Letters Column for January 2006: The Seams of Kenmore

Posted on February 3, 2006 by Jenna

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Good morning!

On the thirty-first, I forgot it was a new month. On the first, I had a migraine. Then on the second, I goofed off rereading Society of Flowers stuff instead of working on Hitherby. Here is the first part of the letters column; there’ll be more tomorrow!


Here, I’ll give you something to respond to
— ADamiani

Yay! Fan art!

I liked several of them quite well. ^_^


Do monks transcend moral authority?
— GoldenH

Yes, but only if they are nuclear monks. Conventional monks, not so much.


The Tomato That is His Love For Me
— BethL

Rarely have I been so moved by a hymn, even in Church! I imagine this kind of thing must have been a terribly powerful experience in the grand old days of Catholicism, when thousands of Churchgoers would sing in one voice of Jesus’ overflowing love.


The Tomato That is His Love For Me
— Jonathan Walton

Truly, a savage deconstruction of class and gender relationships in modern America.


but strewn lies the orange
forgotten in my ardor for you are delicious

— GoldenH

Oranges arranged just
Do, candidly, diddly.
Strewth the strewn disarray
Prompts the perfidious diddling!


I have to admit that I don’t hold in my heart the knowledge that people are good. Some people are good (many of the people who post articles, stories, and comments to Hitherby are very good) and some are not. The question “are human beings good or bad?” really only makes sense when viewed as a question about Platonic archetypes: what is the nature of the archetypal human? Call me an existentialist, but I think that human diversity is so great that there is no archetypal human, and thinking about one is not useful. (And can in fact be actively harmful.)
— David Goldfarb


I think you’ve reformulated the question in a problematic way. The question that “people are good” answers isn’t “are human beings good or bad?” but “are people good?”

Here are some of the interpretations that one could apply to this question:

  • Does the Platonic person include a constant GOOD?
  • Can you derive GOOD from the axioms and the definition of PERSON?
  • Is it possible to form a well-defined GOOD quality for any valid PERSON?
  • Is it consistent to apply the GOOD filter to every instance of PERSON?
  • Can one tell a consistent story, for each person, in which that person is GOOD?
  • Is it necessary to discard (PERSON subset-of GOOD) to experience a consistent world?

You can certainly back away and establish performance-based metrics for good which people can then pass or fail within the auspices of your personal experience; however, personally, I wouldn’t use the word “good” there.

A lot of it comes down to when one does use the word good. For me, it’s active: “people are good” really means “For any person, I can organize my thoughts in such a fashion as to identify good inside them without surrendering sanity, desecrating empiricism, or embracing a direct contradiction.”

Somewhere there’s a world where the monster’s a physics teacher instead of a monster, and I bet he’s a lot happier and truer to himself there.

I think the Pope has a shot at being a force for good if he one day faces his fear and puts his trust in the benevolent God he supposedly honors instead of the besieged chaos-haunted God I think he sees.

I think that spammers have souls and just can’t see them beneath all the mounds and mounds of spam. Those misspellings are a cry for help!


A moral relativist would argue that each person defines vice and virtue for themselves, and that someone with neither is simply someone without the conception of morality. If you don’t know what good or bad is, you can’t be good or bad.
— Joejay

I like my moral relativism best with a frisson of absolutism: the privileging of consistent viewpoints.

I’ve always been fond of the Nobilis quote,

Once, a man was so well-loved that he set the fields ablaze and the peasants didn’t mind.

He killed all the animals, and gave his folk dust to eat, and they didn’t mind.

He dirtied the water with blood from his wars, and they didn’t mind.

Then they tortured him slowly to death on the Stone Wheel, and when his heirs asked the peasants why, they said, “We thought he liked that sort of thing.”


I used to work round the corner from Kenmore during my holidays at University. I can confirm that it is a real town and has a very nice pub in it; in which I have spent many plesent, if sureal, evenings in.
— Taliskar

Sometimes, though, when you’re driving into Kenmore, you can see the seam where great long fingers have sewn it into reality. Other times, there are fireworks!