Carol A. Hand
Is there evil in the world? As I read the news today, I ponder this question yet again when I see a picture of Scott Walker with an article about his ideas for repealing and replacing Obamacare. I’m no fan of this ill-constructed legislation that supports corporations – insurance companies that provide no health care or useful life-affirming products and drug companies that fail to heal and at best, merely anesthetize. But he’s just one face that represents the war against joy, freedom, and life. A windigo made visible?
Photo Credit: Windigo, by Ashere
Yes, I remember the colleague who once asked me the meaning of a gesture made by a former Native American friend who became an enemy. “Can you tell me what this means from a Native American perspective?,” she asked. “My partner and I gave our friend a gift, a beautiful vase made by a famous Native artist. [I can’t remember which artist these many years later.] After a disagreement, she sent us a package. Inside the package, we found the pieces of the vase we had given her. It had been pulverized. Does this have any special significance?”
She seemed sincere in her question, but her partner, also present, scowled. I decided to reply honestly. “I can’t really say what it meant in her tribal culture, but some Ojibwe people believe that objects hold the energy of the giver. Gifts from people whose actions hurt others are felt to carry bad medicine. Things that they gave or touched are disposed of or returned to the giver.”
Her partner shouted in reply. “You can’t REALLY believe that NONSENSE! You’re an EDUCATED woman!”
I decided to reply. “Yes, educated in two cultures to a certain degree. Your partner asked a question that I did my best to answer truthfully.”
But does evil exist? I always try to see the good in others and the world, but as I look around at the state of the world today, the evidence is rather compelling. Destroying other’s careers as these two women did? Killing others because you can? Because you want something they have, because you don’t like the color of their skin or where they were born? Denying them an opportunity to live, love, eat?
In my work as an advocate, I have had to stand against powerful, charismatic people who were doing harm by enticing and encouraging others to feed their own insecurities and appetites. Sometimes you create powerful enemies by taking a stand for integrity. I remember one in particular. Years passed after our battle and some of the damage she left in her wake had been healed. Who could predict our paths would cross again in the most unlikely of places – a national conference on the Queen Mary dry-docked in Long Beach, CA? We were both selected as presenters.
The workshop I presented with a colleague from Wyoming was one of the highlights of the conference. The standing-room-only audience was excited and energized. Afterwards, my colleague, his partner, and I toured the coast. Exhausted after the long day, I went to my tiny room below deck, with only a small porthole to view the harbor and shore. I fell into a deep sleep and had the most disturbing nightmare of my life.
I found myself in a dark, cavernous space. My body was covered with oozing sores and I was struggling to breathe. The guide who has spoken to me in other, more uplifting dreams, said, “This is evil.” I replied , “I don’t believe evil really exists.” Breathing became more difficult and the pain more excruciating. The guide repeated, “This is evil. You need to admit it.” “No, I can’t believe that,” I said. As I struggled to keep breathing, I knew I was dying. One final time the guide repeated, “This is evil. If you won’t face the fact that it exists, you will die.”
(My choice is obvious. I’m still here to write these memories. I don’t know if I would be had I made another choice. ) I survived and woke up in a sweat with my heart pounding as I sucked in air. It was four in the morning. I began packing, intent on getting a cab to the airport as soon as possible.
Does evil exist? I believe all of us are capable of doing incredible things, both good and bad. If the only powerful examples we have encourage us to lose hope, to doubt that kindness matters, needless suffering, death, and environmental destruction will continue to exist. Is keeping hope and kindness alive through our thoughts and actions in dark times the path of the hero’s journey that Joseph Campbell wrote about? I don’t know.
Opportunities to find deeper power within ourselves come when life seems most challenging. (Joseph Campbell)
Photo: Sending Light to the Four Directions
Living the light as best we can may not be enough, but it’s what we can choose to do.
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