We like to comfort ourselves with the almost desperate idea that the amount of evil in the world is magically/miraculously balanced by the amount of good in the world.
Frosting on shit does not actually change, in any meaningful way, what is frosted. When bad things happen, comforting ourselves with delusions of its being “god’s will,” or that “they are tests that make us stronger,” or that “they know not what they do,” or that “they are in a better place now,” are only the tools we utilize to get us through the night, and to a hopefully brighter day tomorrow. But even “hope” is just another illusion—albeit the ultimate card we play when all else fails. These cards may all have their place in the game of life, but sooner or later it seems we must come to terms with its just being a game. Chocolate can be just as effective.
Even when I am enjoying my usual optimistic state of mind, I am pretty sure that there is more than enough evil to go around. Many of us are so isolated in our own little cocoons of safety, ready to emerge as butterflies, that it is easy to delude ourselves as to what life is like for so many oppressed human beings around the planet. We can maintain this delusion by simply not reading the paper and by only watching “reality” TV. It is hard to reconcile the importance of appearing on “Dating Naked,” when two-year-olds are having their heads lopped off on live video.
Let’s define “evil” to mean only the things that human beings pretend that they do not have any control over. In that light, what human beings do to each other on a daily basis is certainly not balanced–has no equal—“other-side-of-the-coin.”
Thinking of “evil” in this light, I am assuming that being killed by tsunamis, earthquakes, lightning, mud slides, tornadoes or being thrown from horses, does not “count.” It cannot be evil to merely be unlucky or stupid. Of course, if there is some behind the scenes character orchestrating these events, then we may be back to evil again.
Not all kinds of sorrow and human suffering are evil. In fact, much unhappiness is simply part of being alive and the fact that we are capable of being aware of it—most creatures are not this lucky—or unlucky depending on how bad the pain is. It is however evil when a few misguided persons are able to exterminate or exploit whole populations of unlucky people “just because.”
Evil is merely when someone thinks they are more important than someone else. Sorry, but I do not think it really matters who the “thinker” is.
Evil manifests itself in greed, selfishness, religion, bullying, politics, economic inequality, prejudice etc. Believe it or not, wherever there is belief, there is evil. But don’t believe me, this can easily be observed. Perhaps we could coin a new word that better communicates just how much belief and evil are in bed together. We could call it: “believil.”
We like to pretend that we humans simply can’t do any better—that it merely reflects the state of our evolution. Some might argue that it is closer to de-evolution.
We even attribute being evil as part of what it means to be human.
To admit that we could be better would require us to admit that we do not really want to be any better—or we would be.
If evil is all tied up in what it means to be human and we stopped being evil, would we not then stop being human? It becomes a vicious illogical circle from which there is no escape. It is actually worse than a circle; it is closer to a Möbius strip, where we have the choice of being on the edge or the surface—either way we just can’t shake our position and arrive (or don’t arrive) at the same place over and over. Of course it is always someone else that is not towing the line. If only everyone was on the edge. Of only everyone was on the surface. The “if-only” opt out.
Apparently redefining what it means to be human never occurs to anyone.
It is unfortunate for all human beings, that it is considerably easier to trade “like-for-like,” or to “do unto others as they do unto you,” and thus continue the cycle of violence, mayhem and psychosis. What a shift it would be if we simply “did unto others as we would have them do unto us.” This principle works for all but a very few, who by any definition would be considered psychotic.
On the other hand, it is fortunate for all human beings, that the very tiniest amount of good, even when done unintentionally, especially when done unintentionally, has the power to shift, to transform, the direction of evil—even in the midst of evil.
A single laugh can ease a lifetime of being incarcerated by guilt or grief.
A simple hug can thaw a frozen heart.
Epiphanies can come from a single word or gesture.
A single tear can reveal who we are.
And just look at the power of a wink at the right time and place.
Some of us consider ourselves unimaginably, vastly lucky in this regard.
To have lived, and to have never gotten to take any of these things with us when we go—that is truly evil.
By Charles Buell