It's not the presence of evil that bothers me. I'm equipped, through years of philosophical and theological training, to understand, at least on a conceptual level, why evil exists. I never ask myself - as I read headlines of horror, as I watch movies that depict it, as I read novels that dive deeper into human heart than is comfortable - why the world is like this, why people hurt each other, why God doesn't intervene. Those aren't the questions with which I wrestle since I consider them answered, resolved. No, instead, it's my experience of evil, even from afar, that plagues me, that turns my stomach, that keeps me up. I feel it. Either through some newly developing sense of sympathy and empathy, of through a more now more keenly felt awareness that I, even I, participate in these structures of evil, I feel the consequences of evil, the dear human cost, the suffering... I feel it more these days then I ever have before. Sometimes, like just recently when I watched the movie Taken, an overwhelming sorrow comes over me and I'm moved to tears. That movie isn't a great movie. It isn't particularly well directed or acted. But it deals with a subject matter - young girls being kidnapped, turned into prostitutes, and sold like merchandise to the highest bidder - that, I'm finding, I am calibrated to be devastated by. I watched that movie several weeks ago and there is still one image, the image of a young girl standing in glass room, terrified, while calm but depraved businessmen casually bid on her... bid for the privilige of destroying her... I can't shake it, this image. It haunts me; it haunts me more than an image from a movie this B-grade should... but I guess the filmmakers, probably unintentionally, stumbled upon something more powerful then their clumsy hands could handle.
A while ago I heard a story about young Muslim women being targetted and raped, only to have another older woman come up to them later and, under the pretext of help, encourage these poor girls to strap bombs onto themselves in order to recover the honor that had been raped away from them... How do you live in the same world as this? I heard this and nearly wept. I could hardly talk. Even a year ago, my reaction to story like this wouldn't have been so visceral. I would have still recognized the evil here, recognized the terrible logic of hell, but I wouldn't have been moved to tears.
But lately any story, fictional or factual, that involves rape or murder leaves me feeling hollow and helpless. Each victim in those cases - the raped girl, the family of the murder victim - they have all had their lives, their worlds, devestated. And I can imagine their pain... with empathy run wild, I can feel it. This isn't something mysterious that I'm describing. This isn't the synopsis of some latest supernatural thriller feeling others' pain and helping them. It's basic human identification, perhaps only amplified now, for some reason. I'm not sure why this is, why this has developed in me now. Perhaps it is the weight of reading that hangs over me now; perhaps it is something built into me. Perhaps I'm growing into a sensitivity I never expected... or sought.
What I'm writting right now, this novel or story or whatever that I mentioned in my last post and which I am right now, at this very rough stage, calling The Execution, is an attempt to resolve some of these feelings. Not do away with them, but place them in a context that is manageable and, more importantly, that does not dull or belittle the human condition, as so many depictions of evil do. It is an explicitly Christian story, something I never thought I'd write. Hopefully I'll have more to say on it soon - I may even have a draft in a month or two -but right now it is only a collection of images onto which I'm working to impose a narrative, or at least enough structure to make it intelligible. What I will say about it is this: the story is about two people, David and Alee, a young husband and wife, who because of their faith are tortured and eventually murdered by an evil State as part of what's called "The Demonstration," a show of will and power meant to make obvious faith's futility. This execution, however, which should by this time in the story's fiction have been rather ruitine matter, becomes the focus of a struggle, both visible and not, between good and evil. The terms of victory sought by this State and by the persecuted Christian remnant are, however, very different.
So that's what I've been thinking about and doing lately.