I didn’t get to watch the final episode of “Game of Thrones” until Monday night. I had been out of town at a Catholic Military faith community’s retreat in S. Korea for a week and just returned that morning. I was all alone in our home as my husband had not returned from a business trip. He had been able to watch it live Sunday night. We had been watching the show together up until the last. I could not believe the bad timing.
I was grateful that my family, very thoughtfully, did not provide any spoiler alerts via texts or Messenger while I was traveling home, and I averted all online sites that might have discussed what happened in the finale.
As I watched the action unfold I was at times shocked, amused, pleased, and confused by what I saw on the screen. But one particular exchange really got me contemplating its deeper meaning. Perhaps it’s because I had just returned from a lovely spiritual experience at the retreat, I saw something I would not have if it had been a regular week at home.
The dialogue was between Tyrion and Jon, discussing the terrible circumstances they were in due to Dany’s inhumane, insanely destructive, and totally deranged reckless behavior during the ‘Battle of Kings Landing’ previously. (I was not clear on how much time had passed, but it wasn’t much. Although the Queen of the Seven Kingdoms seemed to have found her ‘go to meeting’ attire and a hairdresser somewhere in all that carnage and devastation because her awesome leather outfit and intricate braided hairdo were mesmerizing. Who does that for her? There’s no way she could do it alone!)
Back to our story. The exchange went something like this:
“Love is more powerful than reason. We all know that,” Tyrion dismissively tells Jon. Jon’s response it to bitterly quote Maester Aemon from years ago who explained, “Love is the death of duty.” And that’s where I got hung up and started contemplating the meaning and truth of that statement. I immediately thought that it’s not true. I couldn’t articulate why in that moment because I was absorbed in the story. But later, after it ended for us – but I’m sure continued on for the characters who survived to the final credits – I returned to ponder those words that Jon was reminded of and shared with Tyrion.
I would argue, from a Christian standpoint, that Duty actually is borne of Love. I know GoT does not bother about theological truths, but I use the above conversation to share a truth about my faith. True love is not an emotion that we cannot help but feel. That can be many other things like appreciation, esteem, respect, passion for the sensual, including physical beauty or sexual attractiveness, and even lust for the unaware. But none of those are true love. Love is a decision. It is a commitment, and it is unwavering, certain, and knows that it has a duty to the object of that love.
True love is sacrificial and actually very reasonable. That is, the ability to reason, enhances true love. Contrary to Tyrion’s earlier assertion about Love being the end of Reason, you don’t ‘lose your senses’ in true love; your senses, including the ability to comprehend and act according to the best interests of the beloved in particular situations, are actually enhanced, keener you might say, when you have committed to love.
So, the characters in GoT were wrong about reason, love, and duty. That means that actually the writers got it wrong. First George Martin and then the two nice gentlemen who wrote and directed the series, Messrs Weiss and Benioff. It’s not their fault really. We live in a culture that has a thoroughly romanticized version of what love is and it has been that way for centuries. But for even longer than that, millennia, true love has been an act of sacrifice and a decision to put the needs and welfare of the beloved ahead of one’s own. It is a desire to try to enhance the other’s situation in life. Indeed, it is often to ensure that the other lives, even if the lover must die to save the other.
That’s the kind of love Jesus, the Son of God, has for us. That’s the kind of Love the Father has for us. That’s the love we should have for each other. And we do when we surrender and open our hearts to allow Love, which is God, in. Then we will “love with the same love with which God loves.” If we are His, and we are, He is ours just waiting to be asked; and then it is easy to give that love to others. It’s not us, but God who has the power to always will the good of the other as other. Despite being ignored, misunderstood, degraded, criticized, or even mocked, God loves us. We can only do that, too, with the love of God within us.
But it’s our duty to selflessly love others that way. Jesus showed us how and then equips us to do it. Open up your hearts. Breathe in the Holy Spirit and then breathe It out again, into the lives of everyone around you, and we can renew the face of the earth. The duty of sacrifice is then a duty to share the truth with those we love. It isn’t always easy, but it must be done so that the object(s) of our love can be in the light and in cooperation with Grace, with God, here and then also in the life, the Kingdom, to come.
Because there aren’t seven kingdoms, despite their role as a motif in Game of Thrones. There’s only one. And it’s among us now because we have Christ with us. And it’s at the end of the age and lasts forever; it’s a place where every tear will be wiped away and life is everlasting.