5 Comments

Ethics of The Ending

I am a Christian.

That may conjure up many things in your mind. Regardless of what you might be thinking right now, I will say this. Just as your personal beliefs shape your view of the world, so do mine. So, while I don’t demand that you agree with my view of the world (although I wish everyone did), this article will unapologetically address this issue from it.

A few days after finishing A Memory of Light, the last book in The Wheel of Time series, I decided to head to some forums to see what other die-hard readers thought of the ending. I was surprised to see that many readers were concerned about or disliked the philosophical concepts the book addressed. This led to further discussions on philosophical concepts apart from the book, which is where my surprise really set in.

I won’t spoil the ending to A Memory of Light. However, the topic of discussion often revolved around the nature of good and evil. Some argued that our world is a balance of good and evil and that to have one without the other is the ultimate evil.

Ick.

My shock came when the majority of posts argued otherwise. There was almost a sense of righteousness – the need for things to be right in the world – and our struggle to make things right that permeated the statements people made.

Interesting.

Is evil necessary for their to be good?

We were made to hope that good wins

As I chewed on this, two things came to mind.

First, Romans 8:20 says “For the creation was made subject to emptiness, not willingly, but by reason of him who has subjected the same in hope.

Since mankind fell away in the Garden of Eden, God has placed something inside of us that yearns for things to be right – to be fixed. We surf the web, watch the news, read USA Today, and listen to the radio. It’s pretty easy to get nauseated isn’t it?

The constant message these outlets declare is that things are not right in the world. Even if our immediate world is going well, it’s not right somewhere in the world. And there’s a part of us that wants to see it made right. We want hope that things won’t always be this way, especially if it’s our immediate world that isn’t right.

The last thing most of us want to do is be thrown into a fictional world that offers no hope that things can be right someday. The Judeo-Christian mindset believes that someday God will fix everything and make our world right. Yet, I believe it’s also ingrained on every heart by God himself.

Second, Romans 2:15 states that God’s law – His code of what is right – is written on the heart of every person. When we watch the end of the Matrix series and realize that nothing is truly accomplished from Neo and Trinity’s struggles, we feel a sense of wrongness. That’s NOT how it’s supposed to end! One of the actors in the movie stated that people in Western cultures didn’t like the ending because of their Judeo-Christian mindset.

I wholeheartedly disagree and think that statement is simplistic.

We live in a post-Christian culture in the West. I don’t have time to address that topic and this isn’t the place. But suffice it to say that the views of our culture, even that of Christians in our culture, tend to be vastly different than they were 50 to 100 years ago.  I don’t think a Judeo-Christian mindset is what left people feeling jaded at the end of the Matrix series.

Some call it conscience. Some call it our super-ego. I will stick with the scriptures. But either way, there is something written on our soul that believes in right and wrong even if we differ on what is right or wrong. And unless that thing is snuffed out or suppressed by the influence of a different philosophy, it tends to affect how we view the world.

I believe this is why we want the girl to get the guy. Why we want the protagonist (even if they are really flawed) to win. There is something about that character (or characters) which is admirable or likable, and we latch onto them in hopes that they achieve what they set out to do. I believe we were made to long for happy endings, and even more so if there’s great pain along the journey. I believe we were made to hope for good to win and evil to lose.

I believe ambiguity on the issue of good or evil leaves us feeling that we can’t win – that there is no hope. That our world will be filled with wrong forever. That birth and life leads to nothingness or a restart of the cycle of hopelessness.

I believe in resurrection. That even after death, there is still hope. That this world will be made right someday, thus making the fight worth it, even if my particular fight ends in death.

And I think the stories that resonate with most readers conclude with these themes. If we don’t make the struggles of our characters communicate these themes, I think we may be making a grave mistake.

The Ethics of the ending matter in my opinion. Do they matter to you?

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About Will Ramirez

Will Ramirez grew up with a love for God's Word and fantastical worlds. The first passion led him to pastor Calvary Chapel Lighthouse for the the last 17 years. The second led him to create the world of Adme, the setting for his coming debut novel, an epic fantasy titled Soul Yearning. He lives in Central Florida with his bride of seventeen years and their four children. Since 2010, he's been a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers and serves on the leadership team of Word Weavers of Orlando. He is currently working on the second book of the Godslayer series as well as The Unspoken, book one of a dark fantasy trilogy. In the land of Adme, powerful beings rule as deities and compete with one another for followers. But when a young priest is revealed as the prophesied godslayer, the pantheon unites to destroy him.

5 comments on “Ethics of The Ending

  1. Well dang, now I’m dying to know if Wheel of Time ended on a positive note or a negative one. Or did different people perceive it differently? This is the finale by Sanderson, right?

    We do want the good guys to win and the bad guys to lose, even in real life. But when people try to analyze WHY they want that, they don’t have a reason. So the argument breaks down into nebulous cultural fluff. But you’re right, God placed that desire in our hearts, even if we don’t understand it. Heck, isn’t that why sports are so popular? MY team is the good guys and YOUR team are the bad guys!

  2. I don’t think anyone disagreed on what kind of note the book ended on (see how sneaky I was there). The debate centered around some things that occurred in the conflict between Rand and The Dark One at The Last Battle. At one point, the topic of destroying evil forever is addressed and the message that comes across is that by destroying evil it would force everyone to be good, and thus be just as bad as if good was destroyed.

    This line of thinking had me worried because it’s lame. But in my opinion, that’s not the route Sanderson/Jordan took in the end. Introducing the idea into the story bothered enough people that they complained about it though.

    Oh and I love your sports illustration :) I’d never thought of it that way before.

  3. Hmm, it does sound pretty ying and yang. I think it comes down to the problem that we, as fallen humans, can’t imagine absolute perfection. In fact, it’s pretty horrifying. It’s like the prologue in Perelandra, where the guy meets the Oyarsa and hates it. And he remarks that although we preach about absolute good, and profess to love it, in reality, we can’t stand it and want it to go away. It’s as if air was the very thing we couldn’t breathe and water was the very thing we couldn’t drink.

  4. A reblogué ceci sur Judithsmarkworld and commented:
    This is a very interesting thought. And I do think, the end matters. I personally don’t watch/like sad movies. Because I know in the end there is no hope, and it doesn’t feel right to do that to people (viewers).

  5. Will, have you read The Moral Premise by Stanley Williams? It would seem to be a perfect complement to your post.

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