Being a glutton for punishment, I decided to tackle another one of those subjects that causes people to reach remarkable heights of irrationality, anger, and hysteria: good versus evil.
Perhaps more than ever before in history — certainly modern history — so-called evil is rampant throughout the world. Daily occurrences of unprovoked mass slayings of both civilians and military personnel, drive-by murders by gang members, beheadings both at home and abroad, human trafficking, and millions of babies being exterminated in the womb and their body parts sold are just a handful of examples.
Are the perpetrators of such acts evil? And what about the mentally ill people who commit random murders? Are they evil — or just sick? The media wrings their hands and tells us that these acts (with the exception of the destruction of unborn babies) are evil. But are they? Horrific acts, to be sure — but what, exactly, does evil mean?
Is it evil to murder a cow, a chicken, or a lamb? Is it evil to execute someone who has himself committed murder? There are many people who believe that all of these acts are evil. But is there really such a thing as absolute evil?
In the case of evangelicals, the word evil is used in the biblical sense, but millions of people have differing interpretations of the bible. And what about those who don’t believe in the bible at all, yet refer to a variety of violent acts as evil?
Another problem with the concept of absolute evil is that it seems to evolve with the passage of time. Human sacrifice was once thought to be a good thing, a way of pleasing the gods, but to civilized people today, such an act is pure evil.
Also, it’s worth pointing out that the definitions of bad and evil are virtually identical in Hebrew, so, technically speaking, a toothache is evil. I bring this up only because it makes one wonder what the ancients had in mind when they used the word evil.
Further, media talking heads constantly refer to heinous acts themselves (as opposed to the perpetrators of such acts) as evil. But can an act be evil? Are disease, earthquakes, tornadoes, and other natural disasters, of and by themselves, evil?
Many people feel that good and evil are value judgments, because what is evil to one person might be considered good to someone on the other side of the world, and vice versa. Which is why it’s so difficult to make a case for absolute evil.
But there’s another possibility. What if good and evil are just another aspect of the polarity of the universe? Polarity is to be seen in every aspect of life — light and dark, hot and cold, male and female, positive and negative — and without it, life as we know it would not exist.
So is it possible that the Universal Power Source has purposely created good and evil as a polarity? After all, evil often, if not always, brings about something good.
Think of Nazi Germany and the subsequent formation of Israel. Think about the atomic obliteration of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the rapid evolution of Japan into a peaceful, prosperous nation. Think of the recent murders of nine innocent churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina, followed by the spontaneous outpouring of love and sympathy that crossed racial boundaries.
And though it stretches the limits of open mindedness on the subject of polarity, war has resulted in man’s first large-scale collective action that forged tribes into nations and feudalism into democracy. In addition, war has resulted in technological inventions too numerous to mention that are now used beneficially in civilian life.
Further, can there be happiness without pain? (Pain, in this sense, being something that is “evil.”) And who can enjoy good health as much as the person who has been cured of cancer? Who can appreciate a well-paying, fulfilling job more than someone who was recently fired from his job of more than twenty years? Who can enjoy a good meal more than a person who has been rescued from starvation in the wilderness?
Most important of all, how could people fully appreciate life if there were no such thing as death? So perhaps something that appears to be evil has the potential to bring about good and thus serve a function in life here on earth.
Is it possible that good and evil are the ultimate polarity — and perhaps what the prophet Krishna had in mind when he said that “pleasure and pain, gain and loss, and victory and defeat, are all one and the same.”
Given that polarity clearly forms the foundation of the entire universe — and, of course, the world — perhaps good and evil form the ultimate polarity (which would, of course, include life and death).
I find that thinking about the polarity of the universe makes it easier to keep events in perspective and thus easier to deal with things we normally think of as evil. Otherwise, one would be at the mercy of the media’s interpretation of events. Now that is truly an evil thought.