“We would prefer to say that such people cannot exist, that there aren’t any,” writes Solzhenitsyn. “To do evil a human being must first of all believe that what he’s doing is good, or else that it’s a well-considered act in conformity with natural law.”
I’ve been thinking about evil lately or to be more accurate bad. The bad things we do to each other. The crimes we commit, the betrayals, the lies, the slanders, the adultery, the treachery and backstabbing, the torment we visit on each other, the pain we pay forward. All the things that have marked us all as irrevocably human.
One of my favourite bible verses is Romans 3:23 “we all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of god.” This is both aesthetically- the alliteration, the remembrance we all have that sin is associated with fall- and also because of its pithiness- this is a verse that puts us all together in want. Want of grace, want of perfection, want of glory. It speaks to the very essence of what it means to be human. To fall and to fail. It is a mirror of that other perfect verse
“Let he without sin cast the first stone.” Again the alliteration. The pithiness. The remembrance that we are all the same. That none of us has failed to fail. That all of us have failed miserably falling with nothing to hold on to but the grace that comes to us because of forgiveness. You don’t even have to believe in god to believe in this kind of grace, to admire the beauty that is promised to those who forgive, to have experienced the redemptive possibilities of being forgiven. A drowning man gasping air as he breaks the surface must surely feel physically as we all do mentally when we are forgiven. That act, small and seemingly insignificant can cast light on a soul drowning in darkness.
Alexander Pope wrote that “to err is human to forgive divine.” This was a man who had swallowed the lessons that the bible tried to teach us whole. Giving back a line that takes its place easily amongst those that have gone before. In our hearts we can feel the truth of this line. We know that true forgiveness is what marks a god, maybe it is even more important than love because all the forms of love we have felt in the world are imperfect. The love we ascribe to the gods we worship is as flawed and self-centred as the love we give each other. It is dependent on a return. It needs worship, acknowledgement, constant praise. This, I believe is because we as humans need this too. We cannot imagine that there exists a love that can be spit upon and shunned, turn away and harmed and yet still stays strong to what it is: love. For billions of us their idea of perfect love consists of the one doing the loving banishing any who do not return that love to an eternity of suffering. What more proof could we ever need that we crafted the gods in our own image and in doing so made them small, made them petty, made them human, made them fall short of the glory of god than the concept of hell?
“What nonsense you talk! Upon my word, there is nothing in the world so easy to explain as failure – it is, after all, what everybody does all the time.” Wrote Sussanah Clarke.
There have been a series of epic fails in Kenya. Brother Ocholla promising orgasms in a whatsapp group devoted to prayer. Dj crème de la crème who was a relatively well known dj who burst into real fame due to the leaking of a sex . It sucks that he has a wife and two kids. It’s painful that he committed adultery in such an open manner, if it was adultery. What he did was wrong. The alleged adultery, the taping, the fact that he was so careless with his digital evidence. The pain he caused, the humiliation he brought on his wife, the lack of respect he bore to the mother of his children. All these things are bad. These things are horrible and I don’t mean to suggest that what he did wasn’t wrong and that it wasn’t bad and that it wasn’t nearly evil.
I mean to suggest that he was weak. That the thing that dogged and afflicted him was the thing that dogs and afflicts all of us. A flaw in the design. A dent in the form. He was tempted and found wanting. That is all that happened. He deserves to be vilified both as a retributive measure to him personally and a deterrent to all other men and women. This cannot be denied.
It can also not be denied that all he did was fail. There is something that people say all the time that I find particular issue with “you would never hurt somebody you love.” This is spoken as a statement of fact. It is said to end an argument not to begin it when there could be nothing more false than this statement. I immediately wonder if these people have ever loved. If they have ever been loved, read about love, heard songs about love, being told stories about love. Because, if they have they know they are lying. There is a selective amnesia that goes into making a statement such as this.
Either that or I am an evil human being. There was never a person who I loved who I did not hurt. There was never a person who loved me who did not hurt me. I think about the small slights served on me and the real hurt that I have caused my parents. The pain that they should not have to bear and that they did because they had a son who was me. Who fucked up regularly and spectacularly and… I’m not even such a bad son to be honest.
Love hurts. We hurt the people who love us. They hurt us. It is because love is tied up in vulnerability. You give yourself to another person and they drop the ball because they are human. I understand that a lot of people say that infidelity goes to the core of what a romantic relationship is about-that it rips the soul out of it and that nothing can work after that. It is of course debatable whether or not infidelity is the most important thing a romantic relationship- there are numerous other betrayals that can be occasioned. This one though is seen as the worst. The doom. The ultimate betrayal.
If we can be honest with ourselves we have ultimately betrayed a lot of the relationships in our lives. There are friendships whose trust we crushed, sibling relationships that we played with more than we should and there is all the pain and heartache, the worry and turmoil that we served on our parents. Each of us. And the things they did to us, each of us. And the truth that we got past each of these things. That the ultimate betrayal is just another obstacle that we can pass through. That what we imagine to be the ultimate betrayal so rarely is. Infidelity is bad but it’s not the worst thing that can happen. Constant failure despite numerous chances given to a child is bad but it’s not the worst thing. The worst things are whispered about and they are much, much worse.
Judas gave up Jesus for the dead and we are told Jesus died for him too. Brutus stabbed Julius and Julius wrapped his toga around his head unable to live in a world where such betrayal is possible. The worst thing, as it always does includes a dead body.
I wonder about how rock-steady marriage is if people don’t make space for forgiveness in it. If people don’t think that there are flaws, if people don’t accept the inevitability of failure. I feel really bad for the dj’s wife. She did not deserve this. I feel bad for the dj. His fault was that he had a fault.