Friday, September 4, 1998

Seventh Son


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by Orson Scott Card

•p. 73:
“…If Mama believes in God and Papa doesn’t, how do I know which is right?”
…“How do I know things like that, when Mama says one thing and Papa says another?”
…“Al, I got to tell you, I wisht I knew. Sometimes, I figure ain’t nobody knows nothing.”

        I can understand a twenty-two-year-old (or anyone) not knowing the answer to this, and I certainly understand a six-year-old not knowing, but I know, and if Card doesn’t, this explains just about everything that bothers me about his work.

[Thursday, March 13, 2008 9:38 PM: I don’t mean anything esoteric by this, just that if you don’t know what the truth is, about religious questions or anything else, you try to figure it out, by gathering evidence, weighing it, and trying to come to a conclusion using your powers of reason. This seems obvious, and it is, but it seems to me that for many people, it simply does not occur to them to use the same method they would use to answer any ordinary question to answer questions of religion or faith.]

•p. 94: “He thought of writing down that thought, but decided against it. It had no traces on it save the prints of his own soul—neither the marks of heaven, nor of hell. By this he knew that it hadn’t been given to him. He had forced the thought himself. So it couldn’t be prophecy, and couldn’t be true.”
        Is this what Card believes? Is he truly that simple in matters of faith, probing and prodding, pushing at the boundaries of his belief but never allowing himself to question the center? Or—gasp—does he not believe at all, and set these traps within his works so only the very intelligent will see the flaws in the logic an begin to question their own beliefs, while anyone else simply sees a believing man asking intelligent, hard questions? He did say that he was strongly influenced by Ayn Rand, after all.
        Unfortunately as always, the most likely explanation is also the most mundane: He’s an intelligent believer who has many doubts, and these doubts and questions come out in his work. But I can always hope. He seems too intelligent not to see the flaws in his logic.
        Heres a case in point, the best example I’ve seen of him coming so close, then missing:

        I’ll do the Wyrms thing later. That’s it, it has to be, the Ayn Rand theory is true. It’s a goddamn puzzle, and he’s done it again, just like in Wyrms: He’ll ask a question, give the wrong answer, and then, several pages later, give the right one! He’s smarter than I ever imagined. [I don’t think I ever did “the Wyrms thing.” I think I know what I was going to do, but I’ll have to reread the book to lay it out. Sometime. The below is the aforementioned case in point.]

•p. 132: “Everything possible to be believed is image of truth. If it feels true to me, then there is something true in it, even if it isn’t all true. And if I study it out in my mind, then maybe I can find what parts of it are true and what parts are false, and—” [emphasis added]
        Which is the precise answer to the question that started this discussion, umpteen pages back. He goes on:
‘…if something just plain didn’t make sense to Alvin, he didn’t believe it, and no amount of quoting from the Bible would convince him.’

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