Saturday, 4 June 2011

Before The Fall

“If one is a prisoner of love, must one escape to solitude?” – Lorien, Babylon 5
The first three Lucifer books have done their jobs magnificently. The scene has been set, and destiny and freedom will be our themes.

As we’ve discussed before, Lucifer sees these two concepts as mutually exclusive. One cannot have freedom if one’s movements are known in advance. Free will is merely an illusion. For some, that illusion suffices – what does it matter that Destiny knows the final reel if neither you nor anyone you ever meet is privy to that knowledge – but for Lucifer, only the genuine article could ever be acceptable.

Now that he has moved beyond the scope of Destiny’s book, then, the question becomes: what now?

Escaping from the shadow of his father, our Father – both by escaping His reality and ensuring that he now casts his own shadow, equally large - was certainly sine qua non as far as the Lightbringer was concerned, but necessity is not sufficiency. What comes next in Lucifer’s all-consuming quest to be free?

It’s at least arguable that at this point our protagonist has trapped himself in a paradox of his own making. How can one be free when one has tethered oneself to a literal universe of responsibility? True, Lucifer makes it clear to his new arrivals that his cosmic administration will be decidedly light-touch: do what you want, just don’t talk about God whilst you’re doing it. Even that much still requires policing, though, as well as threats of a plague of darkness if people don’t follow the rules. Responsibilities taken voluntarily are still responsibilities. They still encroach upon freedom.

That’s a problem for later in the series, though. For now, the question of how Lucifer continues his quest for freedom is presented in another form, as he severs his ties with the one being with which a voluntary link could plausibly be claimed, newly minted Warleader of the Lilim-in-Exile, Mazikeen. He insists their relationship is free from all obligation – as indeed he must, the acquiring of a debt is abhorrent to him – but their (sadly aborted) conversation skirts around other forms of connection, offering a melancholy reminder that true freedom requires we must, in the words of Paul Simon, learn to live alone.

Actually, it’s in his dealings with the Lilim that Lucifer’s central nature is most apparent. As they themselves note, it was entirely possible for him to reject their immigration request without insulting them into the bargain. And speaking of bargains, Samael’s argument that the Lilim lack “cards or stake” can only follow if one refuses to consider “We will not declare war” as collateral.

The very nature of Lucifer means that he must refuse such considerations, however. It doesn’t matter how serious or conditional the threat; all threats must be ignored, if not actively encouraged. The Lilim’s resources are considerable, their anger undoubted, and their request almost infinitesimal, despite Lucifer’s argument to the contrary.

Lucifer, though, must be free of influence of all kinds (including those of the heart, as we’ve seen), and allowing others to gain from threats against him is most certainly bending to influence. Better a potentially protracted and bloody war – with no absolute guarantee of victory, or at least of a victory that isn’t pyrrhic – than to allow such a threat to be seen to work. It is for this reason, perhaps, that Lucifer responds to their request with a direct insult. Lucifer is certainly capable of respect; we saw that during his sojourn to the Japanese underworld, at least in its early stages. But it must be made clear that his respect is given willingly, not for fear of the consequences should his courtesy be judged unworthy.

Put simply, the more serious a threat to Lucifer, the more likely he is to goad those threatening into action. This is someone who rebelled against God, remember. Backing down isn’t a part of his nature, even though he knows his snubs will throw the future into greater uncertainty. Just as with the Basanos – perhaps as with us all - Lucifer is at his most blind when it comes to his own actions. Psychiatrists cannot psychoanalyse themselves; clairvoyants cannot see their own future. And those that seek freedom cannot escape the chains they forge themselves.

Of course, this leads us to another paradox, which “Paradiso” brings to the fore. By ensuring he is free of obligations imposed upon him by threat (explicit or otherwise), Lucifer ensures that he will never be free of those who follow through on the threats they’ve made. The Lilim are marching to war, of course, but that’s the least of it. At the conclusion of the story, Lucifer is brought down by the intersection of two other parties he has previously insulted, the Basanos and Susano-O-No-Mikoto. Indeed, even Heaven is only holding its fire because its certain Lucifer has managed to screw the pooch most effectively entirely on his own.

None of these enmities were made without reason, admittedly. Still, the principle architect of the situation that leaves Lucifer plummeting to the ground, screaming and burning, is unquestionably himself (another similarity Lucifer shares with its parent comic, of course).

But then, isn’t that what he would want in any case? As he watches the horde of Earthly refugees pass through the myriad gateways into his Creation, we are reminded that he cares nothing for them individually. Only their sheer biomass is of interest, as a counterweight upon the cosmic balance. All they provide for Lucifer is coinage, an opportunity to once again silently reiterate his central credo: Live Free or Die. “He would be himself. Or he would be nothing.”

At the conclusion to “Paradiso”, it looks like he’s going to get his wish.

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