).
Each time I looked up some poor mortal was having their belly sliced open, head removed or having some other form of barbarism inflicted upon them and all in full technicolour splendour and keen devotion to realism.
It always makes me want to turn away.
Ordinarily, this is my cue to announce boredom with gore and opt for a soak in the bath. Possibly with Principles of Neural Science in my hands. (Well even if I didn’t read it, it would be a useful step-up to reach the top shelf of the bathroom cabinet. Reading in the bath is my go-to self-care relaxation. But on such occasion may possibly be driven by the need to ritually cleanse away the carnage my eyes have witnessed).
Last night, however, I put my smartphone down, turned my full attention to the screen, and made myself watch and sit with my discomfort.
It was an interesting exercise leading to an interesting chain of thoughts today.
They are these;
Thought Number 1: individual humans are capable of horrific actions.
As my eyes unwillingly settled on gruesome detail after gruesome detail, I realised it was not the gore and violence per se that upsets me. Watching throats slit, and stomachs stabbed did not fill me with unbearable revulsion. The violence was easy to watch. Much like one might watch a ballet or an oil painting in progress, a wave of an arm here, a splash of crimson there.
What I was uncomfortable with was my own inner knowing that all of the violence portrayed on the screen was more than possible in reality. It had all happened at some point and was documented in the annals of history. GoT is fiction, but the brutality portrayed could have been borrowed from record. Violence is a part of humanity, and if it is part of humanity then surely it is a part of me.
Thought Number 2: the human’s will to survive often ensures long-term suffering is endured.
The character Theon Greyjoy aka Reek makes a heart-sinking journey from Lord to a shadow of a shade of a barely-human, human being.
His descension to sub-humanity through prolonged torture is sickeningly documented. It is disquieting and upsetting to witness.
Even if it is only a drama, it reads depressingly real.
Thought Number 3: is violence ever warranted or even desirable?
That said, GoT is very even-handed in its brutality. The stomach-turning violence of sadistic psychopaths is matched by the viciousness of the Godly and good.
From the virtuous to the down-right evil and every shade of morality in between, traversing sex, class and age, characters are given a weapons of destruction and they are wielded with deathly assurance.
I was aware that feelings of slight glee stirred within when the “baddies” got their comeuppance. I even released an emphatic “yes” as one disliked character met their death.
Did this mean that I felt the violence could be deserved in some way?
That brutality is acceptable in certain contexts.
How could the same act of brutality seem less brutal to me if it were for a “good” cause or dished out to a “deserving” villain?
Did this feeling signal an endorsement of violence in my otherwise peace-loving soul?
Is this what I dislike about violence on TV?
Because it hints at a place within me that I might ordinarily deny.
Thought Number 4: Does the intention behind an act define whether the perpetrator Is good or evil?
If violence is acceptable for the “greater good” does that mean that any act of brutality is not in and of itself evil? It is merely incidental to the procurement of good outcomes.
It would seem so. How easy then it is to hide an evil intention behind a seemingly good intention.
Enter politics stage left and my pondering brain momentarily leaves the building with the worrying niggle that it feels very akin to modern-day politics minus the blood and gore.
Thought Number 5: Evil versus good.
Imagine Evil stood facing Good at the final battle.
Evil threatens Good with all manner of horrors, death, destruction, and pain because its intention is evil ergo it is allowed.
Good, by contrast, promises Evil peace, calm, love, and safety because it has no evil intention. Good is good.
It doesn’t feel very equitable for a fight.
However, referring to thought no. 4, if Good can demonstrate its intention is good, can it can now threaten all manner of horrors?
Can Good then remain good?
Are there caveats to the horror Good can offer?
“I can kill for the greater good, but it must be a swift death incurring as little pain as possible”.
“I can remain good even if I do enjoy inflicting harm on a particularly evil person, but only because they are evil. If I enjoy inflicting pain for any other reason, then I am evil”
“I can do what I want providing I can prove it is for Good”
Who actually adjudicates what is good or otherwise?
Thoughts 6 – 4,392 or there-abouts.
Is God the ultimate adjudicator?
Is there a god?
Is God good?
Are there many gods? Are they all Good?
What of law and lawlessness?
At this point, my mind is a knotted jumble of musings from the massive question of “What is evil?” and the nature and existence of God to “Where can I get a Daenerys dress from?”. (Sorry, I can’t sanction my mind, it is what it is).
I will save you the detail of the several hundred rabbit-holes of thought that my mind ran down and cut to the chase. I arrived at the flabby conclusion that opposites are hugely unhelpful.
When considering humanity, seemingly tangible, polar opposites cease to exist on closer inspection.
No one appears to be purely good or wholly evil.
Black is not the opposite of white whether considering pigment or light.
Dark cannot be the opposite of light because one defines the other. They are a mutual existence, in essence, the same substance; light. How can two things be the same substance and opposite at the same time?
Alive is not the opposite of dead. (This is a science-y one looking at definitions of life and where life starts and how life is defined, but you can do your own reading to discover its unique ambiguity).
I could go on.
Suffice it to say, this week’s musings have renewed my commitment to working within intangibles. To accepting that words are inadequate, labels only partially helpful, and opposites misleading.
We all live in this wonderful soup of difference and similarity.
We are not on the spectrum; we are the spectrum!
It is frustrating to be unable to set a range from one extreme to its opposite, and clearly identify specifically defined points between the two because we humans like to organise, box up and label. It helps us feel in control.
On a positive note, this leaves us in the fertile, multi-coloured, multi-faceted space that defies containment. Precise definitions are out of reach and even if possible, would not keep up with the constant change of an evolving being. Life is not fixed. We are not fixed.
Whilst this is an unhelpful description, it is I believe the place where hope and love thrive and is the home of endless possibility.
So, to conclude, there is no conclusion.
I have dismissed the helpfulness of extremes or opposite, so I conveniently have to dismiss the option of a beginning and end to my musings.
They are my musings.
Just that, nothing more.
Not good nor bad, fact nor fiction, positive nor negative, they just are.
Musings for your amusement (or not).
Thank you for staying with my mind perambulations this far.
With a smile and warm regards,