Have we lost our way? I don’t think so. But we are definitely missing the point. There is a body of wisdom and mistakes that we have accumulated from past millennia that tell us about living, about love and despair. There are voices old and new outside of policy makers, practitioners, and others trained to stick to scripts of talking points and scripts that are great for looking at the components of issues but are at a loss for new ideas or how to use the wisdom of old. Those voices fall short when confronting new challenges outside of their reach and training.
In the face of fear and grief, of hurt and pain, we jump on the visible, the available. We look for single source, sensible cause and solution. I often see people blame Barney Frank for the housing bubble, blaming one man for the out-of-control practices that defined an industry printing faux money in every state, selling its junk as derivatives, backed by thousands of untraceable pieces valued at billions. I see others who ignore the global recession and Europe’s retreat into a second recession with its rise in regional unemployment, and blame President Obama even as the US leads the recovery. Especially, I see virtually no one in our public conversation who provides a sources of new ideas and facts. So we return to the sound bites of old speech (as distinct from ancient speech). Now, we are at a loss. What do we do?
The killing of innocent children breaks our hearts. We fail to understand how or why.
I think we miss a major point of explanation. The killings had to do with the most ancient of forces, evil. Not evil the adjective, the dark, angry monster of the movies and novels, not the paralyzing fear that exists in many minds, nor the ugliness assigned to its carnage; but evil the noun. The thing itself.
Surprisingly, evil is a small force. As a thing, it is closer to a quark or Higgs boson than a hurricane. Think about small forces for a minute: they have incredible power. The transistor and miniaturization of electronics unleashed the tech revolution—and put music, voice, images, and the globe in your hand. But the invisible holds a darkness. The most deadly weapons that create the most massive destruction are tied to small forces—the explosion or implosion of the particles of atoms. The most deadly diseases are global epidemics linked and spread by wee little viruses which rapidly transmit their illnesses, killing thousands daily, in irreversible agony.
Metaphysics says parallels in the material world are signs for things in the world of the spirit. The parallels of destruction and plague point to evil actually being a small force. Evil is also small because it cannot sustain itself; it replicates through other means. That’s a fail safe that adds to our confusion! Because evil goes and comes without our knowing, and ebbs and flows, we deny its role and miss the steps to take to guard against it. We think of it being associated with individuals and lone incidents, but its expression and form is social.
Why is evil ever present if it is not able to sustain itself? It is efficient at finding hosts, yet follows no patterns, and has no preferences. Ironically, it is a creative force, not in terms of ends but means. Evil requires a host. To find a host, it can access pathways and levels in ways that are the non-repeatable real numbers of the dark side. We look for patterns and signs, try to trace its logic, and miss the point that evil absolutely has no preferences for its means. Because of its nature, it can be routed through time and space by very long or quick random changes, and use conditions and people well within the range of social norms. Think about breast cancer, the randomness with which it affects women. All ages, income, race. (With some statistical preferences, but none absolute.)
One of evil’s strengths is its facile randomness, swift and slow; its impromptu shifts, its pattern not repeated, even when the ends are the same. Its randomness makes early detection hard. Without the right personnel, it’s impossible to read. Evil can’t be profiled.
Daily, I watch talking heads ignore the obvious, as they try mightily to explain what, by its own logic, is inexplicable. They are trying to explain evil in human terms. They can’t.
Evil takes what it is given. Today, in America, its frequent path is by way of guns. Since Newtown, gun sales have increased to head-spinning heights. The day after the tragedy is turning out to be one of the busiest days for gun sales in American history, even as the conversation begins about restricting assault weapon sales. But right now, ammunition is sold out. Large clips are sold out. If these sales represent the well-meaning, the sales are also increasing the potential for more attacks by enlarging its options. The sales are adding thousands of new channels and potential hosts for its outlet. To counter, some parents are purchasing bullet-armored backpacks for students.
Evil is not psychological. It has no preference for a particular state of mind. It is not tied to a set of symptoms or conditions. Its key relationship is not cause and effect. Rather, it looks for available opportunities. These opportunities mislead us. Evil is deceptive. Attempts at correlation or check lists lead our knowledge search in the wrong direction. Again, evil follows the path of least resistance, which like an oxbow river may be the long way around. But external opportunity guides it, not an inner trait of evil’s properties, reflected in psychology.
Evil, unlike anger or cruelty, two emotions it is often associated with, has no ego. It is devoid of feeling or mind. It’s actual workings are a mystery. But high-profile events mask the daily consumption of its attacks. Thirty-six children have been killed by gun fire since Newtown.
Evil is blind and places no value on its victims. So too, those who support its positions are blind—as are those who carry out its acts. If there is a common property associated with evil, it is this blindness. The blindness that leads to its agents methodically for days or weeks or hours planning its work, indifferent to the horrific outcomes.
Lastly, evil is empty. Devoid of anything except its own darkness. It can lay dormant. If it rampages and grows, it will begin to consume itself and actually begin to wane. When it reaches the point of contradiction where it can no longer devour itself, it’s dormant until it finds a new source.
Never engage evil directly. Engagement fuels it. Even if we are not agents or targets, we can be carriers and enablers. The Salem witch trails are emblematic of this; the crowd conducting the hangings were actually the group engaged in evil, crossing from enablers to agents by their fears. Sandy Todd gets it right in her description of the politicization of violence and her emphasis on empathy.
Whenever an event, large or small, defies all explanation, all human limits, evil may be its source. Evil episodes are frequently bunched together but scattered in different places.
All metaphysical and spiritual forces hold a paradox, a place where logic breaks down, a mystery hard to fathom. But if we go beyond the paradox, we can see the larger forces that surround us. With thought and discussion, we can begin to move beyond more of the same.