The Wisdom of Frank Herbert

I read to find myself — to understand my deepest emotions — and to establish direction within my own chaos.

In the multiverse, there are infinite choices and outcomes of those choices. The me in this reality is unlike any other me. I wonder if I could love myself in one of those other worlds or if any me is even worthy of being loved.

“If certainty is knowing absolutely an absolute future, then that’s only death disguised.” – The Preacher

The Preacher in Children of Dune is one of the only likeable zealots I’ve encountered (in fiction or life), perhaps because he appears to be destabilizing the most powerful religion in the history of the universe. At the halfway point in the book, I can’t know his end game. He could just be employing a Bene Gesserit trick — “a feint within a feint within a feint” — yet even if I learn that his true motive was to strengthen the Maud’dib faith, I’ll still admire him for his methods; in order to reestablish truth, truth must first be destroyed.

Frank Herbert wrote an incredible series. I say that because I’m reading it now, at the time in my life when I needed to experience it. I am not shaped by what I read; what I read evolves through me.

The Preacher of Dune has two purposes: to either mold a pliant mind or reaffirm one’s own principles. Here are some of his words that mirror my way of thinking:

“…I realize that humans cannot bear very much reality […] Most lives are a flight from selfhood. Most prefer the truths of the stable. You stick your heads into the stanchions and munch contentedly until you die. Others use you for their purposes. Not once do you live outside the stable to lift your head and be your own creature…”

“Is your religion real when it costs you nothing and carries no risk? Is your religion real when you fatten upon it? Is your religion real when you commit atrocities in its name?”

“Irony often masks the inability to think beyond one’s own assumptions.”

‘Tis the Season

Belief is a touchy subject. It is difficult for me to accept something exists without absolute proof — to have faith — and yet, the majority of what I do believe cannot be proven. It is internal. If I feel something is true, then I hold it as true with or without tangible evidence. But I cannot join in the blind faith so many of my friends and family possess.

I transferred to a private Christian academy for my final three years of high school, not because I believed in God, but because my dad did. When he was diagnosed, I started receiving Social Security benefits. When he died, the amount increased to over $800 a month. I didn’t want that money. It was insulting to think that it was adequate compensation for his loss, but it was his, so I decided to use it for something that would make him happy. And it did turn out to be a blessing.

Christmas is all about belief. The Pagan Yule, Jesus’s birth, Santa, Commercialism, family: there is something for almost everyone. Until my son started preschool, he knew where the presents came from: Mommy, Grandma, aunts and uncles. Then he sees that other kids believe in a jolly old elf-master, and he starts playing along.

At four, Hugo convinced himself that Santa was real in order to be like other kids — at four, it was already obvious to him that he wasn’t like them at all — and, at eight, he continues the myth. It’s familiar in a world that has changed too much. His logical mind allows him to prove, rather than disprove, Santa because of his need for stability. Rather than question why Santa looks so different in every store, Hugo reasons that these people are Santa’s representatives from the North Pole. They are agents sent out to find out what small children want for Christmas, and they only way to obtain that information is by looking like Santa. Little kids are very shy and stranger-conscious after all.

I don’t like Santa Claus. He steals too many of my mom points. I tolerate his presence because I understand. There really has been too much change for one boy to handle: he’s lost his grandfather and his brother, and he’s moved across country leaving almost his entire family behind. He’s rarely given much explanation — he feels as if his opinion doesn’t matter and that he doesn’t have a choice in regards to his own life.

If I were him, I’d be angry too.

I began with the concept of belief — how difficult it is for me. It seems so easy for my son; he seems to believe in everything: God, Santa, homicidal robots, etc. I don’t understand how he believes, but I do understand some of the why.

I’ve never bothered to give him real answers. I assumed that he didn’t need to believe in anything because I don’t need to. He’s eight years old — of course he does!

And that barely touches on how much I have failed him…