“Is there a difference between yes and no? Is there a difference between good and evil? Must I fear what others fear? What nonsense! Having and not having arise together. Difficult and easy complement each other. Long and short contrast each other. High and low rest upon each other. Front and back follow one another.” ~ Lao Tzu
In light of the recent hyper-exposed horrors in our country, our yoga teacher attempted this morning to restore our faith in humanity by way of a soothing balm made up of someone else’s words. She read us a quote by a man whose name I can’t remember, and because it was a long quote, I failed to capture each and every rub of spoken sweetness, but the gist was this: humanity is more good than evil, ‘we’ (good people) outnumber ‘them’ (evil people), keep the faith, because light will always win out over darkness. Then we were asked to check this out in our bodies through our asana practice, which is a groovy way to tie together some current-event–laden-philosophy with the physical practice.
Except it didn’t feel groovy to me, something inside of me bristled at what seemed, at least to me, to be untrue.
Lao Tzu brings it home:
“Thus, those who say that they would have right without its correlate wrong; or good government without its correlate, misrule, do not apprehend the great principles of the universe, nor the nature of all creation. One might as well talk of the existence of heaven without that of Earth, or the negative principle without the positive, which is clearly impossible. Yet people keep on discussing it without stop; such people must either be fools or naves.”
I don’t mean to say that our yoga teacher was a fool, or the writer of the words she shared naïve; I believe their intention was to help us all to feel better, to shed a ray of light on the dark spaces in the collective American psyche. But I must confess, this effort to inspire lightness was lost on me, because I’m not interested in simply feeling better. I’m interested in what is true.
I’ve been paying attention to my human mind and my human emotions and all the other human stuff I’ve been gifted (or cursed) with, and it seems to me, there is no escaping the darkness, and try as I might, there simply aint no holding on to the light. I don’t know the absolute truth of things, in fact, I don’t believe I can know the truth, but it seems true that light and dark, good and evil, up and down, in and out, and all other opposites are simply two sides of one coin.
This obviously isn’t revolutionary thinking. The ancient symbol of yin and yang illustrates unity without all the bla-bla-bla-ing that inevitably takes us further away from unity. We slice and dice the whole and put it into neat piles, maybe hoping we will be able to fractionate reality enough to eventually find some organized and safe place to rest our divided minds.
What if within us there exists exactly fifty percent evil and fifty percent goodness? What if while some of us are praising god, an equal number of us are worshiping Satan? What if in existence, the energy that is neither created nor destroyed is fifty percent positive and fifty percent negative and the changing forms are measured precisely so that at any given moment there is always a perfect balance enabling the tango of opposites to continue the dirty dance of creation?
What if evil and goodness are on a spectrum like autism or bipolar disorder? Our variations are infinite, some of us murderers and some of us saints in varying degrees of sweet and sour, but when measured as a whole, the scales of humanity’s goodness and evil do not tip.
I am not all goodness. Even as I write this, my neighbors are blasting Janet Jackson circa 1980-something in their backyard from shitty speakers and I feel like hurling stones over our shared block wall. I lose my compassion on a daily basis. At work, my heart closes constantly and I cannot stop myself from thinking nasty ass thoughts about sick people. Am I evil? How evil am I? Would I ever intentionally hurt someone? I don’t think so, but how do I know? I don’t know. You don’t know this about yourself either. If given the right circumstances, maybe we could all be murderers. And if all is one, then aren’t we all at least part murderer?
How did The Holocaust happen? Obviously there are countless other tragedies that happen every moment, probably in our own neighborhoods, that we never even hear about. How do we know that good is more prominent than evil?
Do we know? Or do we tell ourselves these stories to help this messy mash-up of opposites to feel cozier? I know I sometimes do, but I’ve been witness to too much darkness by now to reject its actuality. I know when I’m carving up my world into polarized-tall-tales to palliate some fear.
What if real peace can only come from healing our minds of the split between them and us, good and evil, up and down, etc? If we want to preach oneness and unity and shit, shouldn’t we be willing to get down and dirty with all of existence? I’m not saying that we should support violence and evil, but can’t we at least accept that it happens, and maybe it happens in equal measure to non-violence and goodness, and that to deny death is to deny life? Is there more life than death? More up than down, more inee’s than outee’s? Maybe. Maybe not.
What if reality is beyond anything you can think? What if reality doesn’t actually care how you feel about good and evil? What if reality has absolutely no preference for anything at all?
What if reality thinks everything is absolutely A-OK, and loves the sinners just as much as the saints?