Many words, Little time: Evil

Choice
Freewill
The decision to do evil.

Nature
Nurture
The inevitable violent act.

Science has shown this debate is done
Freewill is a figment of the mind
Society needs it
Law needs it
So we assume something,
Something that what we know to be false
Responsibility can’t exist without it
Law can’t exist without it.

Is a man evil or is an act evil?
How many evil deeds before you call them evil?
How many evil deeds can you forgive?

A child is abused;
poor family, little education, little community supports
No safety net
They grow up, they learn about pain, they learn about cruelty.

A child is cared for;
happy family, good schooling, nice neighbourhood
Idyllic suburban life
They grow up, they learn to fit in, they learn to be liked.

One of them had a genetic anomaly,
a brief hiccup of nature
It inhibits a minute chemical in the brain
It inhibits empathy
It leads to violence

Do we hold the child accountable for this?
If not this, why the rest?
The child has no control over their parents.
They didn’t choose to be born.
They don’t choose how they’re raised

Does it matter which child?
Does understanding this change anything?

Diving into History

I wanted to educate myself on history for a number of years, but I always delayed. If you’re outside academia and don’t have a very good basic knowledge, it’s daunting to break into the subject. The volume of it is intimidating. There’s so much and it’s all connected and where do you even start? Plus there’s all these differing perspectives that disagree with each other.

What helped me is best phrased using a metaphor. Imagine history as this massive tapestry. There’s millions of events that are all related to each other, woven together through time and space. They’re directly affected by events in close proximity to each other. If you try to take in the totality, it’s too much. The massive amount of detail drowns out any comprehension you could have. So instead you tackle subsets, but always from multiple angles. This is to prevent tunnel vision, where you forget those adjacent events. Time is the most common way we end up with blinders on. Resist the temptation to see it as a strict linear progression. Time, location, and perspective are all dimensions that must be account for (this is a very strange, multi-dimensional tapestry by the way). If you only perceive time it leads to a simplistic, and flawed view; it can’t show what history truly is.

It’s very easy to see it as linear though. Our story driven brains want that beginning, middle, and end formula. Ignoring that completely will make history boring and tedious to read. There’s two good compromises: tackle one area from multiple accounts or tackle neighbouring areas simultaneously. I find the neighbouring accounts compelling because of how it warps our perceptions on war or natural catastrophes. The lead up to a war; the way the different nations treat events as significant or unimportant, it shows just how complex the human condition can be.

And this is one of the most important lessons one can learn from history. Even the best of us will have trouble seeing past ones own biases in present tense conflicts. When you’re learning history, you have to try to understand both sides motives, for they will both appear as an “other”. The past versions of a society require just as much cultural translation as going to a foreign nation now, usually much more in fact. They’re all equally foreign therefore you can be a much less biased observer. You’ll actually see both sides as the fucked up humans they are, that no one is The Good and no one is The Bad. That’s what history teaches.

A recent example for me: learning about Byzantium. The crusades take on a massively different tone when seen through the eyes of anything but Western Europe. They had a dark age lasting several centuries which culminated in hordes of their warriors invading a foreign land they knew little about. They were shockingly savage in victory and ignored local differences in their enemies (all Muslims seen as the same). Their rulers couldn’t even read or write, they had to bring religious scribes to record their history. Clearly this is a barbarian horde invading civilization. There’s even the hallmark effect of technology spreading back into the ‘barbarians’ society; castle design were brought back by the crusaders. And this isn’t even from the Islamic perspective, this is Eastern Europe.

So yeah, learn history by tackling multiple angles. It’s got a great payoff as you learn about one thing and suddenly find a seemingly unrelated fact become important. Like learning about Japan and having the Portuguese show up or reading any of Eurasia and having the Mongolian Empire appear. It just suddenly brings that tapestry back into focus.

Many words, Little time: Forgiveness

Forgiveness

It can save a friend’s life
or open you up to more betrayals
It can heal a broken relationship
or enable an abuser

When is it right?
How do you decide?
What’s too much?

Forgiveness is a sacrifice.
Every time it’s a balance,
a chance of losing.
You extend the olive branch to someone,
give them a chance at redemption
and risk them failing.
You risk pain,
You risk yourself.

What’s unforgivable?
When is there no chance of redemption?
Who do we sacrifice?

A window to the soul

Eye contact

It hits me with an intensity unlike anything. It only needs to be a moment, half a second of eye contact with a stranger and suddenly there’s this strange feeling. A connection that neither of us are willing to engage; so we look away. If not, the assumption is that you’ll start speaking to one another. To do therwise, to maintain that gaze without engadging, is rude and downright creepy. And it’s not just a matter of staring at someone. Yes, staring and not talking to someone is also weird and rude, but it’s different when the eyes meet. There’s a snippet of one to one communication that happens. The reaction to look away is much more sudden and instinctual.

A number of years ago I was in a long term relationships with a woman. We were in love. I don’t actually remember why we tried this (but I know I precipitated it, I heard of it somewhere); you stare into your partner’s eyes for several minutes, no talking. It feels silly at first, like a staring contest. At some point it loses it’s humourous quality and then it becomes something… different. You really see who they are, their ego gets stripped away. It’s like you communicate directly with the other person’s soul (or if I’m being less poetic, consciousness). You can’t hide yourself. It’s definitely intimidating, and can be unpleasant if you prefer to hold people away from your ‘true’ self. I also don’t imagine it would work with a stranger. Honeslty I haven’t tried it, but I get the feeling you’d never break past the humourous part, your deeper mind wouldn’t be able to understand each other so no communication would happen.

Now I’d like to take this further down the science hole. I’ll shed my poeticism and don my thinking cap. Sight is the primary sense for humans, specifically it’s what we use when we’re applying coscious effort to observing a thing. Even when you try to hear something the instinctual behaviour is to look at it. Eye contact also shows engadgment when listening to a person. Eye sight is the most outwardly visible sign of our inner mind.

We all have excessivly complex inner workings. Even if someones surface thoughts are relatively simple, the subconcious mind has many layers that are always working. Instinctually we respond in semi-concious ways to other people; we mask some things and show others. Eye movements and facial expressions are below the filters we choose to put up. This is how it breaks those barriers. This is also why it wouldn’t be effective if you don’t already know the person. You need a frame of of reference to interpret those expressions. Again though, this is all subconcious. It percolates into your higher conscious thoughts through feelings and emotions. Applying words, describing it; it’s done after the fact. Like the difference between your actual life and the story you construct of your past. Related but different. Translated. Imperfect. So I’ll stop with these flawed words.