Friday, December 17, 2010

Omens That Are Good

Well, I have to write this “essay” for my Fantasy Fiction course at SUNY Fredonia. My professor has allowed us free range over pretty much any topic and any text that has sparked our interest. *activate demonic voice distortion* MUAH HAH HAH. *deactivate demonic voice distortion* So, I love the book Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman (or Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett...) and so should you. I would like to talk about its ranking on the awesomeness chart that I have installed in my brain, but I don’t think I could transfer the files to all of you (and Dr. Simon said that this needs to be “educational” or something). One of the questions brought up when Dr. Simon asked us what we wanted to take away from this class, at the beginning of the year, was whether or not we were really learning anything relevant by studying fantasy fiction.

So, are we really learning anything relevant by studying fantasy fiction? If you’re actually taking the time to read this, my guess is that you just set down some book with a dragon or wizard or demon or quaragathorp, or some other creature flying around some celestial body of planets or stars in a distant galaxy on the cover to read some nerdy dude’s fantasy blog, and I’m not going to have to do too much convincing in order to prove that, well, yes, yes we are. (Greatest thesis statement of my college career thus far--thank you, taxpayers of New York, for allowing me to do this.)

I’ve been starting to really see the connectivity of the world around us, and all the subjects that I’ve been studying, both in and out of the classroom. After reading (if you can actually call such an experience with such a book “reading”) Good Omens, the gears, or cogs, or hamsters, or whatever, of my brain were whirling. I was thinking mostly about the philosophical statement that Gaiman and Pratchett were making that when it comes down to it good and evil either don’t exist, or don’t really matter due to our ability to morally and logically weigh the implications of our actions. This, my friends, is what you would call “relevant.” It is relevant now, it was relevant when this book was published in 1990, it was relevant as soon as man “bit the apple” and will be relevant ‘til the day we blow ourselves up (or don’t blow ourselves up...). These men (you can substitute geniuses, or in the spirit of Pratchett, conjurers) are trying to convey to us the importance of...get ready for it...actually THINKING before we act. Now the irony in that statement due to the indulgences in their immortal characters could be a whole other essay, but I’ll spare you that. What Pratchett and Gaiman are telling us is that no matter what the extenuating circumstances are, no matter what outside influences may be trying to affect you, the only one responsible for your actions is yourself. Crowley just put the guns in the hands of the businessmen; it was their decision to use them that was evil, not Crowley’s outside influence (in fact his influence, that the bullets didn’t kill, would probably be considered good, *BUM bum BUM!*)

There’s also that whole free will thing. Interestingly enough, in Philosophy class the other month, prior to my Fantasy Fiction class’s discussion of Good Omens, we discussed the concept of “free will,” and discovered that in essence it contains two stipulations: a “will,” or a desire, drive, or motivation to do something, and “freedom,” the ability to act upon your will. Constantly throughout the novel central characters, (Crawley, Aziraphale, Adam) are forced to act against their will. None of them truly want the world to end, yet this is a story of the apocalypse, so for the first 360 or so pages, one starts to doubt that there is such a thing as free will; there will always be barriers, roadblocks, limitations, divine beings controlling your employment statuses threatening you with eternal torture, that will impede or exercise control over your willingness to do things. However at the end we are provided with some hope. Gaiman and Pratchett liberate these characters, suspend doom, and look towards a bright future of eating apples. This goes to show that there is such a thing as “free will,” within our grasp; all you have to do is break some rules, do some hard work, and pray that the Son of Satan is truly a sweetheart deep down inside.

Relevance! I hope that you came away with at least something from this brain diarrhea that has been cleverly disguised as a “response paper,” but if you have not yet, then I offer you this: read Good Omens. If you want a copy, send me an e-mail and you can borrow mine, I only ask one favor from you in return: think.

No comments: