Monthly Archives: May 2006

Ethan ponders the relationship of evil and ignorance:

According to Seth, there is no such thing as “evil”. We may point to any number of people and events and claim that evil is embodied, inherent, and proven in these things. But is this true? In our popular fiction, there are all sorts of “evil” characters, sometimes doing the Devil’s business. And who is more evil than the Devil?

Instead, evil is an extreme form of ignorance. One who practices “evil” may claim to know what it is that he or she does, and therefore reinforces the idea of “evil”. How can one be ignorant if one knowingly performs an evil act?

As I reflect on this, I am beginning to understand what this means. Ignorance takes many forms. One may knowingly commit murder or arson, and know that what they do is wrong. They may identify as “evil” as they perform these acts. But ignorance drives this behavior, not evil, and certainly not the Devil.

I hope that Ethan will forgive me if I am misunderstanding what he means and am taking him out of context, but here are some of my thoughts:

I would say that most of us know someone that believes any time you disagree with him (or her, but it’s usually a him) it is because you don’t understand what he’s saying. Ignorance, sometimes, is an extention of that logic. If one is described as evil, then one doesn’t know what people described as non-evil know. This idea is dependent on a number of things, one of which is that there is an ideal state in which people are good if they are sufficiently loved for instance or, in this case, sufficiently knowledgeable.

I’m inclined to agree with the old saying that the Devil’s greatest trick was making people believe that he did not exist. I believe that evil is an entity unto itself. It is a state with a number of plausible motivations. Often, as you cite, it’s ignorance. Sometimes it’s fear. Sometimes it’s hurt (As Frankenstein’s monster said, “I am malicious because I am miserable”). Maybe there’s a better word for all this than “evil,” but I don’t think that ignorance is sufficiently encompassing.

Ignorance also implies, to a degree, that with knowledge comes righteousness. To a degree, right and wrong are not only what one knows, but how one internally organizes what one knows. Sometimes the organization paints a rather warped picture. Perhaps one can say that a warped picture is not a true one and is therefore ignorant. Be that as it may, there is no picture that is not seen through a lens of some sort, and some lenses are incompatible with virtue, harmony, and other things we would generally percieve as “good.” The issue, in my mind, is not what information is missing (ignorance), but how the existing information is organized (philosophy or ideology).

In short, if I can be short which I usually cannot, ignorance can be just as easily defined to support one’s prejudices as evil can be. Both exist (and I will absolutely concede that ignorance is much, much, much more prevalent than evil), but I don’t personally believe that one necessarily defines the other.

Category: Coffeehouse

Several years ago I was dating a girl named Julie and was preparing to propose to her. Though we’d never openly discussed it, Julie had been periodically pointing out rings that she liked and didn’t like. As with other aesthetical things, we didn’t particularly share the same taste. It didn’t really matter, though, because the ring I was going to use was an old family ring on my mother’s side. There was also a wedding ring back there, too, though from a different source. Mom’s family, however, was generally of modest means. I did not suppose that the ring was anything by befittingly modest. I was fine with that, though it did not seem what Julie had in mind.

I found a way to indirectly ask her if she would have a problem with a more modest ring. I told her that I liked the idea of using family heirlooms. She was indifferent to the heirloom aspect of it all, but said that she would gladly accept any ring that I would have to offer whenever the timing might be right for such a thing. Then she asked “So just curious. How modest, exactly?”

The ring became a focal point of some of the doubts that were festering in the back of my mind. Not that I thought she would reject the ring. At that point she was hanging much more tightly around me than I was holding on to her. But though it’s one thing to lose a $2,000 investment if an engagement or marriage doesn’t work out. It’s another to lose a deep family heirloom. The former hurts financially. The latter spiritually. The fact that before I was even considering proposing I was already contemplating the effects of divorce was a lightning rod for my increasingly anxious mind. I was increasingly realizing that even as I was planning to spend the rest of my life with her, I wasn’t wanting to.

A couple weeks ago Clancy and I went out for a pizza and ended up at an art exhibit that was on the first floor of the second floor restaurant. The artist was absolutely amazing. His paintings centered on the western landscape. What initially was going to be a quick passthrough ended up with us looking at every framed painting as well as looking through the book. Naturally, we caught the attention of the guy manning the exhibit. He was gentle and charismatic with his sales technique. We told him rather honestly that we did love the paintings but that we were not at a time in our lives where would could afford such things.

As we left, we noted that he probably didn’t believe us. Salespeople notice things and Clancy’s engagement and wedding ring were undoubtedly among them. The wedding ring has over a dozen not-big-but-not-tiny diamonds on it. The engagement ring has three larger diamonds and a few specks of ones on either side. I don’t know how many there are total. It was not what I had in mind with Julie years before. It was, in fact, something I think she would have really approved of.

Being the wonderful woman that I married, Clancy cares less about the diamonds than about the family history. She, like myself, is less than impressed with some of the flashier rings in today’s style. Luckily the diamonds are set low and are therefore unobtrusive. But they sparkle and even low-key Clancy kind of gets a kick out of that.

I take Julie at her word that she would have graciously accepted any ring that I had to offer. Even so, it’s a bit funny that had I saw the ring I never would have asked the question which had the answer that put me ill-at-ease.

Category: Coffeehouse