Monday, October 09, 2006


Pretty Lady just went on a Plant-Buying Binge. She knows this is completely irrational, winter being on its way and all. But on the other hand, winter being on its way and all, the trees in the park will be leafless, and thus producing almost no O2 with which to recharge her lungs and spirit. So perhaps it was not so irrational to bring home two African violets (to replace the ones that withered from old age and overwatering), a cyclamen, a bromeliad (the house-sitter DID succeed in killing the old one), an orchid, two ivies (every bit of the habanera helix died, and no other can be found! Tragedy!), a low-light purple-leafed thing, a miniature fern, and a miniature rose.

(Looking at the list, now, it DOES seem a bit excessive. Particularly as most of the windowsills were already jammed. The Cereus alone threatens to start swallowing cats.)

Hmph. Enough of that.


Lovely k poses a Deep Question:

Now I'll take some time to contemplate whether that pure soul is separable from the bad behavior committed by the self-same owner of that soul. Is it still a perfect one? Or is it true, sometimes, that the damage is incorporated within it? If so - irreparably?
Now you've gone and done it. Gotten Pretty Lady going on the Problem of Evil. We could be here all day.

Pretty Lady, from time to time, is suspected of Pollyanna tendencies. Worse, she is frequently perceived as being a wishy-washy pushover, uncertain of her values, possibly even Soft On Crime. Definitely, she has been accused of being Friends with Bane, which ought to be enough to get her committed. She is not sure, truthfully, whether Bane has any friends; Pretty Lady merely considers herself an occasional Bane Appreciator.

Nevertheless, in support of Bane and millions like him (Bane needs no defense; Bane is defense personified), Pretty Lady will point, vaguely, toward the classic Star Trek episode of the Two Captain Kirks.

(She points thus vaguely because she has not actually viewed this immortal episode, not being a geek, a nerd, a latchkey kid, or having had access to Channel 39 as a preteen.) HOWEVER, she is given to understand, by many nerds of her intimate acquaintance, that the essence of the episode is that Captain Kirk somehow gets himself split, into the Good Kirk and the Bad Kirk. The Good Kirk is all Good, except that he is completely passive and namby-pamby. He sits around dithering like Hamlet while the Bad Kirk charges around doing Bad Things.

Somehow, Pretty Lady assumes, he gets himself put back together again, and the moral of the story is that the Good and the Bad are inextricably intertwined to make a whole person capable of acting in the world, yah duh yah duh. Deep, but not infinitely so.


Friends, you may find this hard to believe, but at times in her youth, Pretty Lady could be an Arrogant Asshole. She referred to her compatriots on this mortal coil, frequently and casually, as 'stupid.' She went swanning into PHL 610Q class, flounced down in the front row, and engaged the professor in confidential conversation, while disdainfully ignoring pipings-up from lesser swine. She agreed without blinking when an intimate of hers declared, 'Our group is the Intellectual Core of the U.'

It honestly never occurred to her that other people might find this sort of thing a wee bit annoying. She got her comeuppances, of course. These were many and varied, and form no part of the current line of questioning.

The things Pretty Lady has noticed about herself, over time, however, are: 1) her flaws come from the same source as her strengths, and 2) that each comeuppance has taught her a greater measure of compassion for others. By extension and extrapolation, she tends to assume that this is true for most of us. Every time we 'misbehave,' every sin we commit, is another chance to learn, another way for God to get His hooks into us and draw out our latent potential.

Which is why, much of the time, Pretty Lady doesn't mind hanging with a sinner. And which is why, whimsically, she will often state that we are all perfect in our imperfections, and that paradoxically, we are becoming more perfect every day.


HOWEVER. Pretty Lady must bifurcate this discussion by encouraging each and every one of you to read Scotty Peck's bastard book, 'People of the Lie: The Hope for Healing Human Evil'. It is most disturbing, and when you have read it, you will nevermore think that Pretty Lady denies the existence of evil.

Dear Scotty writes:
' is necessary that we first draw the distinction between evil and ordinary sin. It is not their sins per se that characterize evil people, rather it is the subtlety and persistence and consistency of their sins. This is because the central defect of the evil is not the sin but the refusal to acknowledge it.'
Well! Nobody can accuse dear Bane of THAT.
We come now to a sort of paradox. I have said that evil people feel themselves to be perfect. At the same time, however, I think they have an unacknowledged sense of their own evil nature....The essential component of evil is not the absence of a sense of sin or imperfection but the unwillingness to tolerate that sense. At one and the same time, the evil are aware of their evil and desperately trying to avoid the awareness...Evil originates not in the absence of guilt but in the effort to escape it.
Escape one's conscience, perhaps? The little voice that says, 'maybe it isn't such a good idea to do that?' The voice of God in one's ear?

So perhaps, then, the source of evil is not sin, but the denial of God. It is an active, wilful refusal to accept the nature of God in oneself. A desire to operate independently of Him, if you will.


All this is mere speculation. As Pretty Lady's wise, wise sister just asked her, 'Does it matter? Does it matter if you diagnose people as 'evil,' or merely 'sinners'?"

Pretty Lady doesn't know. All she knows is that when one gets caught up in questions of 'who sinned what sin when,' things get very ugly very quickly. And since we are all sinners anyway, it seems rather pointless.

But when one recognizes a pattern, in persons or in governments, of repeatedly performing negative actions and then not owning up to them, of lies, silly little lies, over and over and over, that is when Pretty Lady says: watch out. She doesn't know what to do about it. Just watch out.


Anonymous said...

oooooooo..another plant lover. The African violets may prove to be the best choice. They thrive on neglect; let them go real dry then water them like a flood. I have had far less success with ferns and ivies (but love them). We have GIANT Coleus on the porch right now (blooming purple still). It will soon be time to move it and it's companion Aspargus ferns into the house for the winter. I hope my orchids bloom again soon; they cheer me up so much. But I fear my plant tender (my mother-in-law lives me with me) doesn't understand the instructions I leave on their care, and so she tends to do things that aren't helpful (e.g. put little do-dad decorations of dolphins etc. in with them! Sigh...the things we do for love....).

As far as evil versus sinners go - I tend to stick to the basics. Judge not lest you be judged. I may have preferences as to my companions and tastes in close friends. I actually enjoy discussions speculating on motives and incentives to behave in strange ways. But it's far too easy to become what I dislike or disdain for me to engage in a lot of speculation about the ultimate destiny of another's soul. As someone I admire is reported to have said "Remove the plank in your own eye before going after the splinter in the eyes of anyone else!" Meaning, when I get to the point where I am perfect, THEN (and only then) do I have any right to try to get someone else to be perfect.... And if I ever by any means achieve that level of perfection, something tells me that the desire to reform other people will simply disappear. That same someone usually hung out with far more sinners then He did with the learned and holy people of His time; so I try to do the same! LOL.

Pretty Lady said...

But it's far too easy to become what I dislike or disdain for me to engage in a lot of speculation about the ultimate destiny of another's soul.

Exactly. I agree with you one hundred percent; that's why speculating on the nature of evil seems to be one of my own sins. However I was pondering it a lot yesterday, and wanted to put it out there to see if anyone else had any feedback.

M. Scott Peck's first sentence in that book, actually, is "This is a dangerous book." His reasons for starting it that way are exactly what you describe. He wrote it because he believes that naming something may be an essential step toward healing it; I tend to agree, on some days.

k said...

Your plants are Just Right. So is the picture of the roses below. Everything about them is beautiful: the roses themselves, their arrangement, the background, the photo.

There's something so...hopeful, quixotic almost, about growing such beauty in such an urban environment.

I now have another two books to add to my list: the Scott Peck I've been meaning to read for years now, and the other one I've never heard of, but sounds intriguing.

I do have some feedback speculations of my own, and as often happens with me, they far outgrew *comment* size and morphed themselves into a post. So if you don't mind, they should be showing up shortly, but over at my own house instead.

Pretty Lady said...

k! I'm waiting! I'm waiting!

Scott Peck is generally a rapid and enjoyable read, and he integrates a Christian perspective with the concerns of modern society better than anyone else I've ever read. Every one of his books has given me an easily digestible but profound way of looking at the world around me. I highly, highly recommend him.

Flicka Spumoni said...

My favorite truism from that book is: Where there is confusion there are lies.

When I find myself baffled and perplexed within the context of conflict resolution I know someone is not coughing up the truth, the whole truth and nothing but. Once I give voice to my convcition, namely that someone is lying, I'm usually able to pull out a skunk before long.

Anonymous said...

I really need to find some of Mr. Peck's writings, it appears. I did not used to be so concerned with THE TRUTH, but I have always been concerned about all things spirtual. And now as I am older, I realize how closely alligned (or exactly the same) truth and spirit usually are. But good luck with finding the truth.

This morning, at an office staff meeting, I made the casual comment that as a way to combat the mean hatefilled actions/behaviors surrounding us, I wished more people could at least put forth more effort to at least agree on the facts; argue over opinions, objectives, motives, behaviors, meanings, etc. But can we at least start out with a set of facts that is the same? Apparently not.

One of my co-workers (a highly educated older woman who considers herself to be deeply spiritual and who loves taking her solo vacations to the Middle East) informed us all that the facts were not always the same?! Excuse me, I said; do you mean that we could not all agree that the thing we sit on is called a chair by those who speak English? She didn't think so. I kid you not.

Thus, I think I begin to see the problem; people alternative realities!!!!! No wonder truth, peace and love are so ellusive!!

Pretty Lady said...

Terrymum, your co-worker sounds...well, overly literal in an obstructive sort of way, is how it appears from this brief exchange. This is the sort of conversation that is appropriate late in the evening at a most excellent dinner party, not in conflict-resolution discussions in an office. I might agree with her in certain contexts, but that statement in that context is going Way Too Far.

Flicka--yes indeed! When I feel myself becoming confused, that is a Red Flag. I have had excellent results with the phrase, "I don't quite understand what you're saying...". If the person's intentions are honest, and they are reasonably bright, they will almost always respond with a direct statement that clarifies their perspective and moves the discussion forward.

If, however, the person continues to ramble confusingly, switching tacks and spewing disconnected justifications, they are either mildly mentally ill, or lying about something. Or both, of course.

k said...

Well! Where to begin, when contemplating the nature of evil, and that of sin vs. evil? Then Terrymum got me all curious and distracted about the nature of truth, and applying the concept of right vs. wrong in *real life*. About things like judgement.

And as I am, at times, an annoyingly goal-oriented person, I thought I'd better start by providing some idea of how I go about analyzing acts of right and wrong in specific real-life incidents.

Then, after merrily pontificating away at such great length that I decided I'd better say, "The End," I realized I'd said not word one about Evil.

I don't look at those concepts the way most of us are accustomed to. So, it's probably for the best that I started from the beginning.

FWIW, that much is there.

The rest will follow, sometime. Slowly, I'm sure, since I spend much of my life asleep.

But it sure was a satisfying exercise. Thank you for the inspiration to take the time to get what I think down what do we call this stuff again?

k said...

excuse please! forgot to give the link:

Anonymous said...

Terrymum, maybe your co-worker was afraid that "facts" would be used against her.

When people get obtuse and philosophical in response to a simple, rational proposal, they are often feeling threatened. (Defensiveness is also, often, why people lie.) Whether they "ought" to feel threatened is pretty much irrelevant; you have to work with them where they are.

Some dastardly people use "facts" to bludgeon others into "agreeing" with them. They say stuff like, "If you don't understand that these facts inevitably lead to this conclusion, then you are stupid. Clearly, we've reached a sound conclusion."

If a person has someone pull that stunt on them a few times, they deny the existence of "facts" out of self-defense. Even smart people can get freaked out by dirty debate tactics, and at the first sign of disagreement, they start defending themselves rather than trying to solve a problem.

Maybe a question to ask in such a situation is, "if we all agree that something is true, can we then (and only then) treat it as a fact? For the time being, for the purposes of this discussion? So we can solve (X problem)?"

If you help someone regain their sense of control within a process, sometimes they feel safe enough to open up & participate rather than throwing up irritating roadblocks like "facts are relative."

When you're trying to figure things out with other people, often you also have to work, in a sense, with every jerk who ever insulted them, scared them, or taught them how to fight dirty.


k said...

Yes. Isn't this better?