Sunday, January 20, 2008

Fear, Trust and Evil

As I return after a longer-than-expected hiatus, I am thinking about my newly revised course, The Faces of Evil, at Rollins College. This was one of my most popular courses at UCF when I taught there in the English Department and continues to be one of my own favorites since it stimulates important questions and raises issues of the greatest consequence about human behavior.

One way to approach the vast topic of evil is to look at hate--and the way fear so often leads to anger, which leads to hatred and even violence. There are many reasons why people hate and even enjoy hating; it seems almost good sometimes to feel hatred toward one who has wronged you. This is a topic I enjoy exploring in "Othello" and other works. It is one way to make the mystery of human evil at least somewhat understandable and to see how the potential for "evil," however that is defined, is present in each of us.

When I think of fear itself, apart from hatred, I notice how many people I meet are full of fear. The whole world is governed by fear. We fear each other and even ourselves. Young children worry about the future, about failure, just as teenagers and adults do. Parents worry constantly, it seems. This means they spend too much time imagining a future that always seems more horrible than the reality of the present as it unfolds, day by day.

It is hard for me to have a real conversation with many people because they are too tense to listen. This will be the subject of another piece on this blog. How rare it is to meet someone who is genuinely centered and calm and open to hearing what I have to say. Most people seem, rather, preoccupied with themselves or rather with their fears and worries. It is useless for me to say to them, "Trust" because I know how quickly my own fears trigger anxiety over seemingly inconsequential things. All I can do is turn such feelings over to God and pray, as in Psalm 27: "The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom should I fear?" It also helps to breathe deeply and move in a new direction.

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