On Good and Evil


Up there in the skies are bright and twinkling stars. There is peace and calm in the celestial world.

Up there in the depths of space there is also unceasing turbulence in the core of stars, continuous annihilation of matter, and restless rush of galaxies. There is chaos of matter and energy in their unstoppable mutations.

In that same world of peace and silence there is never a moment of rest or tranquility.

There is no calm without a storm, no tranquility without turbulence, no peace without strife. The good and the bad are often like a body and its shadow: always intertwined.

 

Here on earth, home to us all, there are the deep oceans whence we all have sprung, vast green stretches bearing luscious fruits and fragrant flowers and all the grains that nourish us. The earth has its blue skies and brown sand too. It wears the invisible airy mantle which sustains us from the first to the last breath as creatures on its land. Our sacred earth is verily a blessing to us all.

But what to say of earthquakes and tornados, hurricanes and tsunamis, volcanic eruptions and avalanches that snuff precious lives with hardly a notice.

If all this is not evil, what is!

With loss and pain and intense grief
We don’t have much to gain,
From arguments on heaven and hell.
They’ll all be just in vain.

Let’s search and see what we can do
For those who are in need,
Let’s see how we can help and heal,
How we can clothe and feed.

It does not matter if we do not knowWhy

there’s pain around.

What we need are helping hands,

Not learned views and sound.

Consider the world of birds: soaring flights of geese in formation, smooth glides of eagles, and such. See the gentle swim of the swan and of the mother duck leading her ducklings. Oh, the beauty of the birds.

But there is also the owl that snatches the rodent and the hawk that devours the frog. Beautiful birds engage in cruelty.

Look at the kingly lion and the stately tiger, the graceful deer and the majestic elephant, the faithful dog and the sturdy horse: all to be admired. There is so much marvel and magic in the animal world.

But every animal either feeds on others and becomes food itself. The world of animals is wrought with blood from claws and teeth.

No matter where we see, the world is an amalgam of peace and strife, of good and evil. S Kahlil Gibran wrote, “Verily, when good is hungry it seeks food even in dark caves, and when it thirsts, it drinks even of dead.”  

And what to say of humans? We lie and we cheat, we kill and we torture, we fight wars, we conquer and subdue, we oppress and exploit.  We destroy the places of worship of those not of our faith, and persecute them in the name of God. Oh, how despicable is this species that behaves in terrible ways!

But consider also this: We love with our hearts and we care passionately for the welfare of others. We write sublime poetry and sing soothing songs. We do fantastic science and pure mathematics. We build magnificent cathedrals and temples and mosques and synagogues to commune with the unfathomable mystery. We create great works of art and literature, compose symphonies and chisel sculpture, establish institutions and we make delicious food also. Who, in fairness can despise this species which is capable of such nobility and creativity! 

So what is one to say of Good and Evil in the world other than that both exist in what we observe. Both are latent in our hearts and words and deeds. Within each one of us, in our hearts and minds and decisions. Evil is ever present, ready to explode, and Good is always a potential ready to be tapped.

August 10, 2012

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About Varadaraja V. Raman

Physicist, philosopher, explorer of ideas, bridge-builder, devotee of Modern Science and Enlightenment, respecter of whatever is good and noble in religious traditions as well as in secular humanism,versifier and humorist, public speaker, dreamer of inter-cultural,international,inter-religious peace.
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