Thursday, February 25, 2010

Good and Evil

All the rage on the LOST boards is deciding whether Jacob is good and MIB/Fake Locke/Flocke is evil or vice versa. I don't think either is good; I think they are just two evils. But this opening is a subterfuge; the blog posting is not about LOST, but about the real meaning of good and evil.

I do not understand the idea of disembodied forces called good and evil, symbolized with white and black anything. I really don't understand it, either from a philosophical or literary or political or theological standpoint.

What is evil? Is evil the opposite of good, and then so what is good? Is good the sustenance of life? Is good tied to a code, or just a vague, general principle of positivity. If good is the sustenance of life, is evil always the support or pursuit of death? But doesn't there have to be death sometimes, and isn't death in many cases good or considered good (such as in sacrifice to save another's life), so when is death good and when is it evil? Or when is it just death? Is evil destruction and good construction? Is good love of others and evil love of self to the exclusion of others? That might be closer to the common literary view.

The rich young ruler called Jesus "Good Teacher," and Jesus responded unlike how we would. He didn't say, "I'm not just a teacher, so get that straight first off." He said simply, "There is none good but God." Now we could go in a lot of directions with that, but let's just keep with this topic, good v. evil. Good = God, God = good (only a coincidence of English that the spellings are so close). Good is a characteristic of God, not a disembodied force. It is an adjective, a descriptor, not an entity. We cannot separate goodness from God. Goodness can be seen in God's gifts, grace, mercy, moral purity, righteousness.

So, where does that leave evil? I'm not going to say what most people think, that evil is the opposite and is embodied in the devil. The devil is evil, but he's not the only one--or is he? Are humans evil, or are they just sinners? Now, being a sinner is bad enough, because it means rebellion against God (not just human weakness and mistakes--if Christ just died to reconcile us to God for our eccentricities and foibles and failings and foibles, he went to a lot of trouble for something we don't take too seriously. Christ died for our rebellion and hate toward God, which we don't so readily admit to. We can't have a good idea of a savior unless we have a clear idea of what we are being saved from.) Back from that tangent. As I said, being a sinner is bad enough, but are we evil?

I say this because I think there is a lot of silly speculation about good and evil that is mythic but not real, that makes interesting movies but has no relationship to our lives. Humans are both good and evil, righteous and sinful. Cultures differ in their definitions of good and evil; there is only one standard that transcends cultures and it defines good and evil on the basis of one's relationship with or rebellion toward God.

All that being said, I like mythic movies, but Star Wars, the big good-evil opus, at the same time blurs the lines because the evil person moves to the good at the end and the good is capable to becoming evil. One of my favorite short stories is Young Goodman Brown, by Hawthorne. it explores good and evil but I think it comes out with the idea that there is evil within all of us but it is deeply hidden, and if we knew what was really in our hearts, could truly see what we are capable of, we ourselves, who must be the good because we pay the taxes and work the jobs and raise the children, if we knew we really wouldn't be able to cope.

So the question to me is not so much who is evil, but where is evil. Evil is everywhere, but it's not out there, floating around like a ghost. It's within.

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