"A truth which should be engraved in the human soul as a lofty moral maxim : When you see something evil in the world, do not say, Here is evil - that is,
imperfection ; ask, rather, How can I attain to the enlightenment which will show
me that on a higher plane this evil is transformed into good by the wisdom of
the cosmos ? How can I learn to tell myself : Here you see naught but imperfection because you are as yet unable to grasp the perfection of this imperfect
thing ? Whenever man sees evil he should look into his own soul and ask himself, Why am I not yet able to recognize the good in this evil that confronts me ?"
- Rudolf Steiner
As human beings, illness and death belong to our situation - always. Again and again in smaller and greater ways, they announce their presence in our lives ; at times they send us hard shocks. They remind us to live circumspectly, have caution in our affairs ; at best to find purpose in life, and have compassion for others.
The aggressive nature of evil, however, strikes us as different - something cruel, perverse, unnecessary. Beyond the burdens and sorrows of illness or death, it seems intent to destroy the whole.
I don't read the above quote to say we shouldn't oppose evil ; but rather that
we notice gaps and distortions in our own mindset, that affect how we understand and fight.
What we're being reminded of, I think, is that there are greater forces at play in the world than just evil - and that we tend to lose sight of them. As there are world-destructive forces - no matter how great - there are world-perfecting forces too.
Activism, perhaps more than some other kinds of work, deals especially with evils
in the world. But to think of these as imperfections, as they're called here, helps break their hold on us. That perfecting forces in the universe also see the evil, know it and have their own goals in the matter, means it's not all up to us - and this can
be a relief.
Without losing focus, we can first of all simply be ourselves ; and freed a little from anger, fear, even desperation we feel about evil, we can begin to grow our view of life larger. This is the potential.
Whether for survival or for service to the world, life asks us to keep a lot of balls in the air - always. When we're focused on evil, our mood's often one of being in danger. Our thoughts, feelings and actions get entangled in it, trapped in it. As Rudolf Steiner observes, we have our own issues that need attention. We're used to thinking we must control everything, and it frightens us to think we can't.
But if we wait out our fears and judgments, and don't act immediately - if we can find our way to trust in something greater, our need to fight/flee/freeze changes.
Without yet even looking for a bigger picture, we can better keep the balls, the many facts of our situation in the air of our imagination, so to speak - until they themselves report to us what the pattern is. And it can be breathtaking.
First, we may discover that instead of a great monster threatening to devour us, the universe is a symphony of factors, a great work of art ; and that evil is just one instrument, whose tone served to awaken us, and for which we can even be grateful. And that we too are an instrument with a part to play - a challenging part we may have to work hard to learn, but through which we develop competence - and of which we can be proud.
And we get to play with others - friends - whose parts we can listen to and be grateful for.
We often labor under the burden that we must be the great conductor of the universe - or that if we can't, there's something wrong with us. Poor us. But good
for us that we don't have to be - that we can just be valuable working parts in a mystery : a noble unfolding drama/comedy in which we're both thrilled audience and indispensable participants.
We all have pain in our lives, and must die, no matter what. But we don't have to die fearful, snarling at death, illness, evil. And more important, we don't have to live
that way !
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