What ‘A Wizard of Earthsea’ Teaches Us | A Journey of Self-Discovery
The most wholesome book I have read in a while.
“Only in silence the word,
only in dark the light,
only in dying life:
bright the hawk’s flight
on the empty sky.”
— A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin
What the book is about:
This is a coming of age story about Ged, a young wizard born in the Island of Gont in the fictional world of Earthsea. The gifted young boy is eager to learn the great powers of the wizardry with which he would perform great magic, unaware however, how the power that he wields could possibly destruct the balance of the universe, if used irresponsibly. It’s a story about a boy who learns to conquer his biggest enemy, his shadow. The shadow is symbolic of his (our) demons in form of insecurities, excessive pride. Ged, while learning to fight the shadow also learns about the delicate equilibrium of the universe and how his (our) actions affect it.
Major Themes that Ursula Le Guin quite beautifully weaves into Ged’s tale-
A quest for discovering oneself
Ged’s journey towards being a great Archmage is not the pursuit of power. It is about the personal journey that one needs to undertake to truly make sense of our being — the good and the ugly and be at peace with it. It is about resilience. It is about taking charge of and being responsible for our actions..
Once we accept our fears, take ownership of it, the fears by themselves cease to have any power over us.
“..And he began to see the truth, that Ged had neither lost or won but, naming the shadow of his death with his own name, had made himself whole: a man, who, knowing, his whole true self, cannot be used or possessed by any power other than himself, and whose life therefore is lived for life’s sake, and never in the service of ruin, or pain, or hatred, or the dark…”
Mindfulness and Balance
Do we think twice before gobbling a toffee from a seemingly insignificant plastic wrapper? We think, however, when loads of these wrappers among other intoxicants end up in our oceans, in our animals, in our drinking water and in us, thereby creating the modern world’s diseases. Our smallest of actions have great consequences and that’s what Le Guin conveys through her writings. In the book, she emphasizes on maintaining equilibrium. The below quote by Ged’s teacher summarizes the great need for responsible thinking along-with the pursuit of knowledge:
“But you must not change one thing, one pebble, one grain of sand, until you know what good and evil will follow on that act. The world is in balance, in Equilibrium. A wizard’s power of Changing and of Summoning can shake the balance of the world. It is dangerous, that power. It is most perilous. It must follow knowledge, and serve need. To light a candle is to cast a shadow…”
Oneness with the world — the living and the non-living, the ones on two legs or four, with speech or without
There’s much to learn from the things, beings around us. When Ged is in between the world of the dead and the living, the door of latter manned by the shadow itself, his biggest enemy, he is brought back and saved due to the ‘dumb, instinctive’ wisdom of his little pet Otak.
If we observe mindfully we would realize that there’s wisdom to gain from all beings. The wisdom which would also help us understand ourselves.
It was only the dumb instinctive wisdom of the beast who licks his hurt companion to comfort him, and yet in that wisdom Ged saw something akin to his own power, something that went as deep as wizardry. From that time forth he believed that the wise man is one who never sets himself apart from other living things, whether they have speech or not, and in later years he strove long to learn what can be learned, in silence, from the eyes of animals, the flight of birds, the great slow gestures of trees.
No matter how grave a trouble we’re in, our minds are powerful enough to take on the battle head on. There’s strength in strength — meaning troubles can wear us down — yes, but none can really get to our head if we’re strong.
The shadow was chasing Ged, a panting, tired, powerless wizard. It kept its pace, getting at him, almost, but failed to seize him, because-
He had almost yielded, but not quite. He had not consented. It is very hard for evil to take hold of the unconsenting soul.
The books is about self conquest. About “hunting the hunter” in our own self.