Yes, I am a total Game of Thrones fanatic. My wife and I got hooked on the books early on, and have waited patiently for each new book or season to come out. As you may recall, Mussar teaches that Patience is enduring an unpleasant situation, and when it comes for waiting for new books in the series, Patience is our only recourse. While I promised three Mussar lessons from Game of Thrones, consider this lesson on Patience to be a bonus.
Mussar Lesson 1: You don’t get the end you want. You get the end you get. I have been somewhat baffled by the complaints and petitions about GOT season 8. 1 million people really want to redo the entire season?
The lesson for us is Humility. Mussar teaches that Humility is about knowing one’s proper place in the universe, as Alan Moranis wrote “No more than my place, not less than my space.” At times all of us have been in a position that we wish for a redo. If you want to redo something that you said or did, you may have an opportunity to try again, apologize, or revisit. But if you are looking at the acton of another, it is your place to rewrite what they have done?
The same is true of our own lives. We control very little, and are but a small part of the universe. We can fight the universe or recognize our place in it. One of the lessons for Moses not entering the promised land before he dies is the reality that we can’t control when we go. We can spend our last days fighting and filled with regret, or we can spend them in thanks for all the gifts we have been given.
Mussar Lesson 2: Good and evil get pretty muddy. As George RR Martin says in this wonderful interview with Stephen King, “In my view, the battle of good and evil is waged within the individual human heart. It is our decisions – we are all partly good and partly evil. We make decisions every day. We may do a good thing on Wednesday, and an evil thing on Thursday, or a selfish thing.”
If you’ve read my book, this will remind you of the conflict between the Good Inclination and the Evil Inclination. Remember that these are translations of Hebrew phrases, and evil is a challenging translation. In Game of Thrones, the evil decisions tend to be truly evil with a capital E. Take Daenerys, for example. As Tryion explained, we could overlook some of her brutal decisions early on because she was killing evil men. But when she burned Kings Landing, there was no where to go but to admit how bad she was. But it didn’t have to be that way. She also had a forgiving and compassionate nature, and could have chosen a different path.
None of us are totally good nor totally bad. Learning to tolerate our mistakes, and becoming mindful of our choices are key building blocks on the path of the mensch. See this post on Choice Points for more.
Mussar Lesson 3: Joy has many faces. Arya Stark said “Death has many faces.” And wow, did we see a lot of death in these books and shows!
Yet tens of millions of people found joy reading and watching. The joy we feel comes in different forms. The acting, the effects, the twists and turns. And many of us enjoy discussing each episode – some prefer to argue that X or Y should have happened.
We should not take for granted the joy we get from entertainment. In the first Mussar book Duties of the Heart, Rabbi Bachya ibn Pakuda wrote the danger of not feeling gratitude for things we take for granted. “Many good things are left unenjoyed, and the happiness to be had from them is tainted either because people do not recognize the good in it, or they do no realize its value.”
Entertainment is a gift. It is not our place to change or rewrite it. We take what is offered, and make of it what we will.
What is some of the good you’ve found in Game of Thrones? Please share below.
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