On Soul and Common Sense

[Spoilers from The Wheel of Time -up to Lord of Chaos- and Mass Effect 2 follow. Read at your own risk.]

When Rand saw Sulin after returning from Shadar Logoth, she was in all the servant’s white clothes and, actually a servant. I know this ji’e’toh is complicated and mean business. It’s designed to be that way. We saw Rand’s struggles to catch just an understanding of it. He did well enough, apparently. After taking the thought for a couple of moments, and remembering her treating servants like Maidens before leaving for Shadar Logoth (whatever that is supposed to mean), Rand managed to figure out why she was doing so. To be honest, I didn’t (I will be more than glad if someone will be able to shed light upon the matter).

But I was completely at his side of thoughts when he got angry at her, was thinking about how he would be able to make her quit scurrying around the Palace and take her spear up again. Aiel take ji’e’toh very seriously. But here, were I in Rand’s shoes, I would take Sulin by the scruff of the neck, ask her politely the reasons behind her behaviour, what would I need to do make her join the Maidens again, and probably lecture her for hours on how the world is going to end up if we, every one of us, don’t do what we have to do and how my patience is growing thin on people being picky on their so precious customs, which apparently makes them cleaning rooms, tidying beds up, fetching drinks, running errands and so on, where they could be piercing their spears through some Trolloc’s ribs or, you know, fighting against forces of the Shadow. Which makes sense, right?

– “Uuh, Sulin. You do realize that we all are working for a future where we can stay alive? And that I’m gonna need every single fighting hand in Tarmon Gaidon? Especially you, Maidens? SO THROW THAT BLOODY DUSTCLOTH AWAY AND GET YOUR BLOODY SPEAR. RIGHT. THIS. BLOODY. MOMENT.”

Which would probably grant more nothing more than a defiant stare, but at least I would feel myself a lot better. After repeating the conversation in my head countless times in the night and getting a little sleep, the thought hit me next morning.

I remembered a scene from the ending of Mass Effect 2. After defeating the last boss, Shepard was busy with arming the bomb she brought with her into the Collector base, when Illusive Man gave a call to her. Basically he offered to alter the bomb so that it only would kill living things inside the base, leaving the hull unharmed, suggesting that the knowledge inside would be invaluable with fighting the Reapers. Shepard got through the whole base with only blowing the base up in her mind. This dramatic offer being a last second one, plus, Illusive Man himself being proven to be an untrustful, irritating boss who has thrown Shepard’s life to open danger consciously just to get what he wanted, Shepard refuses his offer, and arms the bomb, with a big, satisfying “BURN YOU.” in the face from Miranda. I knew the alternative seemed logical, but for the stated reasons, I chose the other one. For that, I felt a little sad and unwillful. But after a couple of cutscenes, where Illusive Man was dead mad at Shepard about missing a huge chance on saving the whole galaxy from Reapers, she said this:

– “I’m going to win this war. And I’m going to do it without sacrificing the soul of our species.”

I was like “Yeah! That’s my girl! We’ll never forget that we’re human!”. It felt good after choosing the logically wrong, but right-from-the-heart path.

I realized that Aiel were pretty much the same. Ji’e’toh is in their very souls. Their behaviours, societies, fights, judgements adopted from their ancestors, their way of life basically, their honor is practically above everything else exists in the world. Even if it means their death (like how Rand hanged his Aiel friend, just to be consistent with his words), or end of all Aiel, or even end of all world, they would not give up on ji’e’toh. As Aviendha pointed out, ji’e’toh actually is Aiel.

However I see Illusive Man as an ambitious heartless monster, Aiel would think the same about someone who would try to separate them from ji’e’toh (namely, me). I can’t see any practicality in that domain, I don’t understand it. Just as how Illusive Man can’t give a meaning to our ‘humanly’ attitudes, how our emotions cloud our judgements (and turns out to be a freakish ‘lawful evil’ in third game).

Writers of books and games mention how characters praise the human heart, compassion and doing good deeds, even if it brings harm to themselves. We like to feel that ‘humanity’, how people should be. Then we close the books, shut the computers down, go to work or school to remember what our lives really look like. A glance at the newspaper completes the process.

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Mat, I really like you but, if your aim is to get away from Rand as soon as possible, why did you brought literally an army, which is supposed to take a whole bloody city, to snatch a couple of women, just at his pair of words? Why did you gave that promise to him? That ta’veren tug is really strong, isn’t it?