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Whence Cometh Evil?

Life can be tough. Very tough. There is much human suffering that is brought about by what seem to be normal occurrences of life: disease, injuries, even the incapacitations that come from life-enhancing medical procedures such as surgeries, as the patient needs patience as she heals, slowly, burdened every day by immobility until the healing process is completed. I know a woman, a colleague, who just found out she has breast cancer. She also has a very young daughter, perhaps around age 6 or 7. This woman is very, very sick – not just from the cancer but from the treatments she is now receiving from doctors. She can’t care for her daughter the way she wants to, and that fact alone brings additional suffering to her.

People suffer from hunger and malnourishment. And loneliness. And a lack of meaning. . .

So life is tough.

Then there is the whole element of evil, which is quite separate from the things I have described above.

Where does evil come from?

Religious traditions, especially in the West, hold that just as there is a personal God who is the source of all good, there is a personal devil who is the source of all that is evil, or if not the source of evil, the purveyor of it. But what role does the demonic have in causing people to do truly evil things? Does the devil somehow get into their hearts? Does the devil place thoughts in their minds which the evil person then acts on?

Walter Medina, age 48, is a case in point. He was in the news recently. It seems he had a history of violence. Most recently, he was arrested on April 2nd. He had encountered a homeless woman in Florida who was panhandling, and so he offered her food. . . and drugs. But then he kidnapped her and subjected her to months of physical abuse, torturing her with a flathead screwdriver and a wooden baseball bat which he used at various times to crack her ribs, bruise her body, and inflict deep puncture wounds in her face, disfiguring it. We’re talking about a woman who was already suffering prior to encountering Medina, but now suffering was taken to new lows. Mr. Medina is a monster in human guise. Take one look at his photo above, and you detect deep, sociopathic evil – his eyes alone are a dead giveaway. (Fortunately the woman eventually managed to escape during a fortuitous moment Medina got careless and let his guard down).

But what causes people like Walter Medina to do such dark evil? Is he mentally ill? Was he himself the victim of abuse and now he is angry at the world and exacting what he imagines is his just revenge on society? Perhaps.

But if so, Medina certainly isn’t the only person to have first suffered human cruelty in has past. I think immediately of Viktor Frankl, the Austrian-born psychotherapist who authored the landmark book Man’s Search For Meaning. Frankl was cast into Nazi concentration camps during World War II because he was a Jew. There he suffered horrific indignities and tortures. Yet he came out of the ordeal not hating the German race. (When asked if he hated the German race, he replied he did not; that there were only two races: the decent and the indecent).

Likewise, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, who authored to seminar work, The Gulag Archipelago, documenting the horrors inflicted upon him in the Soviet gulags after being arrested, beaten, and thrown into prison by the Russians – his own people, followed by coming very close to dying of cancer while imprisoned. Like Frankl, Solzhenitsyn found a way to not become the monster that his prison guards had been.

So it can be done. . .

And it takes great humility, circumspection, and a desire to be a Transition Figure, a person who stops the transmission of the very ugliness they themselves have been subjected to, ensuring such ugliness does not escape from their soul and continue to poison others. . . But how is another question entirely.

And that, my friends, is the latest elephant in the room.

Ara Norwood is a multi-faceted and results-oriented professional. Spanning a multiplicity of disciplines including leadership, management, innovation, strategy, service, sales, business ethics, and entrepreneurship. Ara is also a historian, having special expertise on the era of the founding of our republic.
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