December 18, 2010

The Chaotic Evil Dishwasher

Warning: this is probably the nerdiest thing I have ever written. It's the semester break. I can relax a little and let my crazy mind wander.

When I was a kid we used to play Dungeons & Dragons, or at least we enjoyed playing and imagining in the fantasy of its world. This was in the olden days, before PC games and before the rules were re-written to be self-referentially coherent. These were the days of organically developed big books of 'rules' and procedures. One of the fun things about the D&D universe was that every sentient being had what was called an Alignment. It imagined the style of behavior of the character or other being, of how he, she, or it adventured through the world.

Alignment was a matrix of two axes, Lawful-Neutral-Chaotic and Good-Neutral-Evil. So there were nine alignments all together. Some sorts of characters were partially defined by an Alignment, e.g. Paladins had to be Lawful-Good, Druids had to be Neutral-Neutral, or 'True Neutral' as it was called, and Thieves were generally expected to be Chaotic-something. Supernatural beings were often defined by Alignment as well, e.g., devils were Lawful-Evil and demons were Chaotic-Evil.

When we were in high school, a friend and I used to sometimes sit in class and try to guess the Alignment of people we were studying. If it was a history class it would be the historical figures, if English, the characters in whatever book we were supposed to be reading.

I was thinking of this old friend as I did my chores this morning, and of our little game. Then, to distract myself during the repellent and annoying weekly task of cleaning out the refrigerator of long abandoned leftovers and salad dressing and condiment containers put back empty, I started to think about Alignment and religious life. What is the Alignment of the friars?

It's not an easy question, because it seems as if different aspects of our life display different Alignments. For example:

Divine worship. Here I judge the brethren, as a whole and for the most part individually, as Neutral-Good. They approach the liturgy with goodness in that they want it to be the worship of God and to thereby serve the pastoral care of its participants. They are neither Lawful nor Chaotic; rules are often a value, but not an absolute one. When rules seem to serve the greater purpose of goodness, they are followed, when they do not (in individual or corporate estimation) they may be abandoned. Some friars tend more toward the Lawful-Good in this area, holding up the value of 'say the black and do the red,' but they must always be careful not to allow themselves be driven to the pharisaic Lawful-Neutral, making an idol out of rubrics. Others tend more to the Chaotic-Good in this area, finding rules and structure at odds with goodness in a basic way. These must be careful, however, not to descend into the Chaotic-Neutral alignment of the narcissistic 'presider.'

Housekeeping. Here there is a great divide. Friars tend to the extremes in this area. Most are very neat and clean for the sake of others and good care of material goods, displaying a Lawful-Good stance. A few abandon goodness and become obsessed with neatness and cleanliness for their own sake, shading themselves to the Lawful-Neutral. A noteworthy minority, however, are Chaotic in this regard. There is the Chaotic-Good that claims not to even notice mess or dirt, and the Chaotic-Neutral that simply considers cleanliness and neatness not to be values. There is one general rule here, however. Almost all of the brethren--with a few famous exceptions--are entirely Chaotic-Evil when it comes to putting their dishes in the dishwasher. They tend to be placed not only with no regard for order, but in such a way that minimizes the capacity of the dishwasher, thus making poor use of water and energy.


Adoro said...


I never played D&D, not my thing, but in a way, I can relate to what you're doing in a far less complicated manner.

A couple years ago our boss made us go to a training seminar, and there we learned that everyone is either a "What", a "Why" or a "How" or a combination of them.

The "What" people are those who just want to know WHAT they need to do so they can get it done, but don't get caught up in the details. (Doesn't mean sloppiness, just that they aren't OCD! lol)

The "How" people are those who, if they are called to a meeting want the full agenda so they can gather and prepare their spreadsheets, etc - very very detail oriented.

The "Why" people are those who read typical business language as abrupt, maybe rude, and perhaps insulting. The "whys" tend to be more guided by emotion.

I would be, for example, a What-Why, but I have one co-worker who is almost purely a Why.

Gotta many interactions this crosses my mind and it's actually been very useful in dealing with people, delivering talks, etc., so I can address the needs of each type of person, or at least recognize where they are coming from in any given interaction.

Great post, and never mind the nerdiness.... (fellow nerd here, if in a different way...)

K T Cat said...

First, I'm convinced that had we gone to the same school, we would have been good friends. I played a lot of D&D in the same era. Second, have you considered the possibility that it's not your brethren misloading the dishwasher, but the work of imps after the door is closed?


Brother Charles said...

Yes...perhaps. I will set a trap for them.