“Do you believe there is still such a thing, a concept, a presence, as Evil in our world? Do you believe you would recognize it if you saw it? If you do believe and if you did see something you knew and recognized as Evil, would you act?”
Those were the first two sentences to a post I wrote a while back.
Tonight, I might fairly ask, as Shauna does, do you distinguish between wickedness and evil? I am not sure I do. Maybe it is a matter of degree, yet both stem from a desire to destroy, to bring down an object, a prey, even and especially a soul.
I have been in the presence of wickedness and evil. Sometimes from afar and sometimes way too close for comfort and ignorance. The pricking Shakespeare speaks of for me comes through one of my senses, whether it be a painful squeeze of my heart, the hair lifting on the back of my neck, glancing at person and seeing a larger, looming darker shadow behind them. Sometimes it comes in my dreams and I wake terrified, heart pounding, gasping for breath and bolting for the light switch.
Strangely, this sensitivity to Evil began back in the summer of 1973 when I joined up with a large group of friends and we went to see The Exorcist. My nephews, some 15-20 years later just laughed when they saw it, looking askance at me, as though wondering how I could possibly be taken in by such fluff. Ah… well, you see, I had no business seeing that film. I was the first person to scream when the lights went down and the film began. I screamed when the music began. The famous piece known as The Tubular Bells
It doesn’t sound all that impressive, does it? Mike Oldield also does a version. If you clicked the links, did you see the pictures? That was enough for me to click the play button and change windows – I wanted to be sure I gave you the right links, but I don’t linger there.
When we walked out of the theater, someone stretched out their arm towards me and I instinctively backed up 10-20 feet in fear. I spent six months sleeping in a twin bed with my mother. I was too afraid to sleep alone.
Something in that film and my being raised Catholic shot passed any and all defenses I might have had at 17 and cracked open my burgeoning soul to views of other peoples’ lives. Every night I would go to sleep, it was as though my brain had become a transit point. I would see couples, families living their lives – people I didn’t know, much like watching a film, just ratcheting through my mind’s eye. I was terrified and we haven’t even spoken of the nightmares where the unconscious tries to makes sense of the darkness…
Eventually, I took up the study of metaphysics – all that is not physical. I was looking for a way to deal with this sensitivity. Apartment hunting was always difficult as I could pick up what had gone on in those four blank walls. Once I kept seeing a body just hanging in the hallway, feet and rope gently swaying in the breeze from the bedroom window. Ugh. But I’ll tell you something. It took every ounce of courage I had to even begin to look for answers because it meant coming out from underneath the covers where I had slammed all the doors shut in my head. I was terrified some creature would show up at the foot of my bed and offer to trade places with me. Agh.
In the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shooting, Richard Fernandez wrote a piece entitled The Shadow in the Hallway. For anyone interested in a discussion of the presence of evil in our lives and times, this was simply outstanding. It was the comments that made it so. No.7 No Justice No Peace was particularly on point:
“Darkness is nothing more than the absence of light.
It wasn’t until I was confronted with pure evil that my faith became whole. My hair stood on end, the room began to slowly spin, every movement was in slow motion, I became chilled, very cold…I was face-to-face with evil incarnate.
A few weeks earlier the man, a friend out on bond, had murdered his wife with a light cord. When one of his young children came to her aid with a pair of scissors, he used them to stab her multiple times. In front of the child. Without remorse.
Later, while sitting in my truck, I shook uncontrollably. For the first time in my life, I knew I was out of control. I understood for the first time that evil was real, it was not an opinion of old men wearing fancy hats and colorful robes.
But this realization brought an immediate calm. If there is evil, there must be goodness. After I realized that, I calmed down.
Just as darkness is the absence of light, evil is the absence of God.
W this, to me, was one of the best pieces you’ve produced and I’ve been lurking around here for some time. Yet it was incomplete. Teaching children and adults that evil does in fact exist is only one-half of the story…
If we teach them about darkness we surely should teach them about the light.”
After 30 years of studying, it always comes back to the Light and to the Presence of God, who has stood between me and evil while around me others have surrendered to the darkness.