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How Big is the World?

I just finished the first trilogy of the Moth and Cobweb series by John C. Wright. As he wrote in his Castalia House interview, Wright already has three more trilogies outlined and partially written. This first set deals with a young man completely out of place in modern North Carolina because his mother is an ancient princess and his father is a knight. Gilberec Moth was born to be a knight like his father and cannot function in modern society because he lives by a code that will not allow him to lie or to allow anyone to call him a liar. Nor can he stand by and tolerate lawlessness. As a result, he constantly gets into fights at school and eventually gets expelled. His mother sends him away to find a "real" job, and Gil ends up finding a whole world much bigger than he ever imagined.

The story is full of twists, turns, and riddles very much in the tradition of Tolkien and Lewis. It is superior in every way to anything in recent young adult fiction, not least because of its solid moral imagination. From the Castalia House interview:


SC: Why do you think the medieval period still holds the popular imagination?

JCW: Because, while it had its drawbacks, the Medieval period is superior to our modern world with its holocausts of Jews and holocausts of unborn babies, its buildings that look like inhuman concrete cubes, its modern art of piss and rubbish, its wars without chivalry and politics without honor, its atomized and faceless masses, and the endless and ignoble whining of the perpetually aggravated. The popular imagination seeks an oasis in the arid desolation of modernity.

There are only three possible worlds. Either the world is larger than you think, or just the same size, or smaller than you think.

The medievals lived in a world which, like Hamlet, they knew was larger than what was dreamed of by their philosophy, full of mystery, wonder, and miracle.

The sober men of the Eighteenth Century lived in a world the same size as their minds, where they imagined the machinery of the cosmos was understood and known. There were no miracles, but everything made sense.

The moderns live in a smaller world than their minds. They have reduced everything to nothing. There are no miracles and nothing makes sense.

Modern men are told they are machinelike beings, naked apes controlled by environment and genetics and subconscious traumas, children of the blind collisions of atoms in a cosmos that is meaningless, hopeless, and empty. History is controlled by economic forces beyond understanding, and fate is entropy leading to the heat death of the universe. Love is nothing but chemicals in the groin, and thought it nothing but electrical spams in the brain. There is no truth, no beauty, no point to life, and death is final.

Now, there can be debate which world one thinks is the one that best fits the real world, but there can be no debate about which world is the only one fit for a man to dwell in.

Every time I try to pick up something like The Swan Kight, I find myself wishing the hero was like Gilberec Moth, not like any of the spineless protagonists we typically get with their modern insecurities and conceits. Gil already knows the world is much bigger than he can see because he gives in at an early age to the gnawing realization that he needs a father. So, he dedicates himself to living the code of King Arthur. It makes his life incredibly difficult even before he finds himself being trained for combat by a bear or locked in battle with elven knights. In other words, he doesn't wait for super powers or magic to make him a hero. He lives the life first, and the adventure. the humor, and the romance follow.

I highly recommend this series to anyone with kids and teenagers. It's a great literary example for them to follow. I also recommend it for adults who want something better, because that's what the author and his characters strive for.

My Mind is Clean

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