Is it possible to encounter so much evil that one emerges unscathed, or perhaps unchanged? I think not. The end of that road is a dark one. Always was. Always will be. The start of that road is quite bright, filled with badgers of all kinds, egging one on to become what he isn’t in order to do what they want him to do. At first, one is afraid of being inauthentic, so a true skepticism emerges to counter any reflection of becoming a different person. I’m not sure how this got started, but it really begins from the end, where I was told that all of this had changed me and I no longer carry the illusion that “they” are wrong.
This issue is never more clear than in the book, and movie of the same name, Fight Club. Without spoiling every twist, the main issue is this: our central character is giving us faulty information about a best friend who compels him to do everything, only to find out later that this man is actually the other side of his longing. And that longing is very unlike our hero. He is violent, repressive, and quite willing to reject facts in order to make the broader point. Evan after our hero realizes this friend is actually him, it is nearly too late. He is forced to unravel everything his ghost has initiated before it is too late and he discovers something about the deception: ghosts have become real.
How does this happen in our own lives?
Impossible as it may seem, I wanted to vanquish evil with the rod of justice. But what I found was something quite strange in those who claim to want Justice and Equality: A struggle for power. We used to think that issues could be solved through moral means. This included debate, empathy, and the act of listening. But now this is different. We are asked to see every problem as a structural one, leading our entire society to become pseudo-intellectuals, deniers of complexity.
What is missing? I think it is the acknowledgment of the need to solve the struggle, which can be done through many things, not just the most violent means available to us, which is power.
Not only in the red-tape infused world around me but also the struggle that none of my superiors spoke to me about, not in school nor in my job: the inner struggle.
I wanted freedom from this struggle so I attempted to throw myself into my work. Within my work, there is no such thing as a safe space for regulating ideas; the execution of listening, or the comforting slide show of puppies and frolicking children in flower beds. The work I am speaking of is the imbued with weighty cosmic significance, capable of leveling dictators and lifting the poor: work as a minister of the church. But no, what I found is that even those who seemed the most thoughtful were just as incapable of realizing this simple truth: ideas have people.
Our hero from Fight Club tried to deny his longing through consumerism. It wasn’t enough. The ghosts came for him anyway. And if we don’t deal with our own ghosts who seek to rule the world through us, they will deal with us.
My favorite writer (dead or alive), so far, is Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. His non-fiction and fiction books on the Gulag are some of the best books I have ever read, perhaps only second to the Bible. (Although I could see how some might be tempted to put it on the same shelf of their holy scriptures!) What he investigates in tyrannical cultures is that ideological leaders are always fighting a spiritual enemy that is nothing more than a ghost, because they ultimately seek the control that they so fear losing. And the fighting of these ghosts inevitably turns the person into the harrowing people that free people begin to fear.
We need the facts, otherwise we will find ourselves swinging out ghosts. And ghost become people. So, in this rather short exhortation, I would say be careful and listen before you act. You may kill the world and not even realize it until it is too late. Face the truth of where you are at or be destroyed by your own hand.