See No Evil

Optimism          -              Hope
Shallow             -              Deep
Light                  -              Dark

Marty: Do you wonder, ever, if you're a bad man?

Rust: No. I don't wonder, Marty. World needs bad men. We keep the other bad men from the door.

Dialogue from True Detective

Pleasure is inconceivable without pain; light without darkness; love without hate; good without evil … the denial of suffering is the negation of life itself.

The creation of tragedy is both a response to the horrors of life and a way of mastering them … we are saying ‘Yes’ to life as it actually is.

[Anthony Storr]

There is a phrase which you sometimes come across in country districts even nowadays, which sums up a good deal of what he might have tried to say. Farmers use it in Ireland, as praise or compliment, saying, "So-and-so has a Word. He will do what he promised."

Lancelot tried to have a Word. He considered it, as the ignorant country people still consider it, to be the most valuable of possessions.

But the curious thing was that under the king-post of keeping faith with himself and with others, he had a contradictory nature which was far from holy. His Word was valuable to him not only because he was good, but also because he was bad. It is the bad people who need to have principles to restrain them. For one thing, he liked to hurt people. It was for the strange reason that he was cruel, that the poor fellow never killed a man who asked for mercy, or committed a cruel action which he could have prevented. One reason why he fell in love with Guenever was because the first thing he had done was to hurt her. He might never have noticed her as a person, if he had not seen the pain in her eyes.

People have odd reasons for ending up as saints. A man who was not afflicted by ambitions of decency in his mind might simply have run away with his hero's wife, and then perhaps the tragedy of Arthur would never have happened. An ordinary fellow, who did not spend half his life torturing himself by trying to discover what was right so as to conquer his inclination towards what was wrong, might have cut the knot which brought their ruin.

[T.H. White]
The Once and Future King, p. 365

'Jenny, all my life I have wanted to do miracles. I have wanted to be holy. I suppose it was ambition or pride or some other unworthy thing. It was not enough for me to conquer the world—I wanted to conquer heaven too. I was so grasping that it was not enough to be the strongest knight—I had to be the best as well. That is the worst of making day-dreams. It is why I tried to keep away from you. I knew that if I was not pure, I could never do miracles. And I did do a miracle, too: a splendid one. I got a girl out of some boiling water, who was enchanted into it. She was called Elaine. Then I lost my power. Now that we are together, I shall never be able to do my miracles any more.'

He did not like to tell her the full truth about Elaine, for he thought that it would hurt her feelings to know that he had come to her as the second.

'Why not?'

'Because we are wicked.'

'Personally I have never done a miracle,' said the Queen, rather coldly. 'So I have less to regret.'

'But, Jenny, I am not regretting anything. You are my miracle, and I would throw them overboard all over again for the sake of you. I was only trying to tell you about the things I felt when I was small.'

'Well, I can't say I understand.'

'Can't you understand wanting to be good at things? No, I can see that you would not have to. It is only people who are lacking, or bad, or inferior, who have to be good at things. You have always been full and perfect, so you had nothing to make up for. But I have always been making up. I feel dreadful sometimes, even now, with you, when I know that I can't be the best knight any longer.'

[T.H. White]
The Once and Future King, p. 414

On the night Lord Voldemort went to Godric's Hollow to kill Harry, and Lily Potter cast herself between them, the curse rebounded. When that happened, a part of Voldemort's soul lached itself onto the only living thing it could find. Harry himself.

There's a reason Harry can speak with snakes. There's a reason he can look into Lord Voldemort's mind. A part of Voldemort lives inside him.

Dialogue from 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2'

[Harry Potter] is kind of an interesting character, because he’s not really good; and we find out that’s because [he has a piece of Voldemort] in him.

What that means is that to be good, truly good […] you have to be able to understand malevolence. And in order to be able to understand malevolence so that you can withstand it, you have to understand that part of you that’s malevolent. Because if you don’t, you’re naive. And if you’re naive, you’re easy pickings.

That’s a Jungian idea, that part of personality development is to understand your shadow. The shadow is those things about you that you do not want to admit to.

I think that you cannot have proper respect for yourself until you know that you’re a monster. Because you won’t act carefully enough if you think, “I’m a nice person, I’d never do anyone any harm.” You’re no saint, you can be sure of that, and the harm that you can do people can come in many, many ways. And so, if you regard yourself as harmless, inoffensive, nice … well, why do you have any reason to be careful? You’re like a teddy bear sitting on a shelf; even if you throw it at someone, no-one’s going to get hurt. But that isn’t what you’re like, because you’re a human being; and human beings are vicious creatures. And there’s utility in knowing that.

What’s interesting about [Harry Potter] is that he’s touched by evil. And that means that he’s an embodiment of what Jung would regard as someone who’s integrated the shadow. And without that capacity he isn’t able to communicate, say, with snakes. And that’s not so good because, since there are snakes, its not such a bad idea to know how to communicate with them.

[...] Harry could stand up against Voldemort and understand him and speak his language, because he was infected by him to some degree.

[Jordan B. Peterson]
2017 Personality 02/03: Historical & Mythological Context’ and
2017 Maps of Meaning 7: Images of Story & Metastory

The price of fruitfulness, Nietzsche writes, “is to be rich in internal oppositions.” Such oppositions can always get out of control and result in behaviour that is nothing short of criminal. Nietzsche recognises this, and claims that “in almost all crimes some qualities also find expression which ought not to be lacking in a human being.”

[…] the idea of a purely good agent is a fiction. [Nietzsche] thinks that the appearance of perfect goodness is created by stunting all of one’s features and abilities so that one no longer represents, even potentially, a danger to others and to the community as a whole. Such an agent, who is incapable of greatness as well as of harm, constitutes for him the goal of morality: “ We want someday that there should be nothing any more to be afraid of!”

But in fact, Nietzsche insists, great accomplishments involve exploiting all available means, perhaps evil by the standards of the previous order, but seen in a different light once those accomplishments become parts of the life of others […]

One of [Nietzsche’s] central criticisms of Christian morality is that it fights the passions with excision, that “its practice, its ‘cure,’ is castratism.” And though he agrees unbridled passion is “stupid,” he argues that to destroy it as a preventative measure is itself “merely another form of stupidity.” He claims that this is the practice of those who are afraid of the two-sided consequences of strong impulses: “Castration, extirpation… [are] instinctively chosen by those who are too weak-willed, too degenerate, to be able to impose moderation upon themselves.”

“The greatest human beings perhaps also possess great virtues, but in that case also their opposites. I believe that it is precisely through the presence of opposites and the feelings they occasion that the great person, the bow with the great tension, develops.”

[Alexander Nehamas]
Nietzsche: Life as Literature, p.  219-21

Imagine someone who’s naive, and dependent, and over-sheltered. And they’re off into the world, even though they’re not prepared for it, and their axiomatic presuppositions aren’t sophisticated enough to allow for the existence of radical uncertainty or malevolence.

And then one day they’re attacked - maybe they get mugged, or raped, or something worse - and they develop post-traumatic stress disorder. And the reason is that the event is so anomalous, especially combined with its malevolence, that it demolishes their interpretation frames - from the local level, all the way out to the superordinate level - and then the person is cast into [a] chaotic state. And they’re terrified, and angry, and vengeful, and paralysed, and depressed; and all of those things simultaneously; and maybe they never put the pieces back together.

They descend into chaos […] It’s the constrained chaos that’s underneath everything, inhibited by your contextual knowledge, that suddenly pops its head up into your world.

[Jordan B. Peterson]
'2017 Maps of Meaning 7: Images of Story & Metastory'

Progressives, according to Mumford, believed that human nature is deflected from its natural goodness only by external conditions beyond the individual's control.

Having no sense of sin, they discounted inherent obstacles to moral development and therefore could not grasp the need for a "form-giving discipline of the personality."

[Christopher Lasch]
The True and Only Heaven, p.79

Niebuhr had reservations about the political implications of Barth's neo-orthodoxy, which seemed to him to write off the political realm as irredeemably corrupt; but he too came to accept original sin as an "inescapable fact of human existence," to reject the shallow optimism of liberal theology, and to acknowledge the impossibility of justifying religious belief on purely rational grounds.

Just as an "impartial science” could not fully justify the “right to believe” in justice or in the possibility that justice would prevail in the political order, so it could not justify a belief in the goodness of God's wicked world. Hope - “the nerve of moral action” - had to be asserted in the face of evidence that could easily justify the conclusion that the world is “meaningless.”

Hope was the product of emotion, not intelligence. It sprang from “gratitude and contrition” - “gratitude for Creation and contrition before Judgment; or, in other words, confidence that life is good in spite of its evil and that it is evil in spite of its good." 

Hope had to be distinguished, therefore, from optimism or "sentimentality," which closed their eyes to the dark side of things and attributed evil merely to ignorance or "cultural lag" - the failure of a science of morals and society to keep pace with the scientific understanding of nature.

Without hope, the world was seen “either as being meaningless or as revealing unqualifiedly good and simple meanings”. Yet hope exceeded strictly reasonable and realistic expectations. For this reason, Christian orthodoxy had always equated hope with a state of grace, which could not be achieved simply by the exertion of will or intelligence.

[Christopher Lasch]
The True and Only Heaven, p.370-1

Certain elements of the Mayan religion may also have come from the Olmecs, such as the belief in the power of the jaguar. Their great ancestor was spoken of as the Plumed Serpent, also called Quetzalcoatl. It was he who taught the people how to carve stone and make pottery and who was tricked by his brother Smoking Mirror (Texatlipoca).

It is so easy for us in the West to see Quetzalcoatl and Texatlipoca as the embodiments of good and evil. But this is to miss the essence of a worldview that extends across Turtle Island - the idea of harmony and balance. For in a world of process, activity, and relationship, both brothers are necessary.

We have already met a similar story of two brothers as told by the Iroquois people. Each is the complement of the other, and if one brother were to create an eagle the other would create a bat - and within the web of the world both forms of life are necessary.

It is only if one brother were to gain too much power over the other, or if the People were to acknowledge only one of these powers, that imbalance and disharmony would come to the land.

[F. David Peat]
Blackfoot Physics, p.187

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