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The blessing of impotence

I have a terrible habit. I find that I can't watch a movie or tv show, or read a book without going online and afflicting myself with spoilers. There's a wiki dedicated to just about everything now and I can't help but peek. Usually, my intention is not to completely spoil the ending of whatever it is I'm reading/watching but that's often what ends up happening by 'accident'. The problem is I usually can't stop thinking about related minutiae and find that I simply have to have the answer as to whether some creepy character is really a traitor, how the magic system really works, or whether my guess that someone is going to die a horrible death comes to pass. Before long, I've wiki-walked myself into a place where I've ended up spoiling more of the book or movie or show than I would have wanted at the start of the journey.

I'm currently experiencing this right now with Brandon Sanderson's Misborn trilogy. I started listening to the first book, The Final Empire, on the way home from Origins and I've found chunks of time since then to listen along and I'm around halfway through. I found the idea of Allomancy interesting enough that I could help but go wiki'ing for more information. It's possible that I would have enjoyed the reveal more if I had learned about the system in dribs and drabs as part of the narrative but I wanted to know now exactly what all the metals did so I could start running counterpoints in my head about what I would do if I were in the world of Scadrial and how I would use my Allomantic abilities.

*Spoilers Ahead*

In my wiki-walking I also read about the Lord Ruler, specifically how he basically acquired reality-bending or god-like powers to create the Final Empire and how he chose to use it. This got me thinking about what I would do if I had such powers, and far from being a simple passing daydream, it was pretty dark and foreboding. The changes that he made, all of which I'm sure he thought were for the best of reasons, caused repercussions and necessitated more and more changes until the world was drastically different from what it had been. A list of the changes he made, and an indication of just how much power he had at his beck and call, is as follows:

  • He moved the planet closer to its star in order to burn the mist away.

  • As a result of the new orbit, he added a number of active volcanoes to the planet, which allowed him to cool the world down a bit.

  • The new climate of the planet needed drastically different plants to be created.

  • He created or changed microbes to break down the ash as part of their metabolic functions.

  • He altered mankind so that they would survive the continuous ashfall.

  • He transformed all living Feruchemists into mistwraiths, creating the first of the species.

  • He changed his most favoured allies to be taller, stronger, more intelligent and less fertile to create the nobles.

  • He changed his enemies into the skaa, making them shorter, hardier, and more fertile.
  • He converted all the Terris Worldbringers to kandra.

  • He flattened the original Terris homeland, where the Well of Ascension was and built Kredik Shaw on top of it.

  • He raised mountains in the North and named the location Terris.

  • He rebuilt himself into an extremely powerful mistborn.

  • He became functionally immortal, compounding both gold and atium.

  • He gained knowledge of all three Metallic Arts on Scadrial, allowing him to develop the three hemalurgic constructs that existed in the Final Empire.


I mean, holy crap. It seems to start marginal, but each change he made caused another change to be necessary until by the end he's basically changing the fundamental makeup of people and creating new species. This got me thinking that there is a safety and comfort in being powerless. This almost seems like some kind of platitude that the powerful would say to the weak, a form of humblebrag. If only you knew how much I envied you 'little people' with your simply lives without complications and if you only knew how much harder I have it with all this power and riches at my beck and call. Still, there's a grain of truth there. If I were granted these powers...what exactly would I dare to change? Move the planet's orbit a bit so we get less solar radiation and global warming isn't a problem? Create a new species that devours carbon dioxide at a ferocious rate? Lower the human birthrate in third world countries to combat overpopulation? Make self-correcting DNA more effective to stop genetic disorders? Anything I might choose to do in that moment would have tremendous ramifications that I'm pretty sure I would have no real ability to predict. Would I be driven mad by analysis paralysis, or the simple fear of making a mistake so fundamental that I destroyed the very world I was trying to save.

I'm all of a sudden reminded of that movie, The Replacements where Gene Hackman tells Keanu Reeves that Winners always want the ball. Maybe it's true, but so do Megalomaniacs and people with little sense of self-reflection and contemplation. Does it make you a coward if you'd rather the ball never came to you because you fear what you'd end up doing with it? Maybe the meek will inherit the earth....but if they think about it, I'm not sure that they'd want it.

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