Tragedy and Evil

Last week I watched a film called MADNESSFORMILK by filmmaker Sergey Kavtaradze. The film is an exploration of the states of mind that lead to aggression and how the true essence of war resides in these dormant archetypes of war that have inhabited the collective unconscious throughout human history.

This and a recent conversation I had with a friend about this subject compelled me to watch again two of my favorite films “The Ninth Configuration,” a surreal meditation of faith by William Peter Blatty (who also wrote the Exorcist) and the extremely shocking WWII film “Come and See” by Elem Klimov. These films along with many other sources led me to ponder on the “excesses of behavior that characterize evil” and to reassess my own notions of how the world works.

I started to realize that we love to see ourselves as this naïve, powerless creatures and we define ourselves by our intentions and our childish notions of goodness. There’s real comfort in that but it places huge limitations on the development of our identity.
We don’t like to admit that deep down inside there are terrible motivations for most of what we do and if they were ever revealed to us we’d be traumatized by the nature of the dark recesses of our minds. These motivations arise as a direct result of the self-conscious awareness of our vulnerability in the face of the unknown and the infinite (the unwanted side effect of the development of consciousness) but even more so from the terrible, unfair and often tragic aspects of reality.

I came to believe that we can’t have a realistic notion of our capacity to do good unless we have a well-developed insight into our infinite capacity for evil. Everyone likes to thinks that if they had been alive during Nazi Germany they would have been the ones to save Anne Frank but in reality there is a higher probability that they would have fallen in line with the perpetrators. Everyone has a hidden longing for aggression, oppression and power. It’s intrinsically human.

In the last couple of years I have been forced to reassess my view of the world and to train my mind to be flexible enough to admit when my perception of reality needs to be updated. I have found through personal experience that rigidity of believe and ideology leads inevitably to internal chaos. Chaos that then spills into the world through my actions and my words.

I believe that when I do something that is morally questionable, at least to me, not only am I putting my own life in jeopardy but I’m pushing the entire world closer to extinction and that the ability to transform the unfair conditions of life into something that is worthy of praise depends on my ability to face the cold dark corners of my mind and transform them into a truly integrated identity. That means constant confrontations with the monsters created out of anger, resentment and envy.

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