The World is “Dark, Selfish, and Cruel.”

The World is “Dark, Selfish, and Cruel.” March 16, 2014

by Lana Hope cross posted from her blog Wide Open Ground

I watch Tangled on TV at McDonalds this afternoon. I was supposed to be reading Paul Ricoeur (I had it on the table), but this is the time in the semester when I already have term papers semi-planned out, when our grad seminars are almost finished (they finish April 2nd), and when one more book is just not important enough to study with detail. (In case any professors see this, I am reading the book; but my brain is on overload, and I’m not going through and making 50 pages of notes on it like I normally do.)

I love the movie because each time I discover something new, but this time in particular I saw it differently because the movie was without sound. I had to read it.

The witch mother says the world is “dark, selfish and cruel” and Rapunzel says she is free at last. This tension between the dark and freedom is nicely played out.

And we can’t say that the cruel, dark, and selfish aspect is imaginary. The witch mom is not the only problem. Flynn and Rapunzel almost die at the bottom of the water. The thieves try to turn them in. Rapunzel deals with agony within her own soul, and she gets hurt.

But there’s freedom too. There’s joys. There’s the lanturns. There’s new friendships, and thieves turning their lives around. At the end, there’s a celebration with the whole community.

It’s been pointed out many times, and I’ve written about this out as well, that Rapunzel represents the homeshooler who was hid from the outside world. But I think Rapunzel also represents us all because we wrestle between greater freedom and between staying hidden.

We run from pain, we change our circumstances, we move, we slowly learn to back away from toxic relationship and parents, but there’s always that struggle with the demons inside that make freedom less free than it could be. But it’s that very struggle that makes the lanturns all the more beautiful when we keep on the path anyway. Rapunzel did it. She stepped out of the tower. She did it!

Last year I realized that I can’t imagine a world without any evil. And I’m glad for it.

I hiked down the grand canyon. I’ve done 10+ mile mountain hikes before, but this was the harder on me because I was not used to the dry heat (I’ve always lived in humid climates). But every step I took even when darkness was catching upon us, I said, “I’m glad this is hard.”

The struggle, mentally, physically, spiritually is what gets me up in the morning. If grad school was not challenging, I’d stay in bed. If I had no internal battle, I would not appreciate how far I’ve come.

But there’s a problem. In order for God to let me hurt myself, other people have freedom too. And that means that we hurt each other.

I think one reason theodicies get a bad reputation is that people falsely assume that a theodicy explains all evils. It doesn’t. It explains some evils. But it explains enough evils that mostly I’m glad that this world was designed with free will.

Comments open below

Read everything by Lana Hope!

Lana Hope was homeschooled 1st-12th grade in a small town and rural culture. Involved in ATI, her life growing up was gendered, sheltered, and with a lot of shame and rules in disguise of Biblical principles and character qualities. After college Lana moved to SE Asia and began working with the abused, and upon discovering that the large world is not at all like she had been taught, she finally questioned it all, from Calvinism to the homeschool movement to the foundation of her Christian faith. Today Lana is a Christian Universalist, holds a B.A. in English, and is currently working on a M.A. in philosophy.  She blogs about the struggles she has faced leaving fundamentalism and homeschooling behind and how travel and missions has wrecked her life for good and bad at her blog www.wideopenground.com.

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  • Nea

    Last year I realized that I can’t imagine a world without any evil. And I’m glad for it.

    And I am heartbrokenly sad for you, because being glad that there is evil to overcome is pretty much the same as saying “do nothing about it.” As if conquering one evil would make the world a lesser place instead of a better one. As if it’s only possible to strive and learn against evil instead of value-neutral concepts like “pick something challenging and challenge yourself to do it.”

    Christians keep telling me atheism = nihilism. But it’s not atheism that says “the world is what the world is and it should never be changed.”

  • lodrelhai

    So much this. Lana seems to equate “evil” with “challenging;” the examples she gives point this out clearly. A hike in dry heat is not evil. Hard school courses are not evil. Self-improvement is not evil, though I suppose some of the things we try to improve about ourselves might be. Someone who has hurtfully manipulated others for their own enjoyment and is trying to change could be considered to be struggling against evil. Someone working out twice a week because they want to be more fit and enjoy the exercise is not.

    I’ve been told before that we only know what good is because there is evil, and that if the evils we know didn’t exist then the worst of the good things would be what we call evil instead. I don’t buy it. The idea that good and evil are only relevant on a comparative scale would mean the mother who screams at her kids daily about how worthless they are is doing good, because she doesn’t beat them the way her mother did her. It means the young man who romances and manipulates his dates with false promises of forever, then dumps them once he’s bored, is doing good because he’s not just slipping them a roofie and taking what he wants.

    I know that many things we now consider to be wrong or evil were perfectly acceptable 100 or 50 or even 20 years ago, or even right now in other places, but that doesn’t make those people and societies right. It makes them ignorant and hurtful, and still growing – and yes, when they actively fight against changes that will improve life for others because it means those people will no longer be scapegoats and punching bags, evil.

    I know a world without evil – actual purposeful evil – is probably impossible; nevermind a world without misfortunes that are nobody’s fault but still cause suffering. But just because we can struggle to rise out of the mire is not a reason to be glad it’s there to drag at us.

  • tulips

    I think I see what you’re getting at here…if I narrow the context sufficiently. People who try to create a utopia of oppression and coming to grips with the real world relationship between freedom and risk.