Finding Evil

A book I recently read posed the question: If you were one of those monkeys, would you rather hear, see, or speak no evil.

This started me thinking. I’m usually not fond of the ‘would you rather’ games that include impossible choices. When you actually must choose the lesser of two evils. Playing this game to find out if someone devotedly hates Lima beans more than they love peanut butter cups is fun. But trying to pick between two awful things, neither of which you want to happen at all, is not my idea of fun. It can veritably tear me apart, leaving me with stomach pains and nagging despair. This question, however, caught me in a good moment and started me thinking.

Hear No Evil:
I began to think how lovely it would be to not hear hatred carelessly tossed about. I allowed myself the indulgence to imagine a time when I wouldn’t have to step in to stop the belittling words hurled at a struggling child. I dreamed of a newscast that did not tell me of the violence one person has done toward others, that could not express acrimony toward another. Hearing the viciousness in the world has been a source of deep pain for me for as long as I can remember. I never truly understood ‘sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” They do hurt. They often hurt longer. Bruises heal. And, while physical scars are reminders of the outward pain, they fade more and more as time marches on. Painful words echo on and on in endless cadence, never quiet long enough to find relief. I ache to halt the malevolent words from so freely exiting our mouths, landing on open souls trying to find their way in a world that doesn’t always make sense. To hear no evil would be heaven.

See No Evil:
The videos that plague our screens of violence dealt out like a bridge hand stab at my heart. Witnessing the rancor we hold for each other feeds my despondence. There is incredible energy spent in that anger spewed not just out but at – at people. Human beings. That energy feeds us all, but it feeds us poison. How glorious it would be not to have to witness the throngs heaving contempt. I wouldn’t see death at the hands of another. I would be spared the vision of corruption wrapped in pride. No scenes of cheating, lying, or killing would haunt my sleepless nights. How peaceful life might be if I didn’t have to see the evil side.

The trouble is, if I go through life with noise-cancelling headphones, it doesn’t change anything in the world. The evils are still there. The destructive words are still forced on another, but maybe no one will hear and stop it. If I don’t hear about the suffering it doesn’t mean suffering doesn’t exist. Yet, without the ability to hear a plea for help from anywhere in the world, I would remain static.

If I live my life with blinders on, it’s tough to see where I can affect change. If I refuse to bare witness to the damage intentionally wrought on others, it does not reduce their torment. When I close my eyes to the heinousness around me, I allow it to continue – to grow. I am acting as if it doesn’t exist, or as if I don’t care that it exists. Neither of these is truth.

“For evil men to accomplish their purpose it is only necessary that good men should do nothing.” (attributed to Edmund Burke ~1770)

It is clear, my answer to this riddle would be to Speak No Evil. For in this choice I am taking control of my part in the evil that surrounds us. If I could be the one who never yields a sharp tongue, the one who finds a kinder way to share unpleasant news, the one who offers praise when warranted and support when deserved, life could be different for so many of us. When I choose to not add to the evil in the world I am helping others to see a choice that is filled with caring. When I choose to share light and not spread darkness I am pushing back the shadows over all of us. When I give positive energy to my life I am awakening others to do the same. Our energy is infectious to those around us. We must choose carefully, mindfully, the passions we exude. Even in those times when I struggle to apportion love, I can choose not to dispense evil. We all can.

Perhaps, today, each of us could play the monkey in the middle and speak no evil. One day at a time, one moment at time, choose to be better. We will all benefit.

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