Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Good, the Evil, and the all-you-can-eat buffet

It is an endless story, apparently. It's a snake going after its own tail, a coin that you can go on and flip forever. So many people have been busting their brains and their research grants over it. Is being and doing good hereditary? Are we conditioned to it? Not all abused children grow up to rape somebody, right? Has Goodness evolved through natural selection? Do we have a choice? Free will? Is there a point in being or doing “Good”?

Is there Heaven and Hell?

Is there Heaven or Hell?

And so on.

Remarkably, there are myriads of people out there, lacking stories to tell, not to mention research grants or brains, or a pulpit for that matter, who are also fiddling with such questions. The Internet, for one, is littered with their agonizing banalities. We got lectured the other day by such an otherwise well-meaning fellow. He gave us the parameters. The genes and the environment. Religion. The parents. The lack thereof. One thing was clear, there is plenty of theory around, for fellows with time in their hands and no real problems.

What's a poor blogger to do?

Start with a disclaimer. Not everything is supposed to make sense. If you can't take it from us, take it from Wittgenstein.

Then an observation, in the form of a rhetorical question: could there be anybody out there, anybody who can read this at least, who has never heard of all this? The concept of Good and Evil? If you are not interested in all this, you are in all likelihood not interested in all this.

Then forget about research and brains. We have feelings too, you know.

And then cry for help, obviously! Get a couple of specialists! Their words are out there for grabs! That's what they are for!


For the brain in agony, we have, quite predictably, some Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, from “As I sat sadly by her side”:

When will you ever learn?
[...]God does not care for your benevolence
Anymore than he cares for the lack of it in others
Nor does he care for you to sit
At windows in judgment of the world He created
While sorrows pile up around you
Ugly, useless and over-inflated


For the spiritually troubled, we turn to the recent movie of Craig Brewer, Black Snake Moan. The good reverent R.L. is counseling the troubled nymphomaniac Rae, who has hit a tragic low after her dearly loved boyfriend Ronnie went away to join the army. There is something about heaven and redemption she does not understand. In fact, she finds it “fucking stupid”:

RAE:You can't hurt people... and then just say, I'm sorry, and then everything just gets washed away. Why would heaven want people like that. People who... do what they want and then... switch.

R.L.:I'm gonna tell you somethin', and it's just gonna be between you and me.
I think folks carry on about heaven too much. Like it's some all-you-can-eat buffet up in the clouds. And folks just gonna do as they're told so they can eat what they want behind some pearly gates. I can go to Shoney's for that.

(R.L.):There's sin in my heart. There's evil in this world. But when I got no one... I talk to God. I ask for strength. I ask for forgiveness. Not for peace at the end of my days when there's no more life to live and no more good to do, but today. Right now.

(R.L.):What's your heaven? What gives you peace?

RAE:(struggling to speak through her tears): Ronnie.


For the struggling humanist, we have the confetti of Kurt Vonnegut illustrating this post.


We could go on forever. Because this is hot. It has been hot forever. Good and Evil, Love and Hate, Life and Death. As forever-hot issues go, we shall always keep in mind the following exchange between Blackadder and Lord Percy:

Percy: I intend to discover, this very afternoon, the secret of alchemy. The hidden art of turning base things into… gold.
Blackadder: I see. And the fact that this secret has eluded the most intelligent people since the dawn of time doesn't dampen your spirits?


Christine Vyrnon said...

I love banalaties and silly discussions about good vs evil, to a point. I no longer believe in or talk in terms of black and white world... how's that for banal?
Good post!

Roufa Tav Gosou & Mimi Lass said...

Silly is our first name!