Friday, May 04, 2007

Further Thoughts on Evil 2

Further Thoughts on Evil 2

I finished the last post by referring to the more “holistic” presentation of the character Tony Soprano in the American Mafia Soap The Sopranos. As an avid viewer of an almost addict nature of this marvellous series I can honestly say that I am genuinely disturbed by this fact. I am genuinely disturbed that I can see some areas of good in Tony Soprano. The producers of this show have managed to achieve what to my mind at least is a Shakespearean understanding the human psyche and of human motivation.

The viewing of the wonderful German film The Downfall produced the same reaction in me. I began to find myself beginning to have some little sympathy with the dreadfully flawed and evil character of Hitler. This fact disturbed me then and continues to disturb me. This reaction to both Tony Soprano and to the depiction of a more “human” (though not humane) portrayal of Hitler is the result of good drama, of good ethical and moral drama. How can I even use those words “moral” and “ethical” with respect to both these dramas? Quite simply because good drama and good literature and good cinema seek to present an honest account of human motivation, an honest account of humankind in the round as it were, not just the warts and all, but also those kindlier characteristics of so-called monsters!

Indeed, as a teacher who has studied the literatures of Irish, English and Italian languages over the years, I find grave fault with the slipshod and careless use of language. When we find newspapers using headlines like, “Hitler the Monster,” we must begin to question such an obviously crass use of language. What does “monster” mean? Let the writer of the headline look up the OED or some other useful dictionary. King Kong was a monster as was Frankenstein. Some might even say the wonderfully fine human being John Merrick was a monster, he who was also called by that horrible description The Elephant Man because of his horrific bodily deformities. We're not all too sure of what we mean by monster are we, short of the fact that the word gets the hair standing on people's necks?

And so we are disturbed by good drama, and why should not we be? I remember a good priest who is a friend of mine often saying, and it is so true, that “Jesus came to comfort the disturbed and to disturb the comfortable.” When we are disturbed our consciences are being awakened, our sensitivities are being deepened, our understanding of human nature is being brought to deeper ground and our compassion for all humankind is being extended. It is possible to love the weak and deformed. It is possible to love the criminal and insane – albeit with great difficulty. It is possible to love our enemies – albeit with considerable difficulty also. It is possible to come to terms with the more evil parts of ourselves, that is our shadow parts and by incorporating these latter into a whole within our psyche we stop short from projecting these weaknesses and evils onto others. In this way we begin to avoid evil in the world by avoiding confrontations solely as the result of our more adolescent and ego-ridden projections.

Above I have placed a picture of the setting sun through the trees in Newbridge House as a sign of hope in the darkness. I took this picture late summer 2006.

To be continued

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