that we become the monster

With the release of the 7th book of the Harry Potter series, Lisa and I have been discussing the interesting and complex question of evil, and whether it is necessary to use evil in order to combat it. This idea is certainly not new – I’ve quoted Nietzsche here before in a different, but related discussion –

Wer mit Ungeheuern kämpft, mag zusehn, dass er nicht dabei zum Ungeheuer wird. Und wenn du lange in einen Abgrund blickst, blickt der Abgrund auch in dich hinein. – “He who fights monsters must take care that he not become a monster himself. For when you gaze into the abyss, the abyss gazes back into you.”

The discussion isn’t confined to literature and theoretical philosophy – it’s immediately practical to the political and personal situations we find ourselves in daily. Is it acceptable to torture prisoners in order to gain information that could save lives? Are we justified in striking back at “the terrorists” in order to “preserve our way of life”? More importantly, at what point do we corrupt ourselves and become worse than the thing we are fighting? Commander Adama puts it very succinctly – “It isn’t enough to survive – one must be worthy of survival.”

The discussion is complicated by numerous difficult and potentially unanswerable questions – what exactly constitutes evil, and is any conception or definition we come up with able to be complete? Is justice simply another name for justifiable evil, since the intentional miscarriage of justice to an innocent person would often be seen as an “evil” act? And, moving back to Harry Potter briefly, is Dumbledore right – is love truly powerful enough to destroy evil alone?

While Rowling and other authors have the luxury of forging their own universe where their idealism is ultimately realized, it is often much more difficult for us to maintain an idealistic stance in the face of what sometimes seems to be overwhelming evil. My prayer for myself is that I would be more idealistic and less willing to compromise, more willing to be taken advantage of, knowing that in the end, love does triumph.

One Reply to “that we become the monster”

  1. There is a wonderful book out there called The Anatomy of Peace – in it a warrior is spoken of who had to go to war but was at peace when he did – because he had done everything in his power to make peace with his enemies. It emphasizes what is most important is our hearts – and where they are – where our motives are as we interact with others and how we view them. I am not a wordsmith – so my explanation is very trivial – but the book brings up many valid points worthy of consideration.

    After reading HP7 – I think that Rowland must have experienced much in her personal life to be able to write with the depth of emotions and experience it took to create the world of HP. I think many of the HP themes translate to our everyday lives and experience. I believe that as we face evil and we refuse to use its methods while we take a stand against it – in some ways we are inoculated from it. The biggest tool of evil is fear – and if we are in a place of peace in our hearts – we won’t feel fear.

    I also believe that love does triumph – and while it may take time, in the end love is the only energy we have that can truly change our lives and the lives of others.

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