During the past couple of years, we have witnessed the maturation of another cycle of the struggle between great good and morbid evil in the world and our nation. The seeds of this growth were planted and nurtured years ago by wise and unwise people.
Popular culture and tradition have long thought of the struggle between good and evil as polar opposites influenced by supreme deities who live in heavens and hells. The thing is that within each human being, there are the seeds of both good and evil. The question is then, “Which seeds will flourish and which seeds will wither away?” The cultivation of these seeds may be unconscious or conscious.
We make a great many choices as we mature, and those choices include which seeds we will plant, those seeds we discard, and those seeds that arrive without our choosing. In the end, the seeds we choose to nurture determine much of what we regard as happiness and unhappiness. The results are both personal and social. We choose whether to be benefactors or criminals.
The analogy of comparing the development of human behavior to the growth cycle of plants is not new. The cultivation of humanity seems to have begun when we first developed agriculture. Even though this is an apt comparison worth pondering, we don’t want to stretch the analogy too far.
If we let go of preconceived notions of good and evil, we discover that these conditions are not cut and dried, but are very nuanced. Even the most popular cultural myth of comparing good and evil to light and darkness is a weak comparison. There is no absolute light and no absolute darkness in the Universe. There is a preponderance of shades of grey, colors, and a wide spectrum of light. There are stars that exceed the brilliance of the Sun at noon and the subatomic radiation inside the deepest cave that human eyes do not detect.
If one settles into a favorite easy chair and studies the musings of past thinkers, it’s easy to see that people have been pondering the meanings of good and evil since antiquity. Regardless of whether the writings are religious or purely philosophical we find that people are a mixture of good and bad. We have visions of perfection that most likely are flawed. Our thinking often shifts from light to dark in the blink of an eye. It’s safe to say that all of us are a mixture of good and evil.
“If time is not real, then the dividing line between this world and eternity, between suffering and bliss, between good and evil, is also an illusion.”–Herman Hesse
We can see the conflict between truth and lies as an extension of the conflict between good and evil. When is it wise to be fully truthful? When is it wise to share a little bit of untruth? There are no hard and fast rules.
We may base our decisions around what we think will provide the greatest good for the greatest number of people. On the one hand, a democratic majority is seen as a good thing, but on the other hand, a popular majority can be terribly oppressive and harmful towards the minorities. How do we allow for the subtle exceptions to the rules?
Just when we believe we have found the best framework for our lives, we discover there’s a fatal flaw within it. The struggle between good and evil appears to be never-ending.