Essential Evil

I often hear people say — not in exactly these words — “If only everyone were more like ME, this world would be a lot better.”

The assumption is, very often, that the world’s problems are caused by individuals and groups not like myself, whose beliefs and actions are different than mine and destructive.

I hear and read this often. If only people weren’t selfish and greedy, if only people were brought up with religious morality, if only people weren’t lazy, etc., etc.

Democrats see all the evil in the world as coming from Republican policies, especially since Reagan. And of course Republicans have just the opposite perspective.

If only, if only, people could be more like ME.

I am not saying everyone feels this way, but I hear or read something like it at least once every day. Usually more than once. Sometimes 50 or so times a day.

Now obviously they can’t all be right. If the atheists are right, then the believers are wrong, and vice versa. If the progressives are right then the conservatives are wrong, and vice versa.

So how can we possibly make sense of all this? Easy. ALL OF THEM ARE WRONG.

If everyone were just like me, or just the opposite of me, the world would NOT be a better place. If everyone did everything humanly possible to attain perfection in all aspects of life, the world would STILL not be a better place.

The world CAN’T be a better place (whatever do we mean by “better” anyway?)

Our problems, in general, are not caused by people who are bad or greedy or selfish or lazy, etc. Our problems are the result of what I call Essential Evil.

Essential Evil is a perfectly natural and normal part of the foundation of the universe. And so is Essential Goodness. You can’t have one without the other. No matter how hard you try and how much you do and how UTTERLY AGGRAVATED you become, you can’t change this basic unchangeable reality.

And boy the people who believe they are on the side of all-loving, all-knowing wonderfulness do get terribly aggravated.

I read somewhere that the original meaning of the word “evil” had to do with missing the mark, failure to accomplish a goal. And since the nature of our universe and the essential task of all life is to reach for goals, then it follows that these goals will often be missed. Evil is inevitable.

I also read somewhere that the original meaning of the name Satan, in the Old Testament, was “the adversary.”

There HAS to be an adversary, in everything we try to accomplish. If there is no adversary, there is no striving.

Satan in the Old Testament was a valuable servant of God. He was very different from the way he is usually portrayed now.

Somehow our culture started to believe┬áthat evil doesn’t need to exist. New-agers often go even farther and say evil is an illusion with no real existence.

Ah if only, if only, people weren’t so bad. When people say that you KNOW they are not talking about themselves!

Sometimes this is called “projection:” seeing your own defects everywhere except within yourself.

In Jungian psychology the idea is to acknowledge and integrate the “shadow” side of yourself. It requires knowing and accepting that the real source of evil is not out there in others, but within each of us.

Denying our inner evil takes energy, and therefore weakens us. It distorts our perceptions and can make us treat others unfairly. It can cause us to hate everyone who is not just like us (liberals, you are not exempt; this applies to you also, maybe especially).

So try not to deny your inner Essential Evil. Try to be conscious of it and then you will be less likely to mindlessly follow its suggestions. Just know it’s there, opposing your desires and goals at every turn. Making your life a challenge.