The tarot card I picked today was “Justice.” According to various sources, it mostly refers to legal actions, such as contracts, will, settlements, but some sources also say “Justice” includes the outcome of quarrels and disagreements, the judgement of the dead, consequences of wrong actions, atonement and redress.

I kept digging and found that it is also the card of duality. Internal and outer. Conscious and subconscious. Creation and destruction. Gain and loss. Beginning and endings. Light and dark. Self and other. In other words, balance. To a certain extent, opposing forces are the same thing, or at least different facets of the same thing. Neither force can exist without the other. Each causes the other. Everything has consequences, and the consequence of having one side means there will be another side of equal force.

True justice is about putting things back in balance.

Although this card doesn’t seem to pertain to anything in my life today, it is an interesting starting point for a discussion. There is such a demand nowadays for everyone to accept a single side, the side of politicized justness. It seems as if the current attempt to balance out old injustices pretty much creates injustices for a different group of people. In addition, if you don’t think a certain way, you are considered flat-out wrong, but that is not possible. There are two sides to everything, and each side creates its opposite side. So if there is too great a disparity favoring one side, it would create a greater pendulum swing to the other side.

The world of The Wheel of Time was a world of balance. One character was so strong that his presence bent chance and altered what was probable, so all sorts of inexplicable events, both good and bad happened in equal proportion. When the Dark One’s hand started to be felt in the world, this character’s actions almost always had positive outcomes to balance out the evil. Which led to one character asking a wise woman that if good and evil are always balanced, then is there really any such thing as good. The wise woman had no answer. But it left me wondering.

As does this card denoting justice. And balance.

Of course, on a cosmic scale, I doubt there is good and bad because those are human value judgements. But even on a cosmic scale there is always the push and pull of opposites. (Except when it comes to matter and anti-matter — there seems to be an imbalance there, though the imbalance might come from an inability to see where the balance is.)

On a human level, then, even if good and evil are equally balanced, I would still always try to do the right thing for no other reason than that it is the right thing, whether anyone agreed with me or not.


Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator

A Perfect Grasp of Storytelling

I don’t know who started the whole “characters need flaws” concept of writing, but whoever it was did a disservice to the writing industry. People keep saying that perfect characters are boring, but the way I see it, there are no perfect characters, only writers with an imperfect grasp of storytelling.

A story begins when the normal world becomes unbalanced. In A Spark of Heavenly Fire, the normal world of Colorado became unbalanced when a deadly disease decimated the population. In More Deaths Than One, the normal world of the main character became unbalanced when he found out the mother he buried twenty years before is dead again. In Daughter Am I, the world of the main character became unbalanced when she learned that the grandparents she’d been told had died before she was born had just now been murdered. In Light Bringer, the world becomes unbalanced in a variety of ways, each POV character experiences his or her imbalance, and the nearing of an unknown planet literally unbalances the earth.

A story continues with the characters’ efforts to restore the balance. These efforts result in a worsening of the balance, either in a ripple effect of actions, such as when Jeremy King decided to do anything he could to leave Colorado in A Spark or Heavenly Fire or when everything the character learns deepens the mystery, such as Bob Stark’s search for himself in More Deaths Than One.

A story ends when the balance is restored, a new balance is attained, or the world remains out of kilter. My books all fall in the middle category — things never go back to where they were, but the characters and their world do establish a new balance.

Without this unbalance, there is no story, and within this unbalance, characters change.

Which brings me to the point I want to make about perfect character vs. imperfect understanding of storytelling.

If you create a perfect character — a gorgeous woman with a stunning figure, perfect hair, smart, successful, athletic, kind, talented, knows how to do everything, has no addictions — that is merely the beginning. It is what authors do with such a flawless character that shows their writing skills. For example, if the character always remains the same perfect character in balance with her world, it is not the character’s fault that her perfection is boring. It is the writer’s fault for not unbalancing the character’s world.

A gorgeous, intelligent woman who can do anything is only spectacular in the presence of lesser beings. What happens if she is thrown into a world of people exactly like her? What would she do to preserve her self-image of being extraordinary when all of a sudden she is ordinary? How would she reestablish the balance in her world? For example, a high school cheerleader/student body president/valedictorian goes to an ivy league university and discovers she is just one of many such achievers. Or a stunning and talented young woman enters a beauty pageant, expecting to win the crown and scholarship and a boost to her career, and finds out that she isn’t anything special. Or a perfect human being ends up in a robotic world of perfection. How would she prove that her perfection was natural, that she was a human and not a robot?

Sounds to me as if in the write hands, such a flawless character would be . . . perfect.