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The Evil Riddle


For Bhon


"Why is there something rather than nothing?"

Nihil est sine rationis
(Nothing is without reason.)

Leibniz


Have we ever really pondered upon the question of evil? Its matter or lack of it; it's
origin or destination?

Much ink has been spilled and much rhetoric has fallen on deaf ears throughout history to respond (for one can only respond to, and be unable answer, a riddle if one is inside it's paradoxical limits) to the problem (and not the question) concerning evil. Yet have we ever really responded to what evil calls for thought, thought through what it shows as it hides in the dead of night?

To be sure, philosophers and theologians and poets and lay men from Ausustine to Ricoeur and from students to my parents have tried to 'explain' whence comes evil and whither it goes.

Augustine said that it was a non-being (absence of good and God). Ricoeur said it is the 'fault' of men who, abandoned by God to be the mortals that they are, have absolute freedom (for the good and God) but also absolutely capable of mistakes (evil and its ignorance) -- as the much quoted but often misunderstood line from the philosopher in "Spiderman" says, "With great power comes great responsibility."

My mother, too, on the one hand said with Leibniz that it was the 'means' of God for the good 'end' and for the unseen 'best of all possible words' (which would be absurd and contrary to the logical necsessity of God being unable to be otherwise than a good God). On the other hand, my father said along with Manicheism that it was the work of the devil (which would lead to the sacrilegeous belief in two gods: a good god from whom all good emmanates and a bad one from whom all evil speads).

But this one insists, what is evil, really?, knowing of course that there shall be no answer that would truly be capable of quenching the wonder -- or its negative current (like the other end of the battery) -- that spoils all wonders and bedazzling spectacles of what-is with just one experience of treachery, with just one smile from a traitor, with just one life-ending knife on your back.

Job, for instance, was also left dazed and at a loss when he lost everything he had in his life because of a bet between God and the devil in person. With boils all over his body and standing amisdt the ruins of what was his 'castle by the lake,' Job was finally going to hear an explanation to his current situation from the good God whom he believed in through the good, jolly days and in the bad, absurd ones as well

And what does He say as to explain the evil that rained on his otherwise sunny parade?

In the Book of Job (38: 4-7) and in the form of the storm God asks Job instead of answering his 'silly' questions thus:

Where were you when I founded the earth?
Tell me, if you have any understanding.
Who determined its size; do you know?
Who stretched out the measuring line for it?
Into what were its pedestals sunk, and who laid the cornerstone,
While the morning stars sang in chorus,
and all the sons of God shouted for joy?

In other words, God asked the already puzzled Job this question: What do you know about Me and and My work and My Goodness?

We do not know any 'thing' about evil for we have not even started thinking about His Goodness.

If evil is absence, then perhaps we could start affirming and finally affirmitively start wondering (thaumazein) about the greatness of goodness, the grace of God, the Gift of being given being when we could have possibly been nothing.






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