The Lesser Evil: How Have We Come to This?
I was harboring and cradling many questions in preparation for a talk I had to deliver to Buddhists, when my mom and my niece decided we would watch Skyfall.
Amazingly, I completed the framework for my talk while watching Javier Bardem’s character, Silva, tell the story of rats on an island infesting coconuts — soon they were baited, trapped, and starved until they ate one another. When only two were left, they were freed; but now with a hunger for rats and no taste for coconuts, so any rat that came on the island could be hunted by them as they hunt each other.
The very nature of those two rats was changed after being trapped in that situation. Once they were freed, they lacked the consciousness to go back to their true nature.
Zoom out and you can see how we have come to a point in our history where we have been trapped in a particular set of options, usually between two evils, and we wrack our brains thinking a lesser evil exists. This is more pronounced during elections when the platforms of two candidates don’t seem to differ much in terms of creating real changes in the ways that people value and evaluate our human condition.
“Despite all my rage, I’m still just a rat in a cage.” ~ Smashing Pumpkins, Bullet with Butterfly Wings
Often, politicians will peddle existing so-called freedoms by touting choices they have created — we need to break our chains and tear our blindfolds off to see the destructive systems at work that have trained us to compartmentalize injustices and create false priorities among the wrongs in our midst.
Should I fund women’s rights or rights to education or anti-hunger initiatives or the rights of LGBT people to marry? What is not right is when the answer seems easily made based on priorities, urgency, accessibility, integrity of funds, etc. Right there, the spirit of rightness got lost in our delightfully familiar boxes.
“The intelligent person sees with the heart
the result from the beginning;
the one lacking in knowledge
only discovers it at the end.” ~ Rumi
There is a lack of fairness all around which stems from the lack of clarity and love, where the world today rewards focus (which means there are blinders) and assessing things impersonally to let the mind stay in the rules of the game, rather than to question why we are playing the game anyway.
We do not reveal ourselves to one another, our deepest hopes, fears, aspirations, and longings. We play along within the choices in our traps. It’s like we have been given the dice and we study the probability certain dice combinations will come up, and then learning the skill of chance, we create a better shot at our preferred outcomes. But we could have questioned why 12 is the maximum we can get, why not 100 or a 1000 or 1 million or infinity or a scenario that cannot be confined to a number.
“Our lives are not our own.
We are bound to others, past and present,
and by each crime and every kindness,
we birth our future.” ~ David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas
In this Harvard lecture, students were posed a series of moral dilemmas and surprisingly many students chose killing one for the sake of many. But their moral basis were unclear to them. Their moral decisions are no different from the hard-hearted violent revolutionaries whose ends justify their means.
“What does it matter to the dead, the orphans,
and the homeless whether the mad destruction
is wrought under the name of totalitarianism
or the holy name of liberty or democracy?” ~ Gandhi
His present has been birthed by myopic decisions that have been based on categories or fundamentals or dogma or preservation of power dynamics far removed from considerations like, “Will this keep people loving each other?” “Will this help them see each other?’”“Will they learn respect and take care of each other?” “Will they know how to preserve their hearts from hardening and embrace pains and disappointments with hope?”
Our ability to be creative must come with a lot of maladjustment to the social constructs setting us up for hate, for rivalry, for shortsighted ego, for power hunger.
Let us not be those rats trained to overpower and devour the other. We need to transcend our reality and our truth, to see what’s going on behind the forces that propel us to act. Let us question our assumption — why we hate being in the same breath as another, why we are love-resistant, why are get angry at the ignorant, and why we cloud our discernment with categorical judgments.
Let us be fluid and be love.
Let us forge our questions with one another, build our hopes on one another’s failures, and never compromise joy in doing so. And never fear being ordinary. Never fear desire. Never fear dreaming. Never fear pain. To stop only at exhaustion when the winds of wisdom refreshes our soul.
“Never sacrifice joy.” ~ Arianne Joy Olegario, Inner Dance Practitioner
We create a better world by our values and what we think about when we are making decisions.
“A work of art is above all an adventure of the mind.” ~Eugene Ionesco