Is your war worth fighting? Nature vs. nurture, free will and Good Omens

This post may contain spoilers about the novel Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. It came out in 1990, so don’t be mad at me for that. I haven’t seen the more contemporary Amazon Prime series, though, so I don’t know if it follows the story line closely. I won’t be offended if you decide not to read this because of the potential spoilers. I will be offended if I get angry emails/tweets/etc. because you couldn’t be bothered to read a paragraph of italic text.

The book is wonderful, by the way. It was recommended by the chess champion Garry Kasparov to the Persuasion Community.

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In the novel Good Omens, Crowley and Aziraphale have been adversaries for a long time. Around 6,000 years, to be more precise. When you’re adversarial for that long, your battle becomes a bit of a partnership.

Crowley is a demon; Aziraphale is an angel. They are bound, by their natures, to act accordingly: Crowley clears out traffic so he can drive too fast; Aziraphale gives a wrecked bicycle some massive upgrades when he “repairs” it.

Crowley is given the job of bringing about Armageddon. He doesn’t particularly want to, but, well, demon. Nature.

Here’s the thing: You can only get the antichrist to do so much, particularly if his unsuspecting parents call him something mundane, like Adam. There’s nature vs. nurture at play. When the child is taught to love, his evil nature can only take him so far.

And there’s the matter of the hellhound, who shows up on the antichrist’s 11th birthday. His nature will be determined by the name the antichrist give him. Some are hoping for something along the lines of Killer. But he is endowed with the name Dog. And so he’s happy to see people, and he enjoys chasing rats and getting petted and will do pretty much anything for a treat.

Oops.


Fast forward a bit and Aziraphale is speaking with the Metatron (the voice of God). The angel is asking the Voice what needs to be done to avoid the coming battle between Heaven and Hell.

The point is not to avoid the war, Metatron says, it’s to win it.

Some battles — even if you’re not sure you can win them — are worth fighting.

You just have to know which ones.


Crowley and Aziraphale are not human. They are driven by nature. So is the hellhound, even if his nature is altered by Adam.

But Adam has as his nature the direction to bring about the end of the world. He is taught, however, to be better than that.

Nurture wins.

But so does free will: Adam still has the option to kick off Armageddon, but humans make it through.


And so, you.

Are you only what you were born for, or can you nurture something more? Alternately, if you’ve been taught the wrong things, is it in your nature to settle for them?

Do you have free will? You can always make a choice. Sometimes the consequences of your choices aren’t comfortable, but sometimes those choices have to be made anyway.

Go.

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