Plain in the city

A plain Quaker folk singer with a Juris Doctorate in his back pocket, salt in his blood, and a set of currach oars in the closet, Ulleann Pipes under his arm, guitar on his back, Anglo Irish baggage, wandering through New York City ... in constant amaze. Statement of Faithfulness. As a member of the Quaker Bloggers Ad Hoc Committee I affirm that I will be faithful to the Book of Discipline of my Meeting 15th Street Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Evil and Being and Hannah Arendt

We so easily use the term evil, even we Quakers for those who do harm and hurt... I have been searching for Aquinas' description of Evil as a void... and could not find it... try as I may, remembering it from a course on Aquinas I took from a Jesuit professor of Political Science. Perhaps that is where I remember it from. I fell back into the warmth of Hannah Arendt's mind the other day, and oh what a lovely bower that is. I found Aquinas on evil there, maybe that is where I first came to that wonderful notion... so Arendt on Aquinas...

From The Life of the Mind, Vol. 2 page 118
"'As much as [a man] has of Being, so much has he of goodness, while so far as something is lacking in the fullness of [his] Being, so far does this fall short of goodness and is said to be evil.'
No being, insofar as it is, can be said to be evil, 'but only insofar as it lacks Being' ...
Evil is not a principle as it is a sheer absence, and absence can be stated 'in privative and in a negative sense. Absence of good, taken negatively, is not evil... for instance, if a man lacks the swiftness of the horse; evil is the absence where something is deprived of a good that belongs to it essentially - for example, the blind man, who is deprived of sight. Because of its privative character, absolute or radical evil cannot exist. No evil exists in which one can detect 'the total absence of good.' For 'if the wholly evil could be, it would destroy itself.

So these neo-coms, those contentious Friends, all who seem intent on "Evil" who we call evil with such ease... I am going to dive back into her work on Eichmann, the concept of the banality of evil... for, as I see it, Jesus in telling us to look inside and expose those things that we must in order to live... what Rilke says in facing the dragons to find princesses, all these things are about openness and courage and completion. Break open the fears inside, stand on the truth that is honesty, because we cannot come to terms with the absences in our souls if we deny them to ourselves.
It is too define a thing, a person, as evil and shun them, in do doing, we often overlook the holes in our own hearts.

Without honest introspection, and open trusting sharing and clearness to come to reality checks, we also do not come to terms with the frameworks of our limitations or differentness. Many of my friends and I have ADHD. We all try to some extent to fit into a world not of our "norms", some don't try as much as others, some try and succeed well, others medicate down to an approximation of the 'norm". However, we keep that struggle hidden, it empowers the "normal" hegemony to demand a one size fits all normality.

Taken to other natural limitations, the blind would be evil for their natural limitations of sight, we would expect those with injuries to keep up or be abandoned, but a middle ground should be struck. One does not abandon the member of the tribe with the compound fracture, as I often am fond of quoting Robert Leaky on empathy *, but at the same time, we should not allow those who do not try in the least to accommodate their differences or injuries to keep us all from moving. We, as Quakers help each other. That is the simple, direct formula of do unto others... the golden rule.

* Richard Leaky, the son of Mary and Louise, was born into archeology, searching for what defined the point at which hominids became human.... after loosing his legs in a plane crash, he realized it was the point at which he found compound fractures healed, where the troop disadvantaged itself for the injured member, because of empathy. He then became a Socialist politician - the politics of empathy.


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