*****Major spoilers on The Gathering Storm. Proceed at your own peril*****
In his famous work “The myth of Sisyphus”, Albert Camus asserts that the only philosophical question worth answering is the question of suicide in the face of absurdity and meaninglessness of life. Dragon Reborn Rand is faced with this same question at the end of book 12 of The Wheel of Time.
Rand is wielding enormous power capable of unraveling the pattern (Space time continuum in our world) thus destroying the creation itself. Rand/Lews Therin Thelamon/Dragon has been brought to life again and again in a cycle of time similar to the Hindu concept of reincarnation and the circle of time. Again and again the Dragon fights against the Dark One and again and again the cycle repeats. Rand questions the logic of continuing the fight when he knows that it would end with his death and a world worse off. Why not instead destroy everything and end the struggle once and for all. Why not kill everything and let men have their final peace.
Lews Therin, for once completely sane, answers Rand’s question by saying that may be it is because we can have a second chance. Because each time we are given a chance, we get a chance to love again. Tam’s voice adds to this saying that sometimes we do not have a choice in the duties that are given us but we have a choice in deciding why we fulfill those duties.
This scene is The Most Amazing Scene of the entire series. Rand’s character is one of the most stoic character in fiction. (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/TheStoic 🙂 Check the literature section). When he loses his hand, Min sums up what he feels in the following words
“He’s not in shock,’ Min said sadly. The bond was full of sadness. She had taken hold of his arm as if to hold him up again. “He lost a hand, but there’s nothing to do about it. so he’s left it behind already.”– Knife of dreams
Rand recites the names of all the women who have died in his quest and ruthlessly takes forward his battle irrespective of what the cost is. Slowly and steadily over the course of 12 books he is pushed to the edge of insanity and only his sense of duty keeps him from giving up. That is until the moment when he loses his cool and tries to kill his own father. That is when he realizes that this has to end. It was about time that he gave vent to all the suppressed emotions that he feels. While finding a worthy reason to continue his struggle, he also provides us mere mortals an answer to the doubts that we are bound to have in life. It tells us that when the next time you are defeated, remember that that gives you another chance to correct your mistake and try again. Realize that even if the situation does not give you any freedom to act, you can at least choose to decide why you do what you are supposed to do. Like Sisyphus, we are bound to push the stone up the mountain and the only escape is to realize the absurdity of the situation and decide to revolt against it.
Harry Potter also realized this
It was, he thought, the difference between being dragged into the arena to face a battle to the death and walking into the arena with your head held high. Some people, perhaps, would say that there was little to choose between the two ways, but Dumbledore knew – and so do I, thought Harry, with a rush of fierce pride, and so did my parents – that there was all the difference in the world. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.
In conclusion, know why we fight. Once you have a why you can bear with any how.