Sunday, November 7, 2010

Okay!...What is evil? (or Does the Cosmos Resent Itself?)

Is evil a simpler phenomenon that most people think? I shall apply Occam's Razor. I was going to use it to shave with this morning but decided instead to solve a great mystery. First, I want to look at some prevalent theories of evil.

Let's dispense with Yin-Yang right off the bat.

In the morning, a guy is sitting in his garden drinking hot tea. A crazy monkey jumps across his table and, after laughing wildly, scampers off into the bushes. The guy is startled, with the tea ending up in his lap. In the afternoon, the same guy is walking along, with an ice-pack stuck in his pants. A rhinoceros comes flying out of nowhere and rams an apple tree. Apples fall and keep falling, since the frustrated beast's horn is still stuck in the tree trunk. The expression on the guy's face changes, from misery to bliss. He forgets the burning pain in his groin. He scoops up the free apples and is happy. That night, he has an epiphany, so he sharpens a stick and dips it in charcoal dust to write his profound discovery: “This morning, something bad happened. This afternoon, something good happened. That means evil and good are evenly distributed in the world. And that must surely mean that reality itself is half-evil and half-good. Eureka!”

Here's why our spontaneous sage is wrong: he doesn't know it yet, but tomorrow he is gonna suffer 13 separate incidences of bad-monkey behavior and only one rhinoceros donation. He will soon discover that there is far more evil than good in the world.

Okay...on to Judaism.

The founders, prophets, and teachers of Judaism (including Jesus, who was Jewish, not a Christian) brought forth and expounded a religion of ethics. Based on original sin. Based on some stealthy, illicit, non-rhinoceros apple harvesting. Well, that's just preposterous.

Here come the Christians!

First, see above about Judaism. Second, let's look at a more or less original tangent. In trying to solve theodicy, some thinkers like Teilhard de Chardin end up scratching their heads. And finally positing the idea that evil is only the absence of good.

Less original and less sophisticated thinkers see evil as some kind of tough-love session: God lays it on thick so we'll learn how to work our way through it and become better people. Your child suffers and dies from a horrible disease? Well, good! That's God setting you up to move through grief into personal strength and spiritual accomplishment. What's that, you say? What about the dead child? Oh, don't get picky with details! Where was I? Oh, yeah: you would be mistaken to call it evil – it's an implicit good. Or...everything we experience as evil will “someday” be revealed as the working out of a Great Plan.

I don't buy it. That God could easily send us all a mass email, explaining that Great Plan right now.

I'm not sure what the Muslim deal is. I guess whatever makes the desert-god frown is evil.

Then, there is the atheistic form. Evil is what is not suitable. It's all relative, man!

So.........what is evil? And now I shift from flippancy to appropriate morbidness, or at least neutral speechifying. Maybe a dash or two more of the flippant stuff.

I like Schopenhauer. I'm not really sure why. Maybe it's more about style and audacity than substance. But the substance is pretty good, too – the numinous as Will. Whatever is fully real inside or behind reality must be the numinous, the what-in-itself. The phenomenal world is the oozing of metaphysical numinous goo into laws, processes, forms, and beings. Our bodies and minds are the veins through which the numinous fuse drives the fleur du mal. That principle is Will (or force, to be more exact). Everything in us and around us is pieces of will extruded from the Great Will -- an invisible, non-sentient pulse. A kind of haywire desiring.

Seems about right to me. Will as essence. So what general form does it take? I select Envy! Wait!...don't least not yet.

Quantum process

Quarks (or Higgs bosons or whatever) resent other particles emerging spontaneously from the vacuum. They desire to get the jump on anyone else even thinking about popping from possibility-space into actuality-space. An incalculable number of possible quantum wills were vying for emergence. To displace any other possible tiny wills. The not-yet environment was teeming with resentment and envy. And lo! potential particle just happened to be at the right “place” at the right “time” and POW! All the loser possible particles sulked and pouted. Very envious of the guy who got to be.

phase shift 1

From pure potentiality, that first, arrogant, victorious POW ushered in a world. Big change.

Stellar process we have a cosmos frothing and writhing. We have stuff bouncing around – mass and energy. And every shred of it resents every other shred. Everybody wants the space everybody else has.'s one collision after another. Everything smacking around in cosmic territorial warfare.

phase shift 2

Room must be made for all this envious activity. So the universe expands. But gravity is the pulse of Great Envy – everything still tries to get to where everything else is. Gas and stars and nascent galaxies just can't stand the thought that somebody else has a where and a when that they don't have. Sometimes, it gets to be a little much. Nobody wins: massive black holes form and suck the living daylights out of everything. But the Envy is too great and passionate to allow the universe to suck itself out completely. And there's always second-class quarks waiting to pop out if the first guy makes a shambles of it all.

Planetary process

Eventually, matter and stuff form planets. On Earth, all the different chemicals are pissed at one another. It's another mad scramble to be THE chemical. But during the battles, chemicals get mixed into one another. Weird reactions occur. And after a while, things settle into matrices, into fixed patterns. Then, the ocean wants to be where the land is, and the land wants to be where the ocean is. Mutual envy causes massive internal stress. Earthquakes. Tsunamis. Volcanoes exploding. They also explode because the infernal regions resent the airy regions their open space. And out of haughty spite, the airy regions rain on the volcanoes, turning their mad fury into impotent steam and frozen lava. I mentioned weird reactions....

phase shift 3

All of this chemical and tectonic bickering and trespassing leads to a highly unsettled affair on Earth. Again, something has to give. The complexities of sustained planetary envy end up squeezing out even another plane of being – a region of suspense, where forms and processes congeal into pseudo-life.

Organic process

And so a billion years or so go by, while odd things are bootstrapping from pseudo into cellular. Oh, my god! Now the swarm begins! A jillion pieces of molecular will – all puffed up with resentment – go after one another. Big Pac Men gobbling up Little Pac Men. The creatures start growing. And begin growing armaments to usurp new territories. Bell Curves are everywhere. Phase-space humps like a herd of bacterial camels. Predator-Prey. Cannibalism. Parasites. Disease. Symbiosis. Envy every freaking where! Everybody wanting to get some of what the other guy's got.

phase shift 4

Animals got bigger, hungrier, toothier, nastier. Until.....consciousness began oozing from the Envy Sphere.

Mental process

More space-time provided for more events. Sooner or later, apes started actually scheming. They formed raiding parties. To steal chimp-women. To steal fruit trees from weaker chimps. Weapons. Murder. Instinct-will turning into lust-will. Envy, envy, envy. Until proto-human beings hopped out of trees. And they were hopping mad, too! As soon as they hit the ground, they fired up their large brains. How dare the planet just sit there being all natural. We shall dominate it through our rabid will and our desire to be everywhere at once. To convert everything to our egoistic purposes. And to have anything that anyone else has. Plans got more complex. Wars broke out. Crime. All crimes spring from the root of envy. Child torturers envy lost innocence. Then came law and politics. Law is just a referee trying to keep people from tearing each other to bleeding chunks. Politics is the grand arena where wills collide. Liberals envy the wealth of conservatives, the wealth they desire to redistribute. Conservatives envy the last copper penny they can pinch from the poor.

phase shift 5

So...the next transition was a profound one. I have trouble believing in progress, but things got weird. Out of all the eons of envy, which led to human beings, something strange happened: empathy began trickling out. It's like human consciousness is a vast abstract mirror that Being held up to itself. It saw itself for the first time. A huge inaudible sigh was expelled. A gradual ennui settled onto the field of forms and processes. Existence and Life felt sorry for itself. Realized the absurdity of Envy. Niches and pockets of love opened up. Fraternity. Beethoven even wrote a choral movement.

It's been a crazy adventure. And maybe things will completely shift again after another thousand years. Since we possess consciousness, it follows that we will never understand it (that needs some elaboration, but I don't feel like thinking that hard right now). Whatever consciousness is, it seems to have begun a phase-shift toward a possibility of empathy, instead of pure envy. Maybe it's a full-circle thing. Maybe we're closing in on the singularity, when Mind expands into Love. Maybe Love is the original core, the brooding vacuum that had to envy itself into Being. In order to create a way for itself to become tangible reality. Opening up a great story, full of passion and creating the chance for nostalgic Memory.

All right! That's about it. Maybe tomorrow, I'll see if I can figure out why water is wet!

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