In last week’s article of the Weekly Druid, I contemplated the importance of considering nuances when giving advice. I used the example of someone asking about the price of bad Magic and the response that it all depends on what one beliefs rather than knows. Or, I argued, the advisor should at least have the integrity to advise the querent to, if there is no possible way to know, what risks are involved.
While many readers agreed, there were some who brought up an eons old argument, that “bad” Magic — and for all intents and purposes the original querent was talking about dark Magic, the Lefthand Path — is agreeable because it balances out the Universe.
Well, I am a data analyst and program evaluator in my day job, and a suggestion like this one obviously tickles my interest (but not necessarily my fancy). In other words: is that a plausible argument?
One way to test something like that is by evaluating how easy it is to create a situation where such a hypothesis is no longer plausible, to take the argument ad absurdum. For example: if one was a witch walking by a playground filled with innocently happy children, doing their fun children stuff, would it be that witch’s charge to bring the universe, that is obviously unbalanced towards fun and happiness, into balance by casting a wicked spell that takes out all the good vibes of that situation?
Clearly, such an action is not only not necessary — the Universe is just fine when kids play and have fun — it would also be disturbingly perverted, and may required to have such a person sectioned to psychiatric care, for they are a danger to themselves and others.
The other way to approach this is simply by using math.
First order would be to define where the balance of the Universe is, and how could bad and good be represented mathematically. What offers itself to this problem is the very basic number line, with zero being the dead center balance, and the positive numbers going into one and the negative numbers going into the other direction. Let’s just, for argument sake, say that -1 (negative one) is bad, and +1 (positive one) is good. One might say that this is arbitrary (why not -1 being defined at good?), but let’s just stick with the more natural definition.
Let’s consider something bad, a negative one, has happend to someone. In an actual case, a witch found out that her partner of many years has left her for someone else, claiming that he never loved her really anyway. That badly treated and hurt witch was contemplating revenge.
So, the witch is in the negative one place, and, according to the “balancing the Universe” theory, she should do something to get back into balance, to zero.
Revenge would mean she does something bad, a negative one on top of the negative one that was done to her. But rather than achieving balance, we now are at negative two.
-1 – 1 = -2
Ha, says the smart mathematician, why should we choose addition rather than multiplication? Negative one times negative one equals positive one! All set.
Well, first of all we defined zero as the balance point, and multiplication just swings the pendulum to the other side, to a (maybe even manically) positive Universe. No balance to be reached here.
-1 x -1 = +1
But more importantly, math is also subject to plausibility, and it is very clear that one bad deed cannot be cancelled out by another bad deed. So we must stick with good old addition. And the only way to get from negative one to zero is to add a positive one to it.
-1 + 1 = 0
There is no other way around it, if your argument is that balancing the Universe is the ultimate goal. You would have to do some light Magic, causing something good to happen, in order to cancel out the bad.
If yo do not want to do that, you could actually claim multiplication as the method. Because there is a way to get from negative one to zero by ways of multiplication. One would have to do absolutely nothing, zero, about the bad that negative one they experienced.
-1 x 0 = 0
That is better than doing something bad, and at least gets one to the balance point.
While that may have been a fun exercise — at least for the geekier witches and Druids out there — the fact remains that revenge does not bring one farther, mathematically and otherwise.