90: “The Pattern That Everything Makes” (Jo Walton)

                “Fairies are more in the magic than in the world, and people are more in the world than in the magic…And God? God is in everything, moving through everything, is the pattern that everything makes, moving. That’s why messing with magic so often becomes evil, because it’s going against that pattern. I could almost see the pattern as the sun and clouds succeeded each other over the hills and I held the pain a little bit away, where it didn’t hurt me.” –Among Others, Jo Walton

                Among Others is a love song to libraries and friends, a conversation between hundreds of different science fiction books, and a lost girl finding that she isn’t lost at all. (I’ve just finished reading it, including a little nap before the last ten pages. Honestly, I think the nap was as much a part of reading it–pouring my mind through it, and learning from the flow–as anything else). At the heart of it is a way of being in the world. Maybe that’s at the heart of most things.
                Nietzche talks about “will to power” as the fundamental human experience: he sees ambition, the effort to reach a higher position. A lot of us live like that. Jo Walton talks about a pattern: a pattern that is inside all things and between all things, a pattern we’re a part of. In a way, those are both foundational psychologies; in another way, those are different approaches to the idea of living.
                It reminds me of an old Jewish story: young Abraham comes out from a cave (funny, the connections you see–Buddha, Plato). The sun shines above him, and he falls to his knees, saying, ‘Surely you must be the Most Powerful, bright eye of the sky, and I will worship you.’ So he worships the sun for a little while–until sunset, actually, when the sun sets and the moon rises.
                After thinking it over, he drops to his knees in front of the moon, saying, “You must be the Most Powerful, white eye of darkness, and I will worship you.” So he kneels again, and prays, and prays–and clouds cover the moon. So he worships the clouds, until the sun comes up and the clouds go away, and then he thinks, “You must be the…Wait.” So he thinks, and he thinks, and he thinks that things come and go in their own cycles. He decides there must be a power above them all, a power arranging them. He decides to worship that power, and calls it God. That’s one idea: a hierarchy, a creator and creations.
                Walton’s God isn’t above, but within. Her character’s goal isn’t to master patterns, and control them, but rather to fit inside them. To be part of them. To let things be what they are, and be herself what she is, and feel the connections. In the end, that makes sense for a character who loves libraries so much–it’s the life equivalent of reading a book, and making sure it ends up back on the shelf, unbroken, so someone else can come along and find it. I’d like to live that way.

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