A Self Examination

By Analyn Revilla

I am faced with the dilemma of being honest with myself about things that aren’t savory to know even about me. Once in a while, when I can no longer hold it, I pee in a bucket, in the morning, because I don’t want to intrude while my husband has his shower. Is that really so bad? Is that TMI? And that it’s really okay that I did it, and others don’t really need to know my confession. Is it that I was just being lazy? I guess it is, though I mask it with the excuse that I don’t want to intrude on my husband’s shower time. Couldn’t I just get up earlier to pee before I make the coffee? Or just knock on the door and excuse myself.

7 Deadly Sins in 365 days is a funny book with outrageous suggestions, some of which I discovered I’ve already done, or put into regular practice. A book like this makes me laugh at myself, and poke fun at my own seriousness. I think we do some things we feel ashamed of, but do not really understand that reason for the shame. Was it something bred into us by society – our family and institutions? Or is it truly a self-conscious evaluation to determine our moral goodness.

Some of suggestions are harmless fun, while others require some evaluation of the consequences. Some harmless fun (or not so harmless, but socially deviant) are fart in a crowded elevator; pee in the pool – I know I’ve done one of these before but not on purpose or malice in mind. If premeditated then I’d put them in the basket of childhood pranks; while the other prescribed actions takes some real guts, some degree of craziness, I really wanted to do it anyway: blow all your savings on the lottery; get drunk before going to work; take a 24 hour break from your relationship.

Those actions are symptomatic of problems. They are ‘acting out’ on something deeper. If I spent my savings on the lottery then it is an act of desperation – and a signal that I have lost hope. If I get drunk before going to work then it is symbolic of my avarice towards my work place, and the need to numb myself from the people and the environment. If I take a 24 hour break from my husband, carte blanche, and had a fling then I’m probably not fulfilled in my marriage. Acting out does not make me an evil person, though I certainly would feel a deep sense of guilt and shame in going through with one of the three actions above.

Boy, I would consider myself damned lucky if I did win the lottery in a big way if I spent my savings on the lottery. Can I dodge people at work to mask the alcohol on my breath? I have to weigh the odds. There is a thought process in our choices. We do a check and balance accounting of the probability and consequences. What price am I willing to pay for my choices and actions?

I’ve been curious about the nature of evil. I was raised Catholic until I was able to break away into a practice suited to my nature. In my experience, and I say this in hindsight, that the indoctrination I got from attending a strict Catholic school ruled by nuns leaned heavily upon a “too-literal” interpretation of the scriptures. Had I not had the personal conviction to explore my own spirituality and the courage to re-think by asking questions and experimenting with my ideas, then I may not have matured spiritually. Had I remained afraid of being condemned blasphemous or I couldn’t risk the possibility that my parents would disown me then I probably wouldn’t be writing this blog.

One of the most useful books I read on the subject of the nature of evil was People of The Lie by Scott M. Peck. As a psychiatrist he untangled the complex input and output between what is normal behavior and what is evil. Prior to reading People of the Lie, I read his first book, The Road Less Travelled. I chose that book because it explored the concept of “Original Sin”. My own exploration of “Original Sin” is that it is our doubt of our inherent good nature. Why do we have this doubt? My hypothesis is when we are born, we are molded to be “good” by external entities from our parents, the church (if we are raised in a religion), schools, civil governments – the gamut of organizational institutions. That we need external bodies outside of our own good judgment to measure our sense of morality removes the responsibility of aspiring to be good from the individual. It is not a conscious decision. Life happens and we act based on our abilities and the circumstances.

When I juxtapose that argument/reasoning to the author’s description of evil:

Scott Peck says, “For adults to be the victims of evil, they must be powerless to escape. They may be powerless when a gun is held to their head…Or they may be powerless by virtue of their own failure of courage…Whenever adults not at gunpoint become victims of evil it is because they have–one way or another–bound [themselves] by chains of laziness and dependency….settling for a child’s impotence.”

What I begin to understand is I go through a painful self-examination of my nature and my existence almost daily. I have many moments of deep anguish, anxiety and anger (not all at once, though sometimes yes), and how do I release the pressure to act good in the face of evil. I halt to go further to describe my own personal religious beliefs. I do go further to say that I believe I am inherently good with a bend for fun for fun’s sake, and that what is good for the goose is also good for the gander.

The wrinkles on my hands and face are threads of living the routine between work and home, along with the news absorbed from the papers, the elevators, the internets and conversations. There are plenty of situations that play out the battle between good and evil. It’s a theme that’s been played out since the first story told about Adam and Eve in the garden, passed down to the generations thru Cain and Abel to the stories that we watch on the big screen: Captain America, Spider Man, Malficent.

I read the play The Last Train by Natacha Astuto. I’ll be interviewing her this week before the preview of her play this coming Thursday at Schkapf Obsucra. Among my questions to her will be her thoughts about the nature of evil, because her play has undercurrent of the evil nature of a psychopath. The question of good and evil is simply not light versus dark as told in the most rudimentary of storytelling. I liked how the dance of evil and good is played out in the movie The Matrix, because it portrays it as a play of lights and shadows with brushstrokes of surrealism.

Morpheus: I imagine that right now you’re feeling a bit like Alice. Tumbling down the rabbit hole?

Neo: You could say that.

Morpheus: I can see it in your eyes. You have the look of a man who accepts what he sees because he’s expecting to wake up. Ironically, this is not far from the truth. Do you believe in fate, Neo?

Neo: No.

Morpheus: Why not?

Neo: ‘Cause I don’t like the idea that I’m not in control of my life.

Morpheus: I know exactly what you mean. Let me tell you why you’re here. You’re here because you know something. What you know, you can’t explain. But you feel it. You felt it your entire life. That there’s something wrong with the world. You don’t know what it is, but it’s there. Like a splinter in your mind — driving you mad. It is this feeling that has brought you to me. Do you know what I’m talking about?

Neo: The Matrix?

Morpheus: Do you want to know what it is? (Neo nods his head.) Morpheus: The Matrix is everywhere, it is all around us. Even now, in this very room. You can see it when you look out your window, or when you turn on your television. You can feel it when you go to work, or when go to church or when you pay your taxes. It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth.

Neo: What truth?

Morpheus: That you are a slave, Neo. Like everyone else, you were born into bondage, born inside a prison that you cannot smell, taste, or touch. A prison for your mind. (long pause, sighs) Unfortunately, no one can be told what the Matrix is. You have to see it for yourself. This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. (In his left hand, Morpheus shows a blue pill.)

Morpheus: You take the blue pill and the story ends. You wake in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. (a red pill is shown in his other hand) You take the red pill and you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes. (Long pause; Neo begins to reach for the red pill) Remember — all I am offering is the truth, nothing more. (Neo takes the red pill and swallows it with a glass of water)

Credit to “The Matrix” written by Andy Wachowski & Larry Wachowski)

A quote from another book for consideration:

Erich Fromm, The Heart of Man: Its Genius for Good and Evil:

The longer we continue to make the wrong decisions, the more our heart hardens; the more often we make the right decisions, the more our heart softens–or better perhaps, comes alive…Most people fail at the art of living not because they are inherently bad or so without will that they cannot lead a better life; they fail because they do not wake up and see when they stand at a fork in the road and have to decide. They are not aware when life asks them a question, and when they still have alternative answers. Then with each step along the wrong road it becomes increasingly difficult for them to admit that they are on the wrong road.

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