Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Ecolitan Lesson

Some books teach you things. At times, I wonder if I am drawing the right lessons from the novels I peruse; in L.E. Modesitt's Ecolitan books, the lesson seems a fairly pointed one, so I feel nearly sure that the point is what I think it is:

Know what your priorities are. In the Ecolitan books, the protagonist always has some goal in mind - preserving a way of life, breaking an Empire, something monumental. The protagonist stops at nearly nothing to achieve this - and because they know exactly what their priorities are, it is the thought of a single moment to determine which priorities an action works for or against.

Most of the protagonists are highly pragmatic, and the results are bloody - but in the end, the trade-offs they have made, they are satisfied with. I think there's at least a grain of truth to that, and a grain of danger. People who put a single goal above all else risk becoming monsters in pursuit of that goal - whether the goal is destroying a nation, overturning a law, or accumulating wealth. The truth, though, is that most of the regrets I've had, and the mistakes I've made - or watched others make - are related to not knowing exactly what priorities fall where.

It's a simple lesson, but a difficult creed, and I'm still not sure if the danger in taking an ordering of priorities to heart is more or less than its utility.

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