“The surest defense against evil is extreme individualism, originality of thinking, whimsicality, even eccentricity. Evil is a sucker for solidarity. It always goes for big numbers, for confident granite, for ideological purity, for drilled armies and balance sheets.” Joseph Brodsky
I kick these words around in my mind. They invariably land on the evangelical past life from which I continue to heal, to deprogram and recover. I recall, but not accurately enough to locate it, a passage of scripture that spoke of an evil posing in the midst of those finding themselves to be so assuredly “saved”, most blessed by the divine. When I found it, decades ago, it made me shudder. I felt an already pervasive awareness of that same darkness in our culture. The conundrum of escaping its grasp kept my mind, at that time anyway, from facing the implications, the commentary on all I had been taught was true. But I did, one day, and another day by degrees, face the implications and so many things. I blame my daughter and her siblings. Happily, proudly. Their DNA coursed through my veins for years a revolution. When she was born, and then her brother, and then her sibling, so was I, each time by degrees beautifully irreversible, refusing programs, granite-like confidence and ideological righteousness.
There is nothing like the inherent innocence of precious vulnerable human lives to birth a person, to shake the notions of what evil is and is not. It is not a child.
And so, I type these words and imagine my father sneering at them. I suppose such hauntings of his barely repressed fear and hatred will inform me of how close I am to a more certain faith, one free of “the only way”ism and fear. But as children, we were treated as if the devil himself had attached to our beings and needed to be trampled any time we exhibited something soul, something will, something individual. And I now know the evil was not in the nature they sought to obliterate, but in their fear, their hatred.
And for whatever reason, today of all days I am able to write, to venture a post here and to say hello to what is no doubt a symphony of absence and crickets. But life’s brutalities and beauties call and my answer echoes back a hope, a faith, a joy washed by self-love and compassion and a keen awareness of where, yes, of all things, evil thrives. And it is not where the allegedly Christian numbers declare it or where the not so supreme court decrees. It is as Brodsky says. Evil thrives where drilled armies rule and where those gunshots echo down corridors and hallways meant to school the vulnerable. It thrives in assurances of total rightness cloaked in dependence on a savior whose presence is a projection and not a truth.
So, we can say I emerged from the place where evil thrives because I crawled out of an evangelical, cultic shit show. Every step away, every venture beyond proves to be a work of ousting that which might welcome a new version or rendition of the same old show. And so, my posts have stalled as my focus shifted on growth in the moment, life pummels, birthings and reversals all a womb, yet another womb. And here I am, grateful for salvation from the damnation posing rightness and acutely aware the work is never ever done. For the place where evil thrives is in the seeming assurance of its absence by virtue of virtue itself.
Here’s to the whimsy and eccentricity that restores the soul, that leads beside the still waters and that sets our feet to dancing.