Evil’s Share

Johann Heinrich FussliIt has been said that one of the most effective means by which evil can have its way is to convince us that we are too abominable to love. It’s not a bad tactic. When our faults are catalogued back to us, the inventory is hair-raising and earth-shattering.

This is one of the methods attributed to demons, unsurprisingly; they shock the conscious self through the exposition of things it knows but won’t look at, has suspected but never acknowledged. This takes the self to a place from which it is loath to return. Amazed at the true level of its depravity, it exacts a self-imposed exile and seeks its own annihilation.

And yet, for all of the destructiveness wrought by the demonic motive, there is something searching about it as well—a hunger perversely akin to the longing of those who seek a better end. Evil desires its level, but can only destroy it in the attainment. A famous literary work supplies the example. [Read more…]

The Lone Ranger’s Easter Narrative

"THE LONE RANGER" Ph: Peter Mountain ©Disney Enterprises, Inc. and Jerry Bruckheimer Inc. All Rights Reserved.

His back to us and to the camera, the hero walks silently away. His work in this particular community is done. He has restored the community to its better self.

This is the closing image of the classic 1947 film The Bishop’s Wife, which I watched recently. Cary Grant as the angel Dudley—sent to guide the bishop away from his egotistical ways and back into the arms of his neglected wife—has effected this conversion not only in the bishop but in other characters as well.

And as I watched Dudley walk away from us and from the community where he has intervened for the good, I suddenly thought: I’ve seen this scene before. My husband and I are on a kick of viewing 1940s and 1950s Westerns, which often end this way (though the departing hero might be on horseback rather than walking). [Read more…]

What Happened to Fun?

slumber partyI was so good, and for such a long time, two weeks at least of decent work and adherence to my schedule. Two weeks of self control, discipline, and a rule—twenty minutes of prayer, ten of spiritual reading, thirty of new writing, one to two hours of old writing and editing, fifteen of cleaning and picking up, with the rest of the afternoon devoted to planning and executing dinner.

Evenings are entirely for the children from two-thirty to ten. Exercise after the kids are in bed, go to sleep at a reasonable hour (sometime before midnight), and I felt so satisfied, was coming to such a place of peace with my life and what I’m doing with it.

And then I took a day off, if you could call it that. It was a Saturday. I refused laundry and dishes and meaningful work, because I was spending time with the kids, see, going to soccer games and helping them visit their friends, and otherwise resting and waiting and falling deeper and deeper into a pit of unquenchable longing.

This happens sometimes. I can almost predict it—though I never bother to try—when I have been unbalanced in my affairs, often, ironically, while attempting to live a life of balance. Evil can only fill a void, the spiritual teachers say. There’s no time for misbehaving when I’m living a full life, but there’s also no time for fun, and I miss play.

By play I mean something primal and social, but not exactly childish. It’s a matter of improvisation in the company of like-minded people, inhibition set aside, a bit more physical than ordinary conversation, with a hint of practical joke or slapstick, and it involves guttural laughter. [Read more…]

The Art of Evil

OthelloSeeing a fine production of Othello recently has got me thinking about the art of evil, a fitting topic for Lent. And, yes, that pun in “art” is intended.The creativity of Iago’s evil machinations is the force driving Othello’s plot; and art in general—in all its genres—often portrays how evil works in our world.

I hadn’t seen or read Othello in decades, and I’d forgotten how much it is Iago’s play.

[Read more…]

Conscience: An Epitaph

Lucian Freud, Reflection (Self-portrait), 1985.

Time melts as it’s made, said Anthony Burgess. Each moment is both increase and surcease, the tip of the fountain, bubbling, collapsing—itself upon itself—at once always there and then never there at all. Like ice in a country made of steam, it lives and dies in the rift.

Wrapped within our youth, we do not see this, or if we do, it is of no consequence. We purchase the perjury of our stature and trust the deceit of our mass. We weigh ourselves, take our measure, and assume our heft and reach too great for a world so flat. In our young fancies, we are the stuff of marble, and cannot feel time’s rain wear upon us, both outside and in.

We would not care about time at all but for what it does. And what it does is always a shock. For in spite of what we believe of ourselves, one inauspicious morning, or one historic dusk, without notice, the cold, flat mirror resolves to house a stranger—an unwanted guest that will not leave, that lingers like a bad taste, intruding in pools of water, in store-front reflections, and in the sheen of another’s eye. [Read more…]


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