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Fire:

Evil.

Lots of people have written about it.

According to some, it is a proof of the nonexistence of God, or at least of a god as we would conceive of him.

According to others, it is a manifestation of free will, an unavoidable side effect of being able to control our own destinies.

I myself have not had enough direct experience with evil to even begin to draw my own conclusions, but I can say with certainty that it exists, and debates as to its nature are at best academic.  I can only identify it by my own response.

When I see/hear/read of something evil or malevolent, there is a particular chilling sensation that sweeps through me, accompanied by an immediate desire for a physical action in response.  It may not be much of an action–a blink, a closing of the fist, a spoken response or a shift of the posture, but it is a reaction all the same.

My definition of ‘evil’ is fuzzy in this case.  It can be something truly ‘evil,’ or it can be something unjust or even just hurtful.  Whatever it is, if it sets off my hate-o-meter, I classify it as ‘not good’ in this instance and respond to it as such.

For example, this particular piece of footage sets the hate’O’meter a ‘tickin’.

http://www.rawstory.com/rawreplay/2011/09/wisc-state-police-drag-protesters-out-of-assembly-for-filming/#.TnIvBSGHRkw.facebook

Now, this is a nice gut reaction, but it is not infallible.  An obvious protest/example of fallibility might be whether or not that video was edited to show the actions in their worst possible light.  The hate’O’meter also goes off for movies, novels, stories that I hear secondhand…oh, and this…

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/22/republican-debate-dadt-repeal-rick-santorum_n_977105.html

…my point being:

Evil is present.  It may be quiescent, dormant, or even shrouded in seeming good, but it is a real part of the world.  People make bad choices, sometimes even good people, and when this happens there should be a response.

I am not advocating violence. 

The thought of injuring another human being who is not actively engaged in mutilating me or a family member or a  friend disgusts me.

[The thought of injuring a human being who is engaged in mutilating myself or another close individual is one I will discuss later]

In fact, I think our response to evil should (with a few exceptions I will also discuss later) be nearly the opposite.  Water quenches fire. We should respond to malevolence with its antithesis, counter inhumanity by becoming more humane still.

http://slatest.slate.com/posts/2011/09/22/lawrence_brewer_no_more_last_meal_for_texas_inmates_on_death_row.html

Case in point: the above link.  I believe this to be the wrong decision.  Do not mistake this for sympathy on the behalf of killers (although enough people have been executed on questionable evidence to make that a viable concern).  But I think that the last meal is not, necessarily, a gesture of sympathy.

It is a kindness.  A simple, stupid, pointless human kindness, providing one last celebration to mark the close of a life.  For however that life was lived, however poorly the paths were chosen, it was still a human life, and by granting that little kindness we, in a sense, acknowledge their humanity.

We could not do otherwise–should not do otherwise, for to do so is to reduce the vast system of our society to the same level as the killer, a machine calmly and coldly and inexorably carrying out the murder of a single human being.  By this idiotic little gesture, this last humane act, we assert that we do this not for justice, but for mankind, ending one life so that more might be spared.

Evil is not the problem.

What troubles me is that when evil surfaces, men turn readily to evil as a solution.  We call it kidnapping when one human holds another against their will, yet perform the same act upon the kidnappers who fail.  We condemn murder, the murder of many even more so, and yet calmly execute one individual after another in a long list of slow punishments for crimes long past.

I do not have a solution to this.  Perhaps no one ever will.

Or perhaps, just maybe…

Perhaps one day in the future psychology will provide us with an answer.  Perhaps psychiatry may enable us to truly reform criminals, to help them work through their anger and their actions and their guilt and give them a place among mankind.   Perhaps neuroscience will grant us the means to help a sociopath understand the meaning of happiness and melancholy and all the wonderful emotions we experience.  Perhaps wisdom will grant us the strength to look at our laws and our customs in a new light, to embrace humanity and to usher in kindness.

For, in the end, the greatest weapon in our arsenal is simple empathy.  Kindness and understanding.

Fury: 

Anger is a powerful force.  Righteous anger, whether justified or not, is still more so.

When I think of what angers me, I picture injustice, or hasty condemnation, or overzealous judgement, or the harm of another living creature, or even just the sheer, cruel randomness of fate.

At these moments I would not mind being my namesake.

To be able to move from place to place as swift as thought and place myself before the victim.

I am not my namesake, however.  And on weekdays I exist only in one place at a time.

And moreover, I am not yet familiar with my own mind.  I do not fully know its limits, nor how it would respond to the aftermath of a moment of urgency.

I know how my mind would behave in these moments, for I have had them, albeit not in a life-threatening context–and my mind works exactly the same, save that under every thought there lie two considerations:

Thinking takes too much time. 

AND

Why am I not more upset by this?

I can then say that in a ‘moment of truth’ I am reasonably confident my mind would remain clear.

I am not sure what would happen afterward, if I actually was forced to bring violence against another creature, even to defend another.

So all I can say is that I hope it doesn’t happen.

For the sake of my own mind.

For the sake of others.

And for the sake of the dry-cleaning bill which I do NOT have money for.

And:

NATURE PHOTOGRAPHY

http://immortal-sun.deviantart.com/

THAT.

IS.

ALL.

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2 Comments

  1. Why is it the more I get to know you the more awesome you become? This is fantastic.

    • People are like onions, where each layer is progressively more awesome as you get closer to their VERY ESSENCE. This will be the focus of a blog post someday.


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