The Nature of Evil

Woman in the devils bed

I saw this photo in flickr and thought it was a good visual representation of my dream. Photo by Mononc’ Paul.

Warning: Explicit material ahead. The bad dream I had below contains references to sexuality and murder.

I just woke up from a vivid and elaborate dream. It was so powerful and so meaningful to me, I felt compelled to get out of bed, write it down, and ultimately, share it here.

In the dream, my wife and I were harassed by a man. Throughout the weeks and months that existed in our dream lives, he constantly threatened us. He threatened our lives and attempted to intimidate me – telling me that he’d rape my wife and then kill her. Worse, he told me that he wouldn’t rape her, but that she’d give herself willingly to him. And then he’d kill her.

In the dream I ignored him. I wasn’t alarmed by any of this. I’ve learned to let dreams flow and not be disturbed by threats in a dream. The only thing that really seems to get me – and cause me to wake up – is the view of a dead loved one.

The dream continued. Over the ensuring days and weeks, his goons would chase us through cities and he would harass us, only to let us go. He would show up in our house, with the goons always close at hand. Strangely, neither my wife nor I paid him much attention. At some level, I identified with this character. I don’t think he alarmed me because only part of the time did I identify him as a separate force. Occasionally he was me. Occasionally he was a loved one. Occasionally he was my boss. Occasionally he was a separate, hated entity. Such are the way of dreams.

The way the dream finally ended was what really disturbed me. I had just had a physically intimate moment with my wife. I had also just finished telling her about a blog entry I had just written and how proud of it I was. She said she was proud of me.

Suddenly, I looked up. The man had just walked out of the bedroom in a bathrobe, nonchalantly asking ‘How’s it going, Chris?’. He had clearly just finished having sex with my wife in the bedroom. On the bed, behind him, was her naked body. Crumpled up. Obviously dead.

That’s when I woke up.

depiction of the devil

The concept of evil has changed throughout human history. Having studied the anthropological roots of evil, I don’t subscribe to conventional religious notions of it. However, the representation of good and evil in dreams have great personal meaning. Photo by X2N.

I laid in bed for a long time, thinking about this dream. Lying there in the dark, trying to put it all together, I realized who this man represented. He was evil. He was the purest representation of evil that I think my brain could imagine.

But I don’t believe in traditional, moral evil as exemplified in the Christian religion. I think the greatest evil is incompetence created from fear. The kind of evil exemplified in Ayn Rand’s novels.

It’s kind of like how global warming is a serious issue, but we don’t seem to do anything about it. That is evil. That is inaction and incompetence created out of fear of changing the status quo. Those people who bother to look into what they as individuals can do, quickly realize that what they can do is change their personal lives. Change the status quo. That is a very scary thing to ask someone to do; particularly when no one else around them is obviously doing it. It’s much easier to ask a person for money that to ask them to change their lifestyle.

What I’m talking about is seeing a subtle problem in our lives, but ignoring it and continuing on a destructive path. That is forced ignorance; a false ignorance that we force on ourselves out of fear or laziness. That is evil. It is not having the courage to do what you should do because the change is too inconvenient or scary. Instead you blank it out of your mind and maintain the status quo. Like in the dream, this evil can sometimes be identified in others and it’s easy to condemn. Sometimes it can be identified in ourselves or our loved ones, and ignoring it is easier than condemning it.

That is the evil that is destroying the world and our personal lives. That is the evil that perpetrated the holocaust. That is the evil that allows us to continue to burn fossil fuel when we have the math that tells us it is killing the world. That is the evil that forces us to stay in jobs we hate because we need medical insurance or are addicted to the paycheck. That is the evil that creeps into our lives, unidentified. It is the evil that degrades our ambitions, kills a benevolent attitude toward our fellow man, and drains the joy from our lives. It is subtle, and as long as it goes unidentified, it will persist in our lives – until it has either taken everything, or we identify it and remove it from our life.

Pretty heady stuff… If those concepts make sense to you, then you might dig what Charles Eisenstein has to share below. It’s not the exactly the same thing, but Charles is bringing awareness to the flaws in the ‘stories’ we tell ourselves.

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