How Do We Vanquish Evil?

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Evil. The world groans under its weight. It surrounds us, holds us hostage. Like a choking vine, it slithers through our cities and our streets, latching onto our souls, squeezing the love and the life out of them until we’ve grown jaded and hard of heart.

The seeds of this deadly vine are our uncharitable acts, our lies, gossip, and petty acts of vengeance. The world burns by our own hands, and all we can do is look away, ashamed, wondering in the darkest corners of our souls if the world might be better off without us, if the only true remedy for the problem of evil is to purge the Earth of humanity.

There’s another part of the human heart, the nobler part. It knows we’re capable of better. We might blight the world with the stain of evil, but that doesn’t mean we’re without hope. We want to be better, to make the world better, not just for ourselves but for our children and for theirs.

But when we face the evil within ourselves, when we stare it square in the eyes and prepare to do battle with ourselves, we discover an unsettling truth. Deep down, we don’t want to change. It’s not that we don’t want to be good, just that we’re too afraid and too weak to change our old habits. So we bury our heads in the sand. We rarely examine our actions or our motives, and when we do, we usually shy away in discomfort.

But because we still want to feel noble, because we want to look in the mirror and see a gallant soldier who fights in the names of Justice and Truth, we focus not on the evil within ourselves but on the evil we find in others.

We make it our life’s mission to expose and discredit the evildoer, hoping and praying that such an undertaking will somehow cleanse us of our own sins. But in our zeal, we burn our fellow human beings at the stake. We accuse others with or without basis and destroy reputations. We seek revenge and call it justice. We dehumanize our enemies, convince ourselves and others that they’re only soulless caricatures of humanity. We smite the accused and watch with glee as the lifeblood pours from their veins. We revel in their demise, convinced we’ve made the world a better place.

But by crusading so fervently against the sins of others, by delighting in the wholesale destruction of other humans like ourselves, we’ve succeeded only in growing the evil within ourselves.

The only true way to eliminate evil is to start with our own hearts, to root it out at the source before it has the chance to spread. We must be brave enough and strong enough to examine ourselves, to face our own darkness. We must experience genuine remorse, and in the aftermath of our guilt we must resolve to start anew, to rebuild ourselves from the ground up, to become better and more complete human beings.

Only once we’ve started on the path toward inner sanctity can we begin to address the evil in others, not by shaming and vanquishing them but by loving and encouraging them to shed their own darkness. We must love our enemies. By showing mercy and compassion, by offering our affection and support, we can inspire others to undertake a similar journey.

We live in a fallen world. It pressures us to do wrong, threatens us with punishment if we attempt to do what’s right. We should instead strive for an ecosystem in which love and charity can flourish.

Our worldly experience suggests that evil is inevitable. But the truth is that it can only survive by deceiving us into believing we can destroy evil with more evil. Love on the other hand is inevitable. It’s all-encompassing, all reaching. It’s universal and can be known through instinct alone. A single act of love is one thousand times as potent as the greatest evil.

Love is a fire. It catches, spreads, razes evil where it stands. But it require light to flourish, and if we languor too long in the dark it will shrivel and die.

Want to make the world a better place? Acknowledge your own faults. Face your demons. You shouldn’t wallow in a state of perpetual guilt, but neither should you turn away from your own ugliness. Each of us is sullied, but once we’ve recognized the stain for what it is we have the opportunity to wipe it away. And once you’ve started down that path, you’ll never be the same.

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Why Is Imagination So Important?

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This is the final installment of my four-part weekly series, Ex Nihilo.

You were born a philosopher. As a child, you spent hours beneath the stars, hypnotized by the transcendent mysteries of the cosmos. But with age came the people who told you it was time to grow up, that it was time to shed your imagination like a used skin so you could focus on more pragmatic concerns. You always secretly thought they were wrong, that you should never trade your fantasies for an ordinary life. But the world would always bear down on you with its facts and figures, wearing away at your soul like a grinding stone until you began to crack and buckle around the edges.

You never stopped using your imagination, but you did begin to keep it to yourself, afraid there might be something wrong with you, afraid you might be defective simply because you’ve always managed to see the world differently. A part of you wondered if the world had been correct, if you would have been better off abandoning artistic pursuits for more worldly endeavors.

You probably asked yourself, “Why is imagination so important?”

Imagination is a lamp set before us to light the way.

The universe is a mystery. Most of its secrets remain untouchable, impenetrable, making it a frightening place where all we can do is stumble around half-blind in the dark. Imagination is the light that dispells this darkness, making the cosmos accessible. It’s a mental framework, a way of perceiving the world. It doesn’t claim to know the answers, but endows us with the creativity necessary to discover them. Through fantasy, the enigmas of life and existence are revealed, making us better equipped to relate to reality.

Imagination is a covenant between the Universe and Man.

It hints at what lies beyond the horizon and assures us that all the universe has to offer can be ours if only we have the courage to pursue our dreams. It’s a promise made to us by a faithful cosmos, and through the years, this promise matures into a confident trust in the unknown, a sure belief that the world is fundamentally ordered and that one day we will know the answers to our deepest questions.

Imagination is a mentor.

It precedes every great discovery. It teaches not through rote memorization or blind adherence to established doctrine, but through hands on experience, passion and dedication, instilling within us a profound yearning for the Truth. It teaches us how to reach beyond the obvious to grapple with things we don’t fully understand, enabling us to cast our minds into the darkness like a fisherman’s net to capture something new.

And once we’ve hooked a mystery, we can use logic and systematic thought to reel it in, for imagination and reason are not contradictory but complimentary forces. Like the synthesis of body and soul, the fusion of imagination and reason is a sum much greater than its parts.

Imagination teaches us to love.

It sparks in our hearts a curiosity that drives us to learn about other people, and it gives us the unique perspective necessary to discover in an ocean of differences all the things we have in common. This understanding blossoms into empathy, so that it becomes possible for us to love our neighbors as ourselves.

Imagination facilitates creation.

It allows us to picture things not just as they are, but as they might be. Guided by this internal vision, we can shape and mold the universe according to our designs, so that we become manufacturers as well as consumers of reality.

Imagination is life-giving.

It’s a wellspring of potential energy, a supernova of the heart, an explosive force that illumines and breathes life into the cosmos. It transforms us, orients us toward a more perfect union with the world and its creator.

To turn our backs on fantasy and the imagination is to turn our backs on the Universe, to slowly wither and die, cut off from the cosmic vine that sustains us. We must not let the cynical voices of the world discourage us. Rather we must venture forth into the dark unafraid, so that someday, we can find the answers we seek, so that someday, at long last, we can discover the meaning of our existence.

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