‘Every single one of us’

Apologies for the hiatus.  It was both unintended and longer-lasting than I’d have liked.  I’ve had a number of things of a personal/familial nature going on at the mo’ which have taken priority, but I felt the need to take a little time to get some thoughts out there into my favourite part of the ether- my little corner of the WordPress.

This morning I was once again inspired by the thoughts of Beth Byrnes, and the issues that she discussed in her erudite and thoughtful post almost led me to write something as a follow-up to some of the things I had to say in the comments section.

But I had already started working  on something- the latest in my ongoing examination of the ill-advised tendency we have to define evil as something external and non-human (or sourced in humans that are somehow labelled as other than we are)- and was loathe to divide my attention.

Then I realized that we are really talking about the same thing anyway.

The vilification of that-which-is-not-me.  Those we consciously decide to label and demonize.

I’ve been thinking about this guy a lot lately.

Boo!

To be honest, he’s never really far from my thoughts (seriously- check out the categories and tags over there to the right >>>>> he’s all over the place), but lately he seems to be popping up every which way I turn.

This has been a most interesting week.  I was Freshly Pressed (!)- that little thing I wrote about chaos/order– and as a result a whole lot of new folks have come by to visit.  Thank you new folks!  Welcome!  I passed 10000 views- which, while I didn’t set goals regarding viewership when I started sharing things on WordPress a little under a year ago, is pretty freakin’ cool.

I also hit 666 followers shortly after the Fresh Pressing occurred.  Even more lovely people- and a number of bots, I’m sure- have joined the ranks since then, but I was really inordinately excited to see who follower 666 might have been.  Unfortunately I missed the notification, so remain unable to identify colemining’s own personal antichrist.

Pure silliness.

That number is just so resonant with me- given all the apocalyptic literature I’ve spent much of my life hanging around- I can’t help but claim a pretty strong fascination with that number of that there ‘beast.’

When I first moved back to Toronto and commuted to Ottawa once a week to teach classes (crazy as that was), every time I passed the 666 kilometre marker (in either direction), I identified it out loud (‘the mile marker of the antichrist’- even though it properly measures kilometres not miles).  It was a way of marking the time and telling myself that I was almost at my destination or on my way back home, depending on which direction I was travelling.

I like the mythology surrounding the devil.  I like the apocalyptic literature that inspired the concept of the antichrist.  I also like the myths of all the other worldviews/religions/cultures that attempt to reconcile good gods and the presence of evil in the material world.  These are some of the richest and most interesting stories we’ve managed to come up with from the deepest mines of our creativity.  The motifs and the characters recur throughout our histories- literary and otherwise- because they are so interesting and complex.

I can honestly say that I love the devil/satan/Lucifer.  As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t believe in the/a devil, but his various iterations are among the most colourful, enduring and often-endearing literary characters out there.

Where would Western culture be without him?

Seriously.  Think about it.

No Divine ComedyParadise LostFaust/Doctor FaustusThe Exorcist would never have (repeatedly) scared the CRAP out of me.  That opening line- Please allow me to introduce myself… I can’t imagine a world in which I’d never sung along to the brilliance of that song.  The list goes on…

He is us.  In all his (and sometimes, her) manifestations.  This is the thing.  THE thing.  All the versions of the devil that we have are representative of potential inside of us.  Us.  HumansNot some supernatural excuse for evil as a means of reconciling another supernatural being who is supposed to be GOOD.  And omniscient.  And omnipotent.

I find your theodicies unconvincing.

To say the least.

So I’m going to start a periodic conversation about our pal- call him (the) Satan, Lucifer, Mephistopheles, call him what you will (just don’t call him late for dinner).  I’m so very sick of this vilification of the other as we continue to externalize evil and abrogate our own- collective or individual- responsibility for the wrongs that are done and perpetuated against one another.  So very sick of it.

And since I am a cheerleader (Head cheerleader, it sometimes seems) for the need to examine the origins of our recurring motifs, the reasons why we think the way we do, and how we come up with the metaphors we come up with to shift the blame away from ourselves rather than face the internal propensity toward darkness we must continually and actively choose to turn from as we seek to live together peacefully on this ol’ globe of ours, there’ll be a whole lot of hanging with the devil ’round these parts in the next while.

I’ll be extending him ‘a little sympathy’.  Tastefully, of course.

Hope you’ll join me.  Let’s discuss.

‘Here come the world
With the look in its eye
Future uncertain but certainly slight
Look at the faces
Listen to the bells
It’s hard to believe we need a place called hell…

Every single one of us.’

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41 comments on “‘Every single one of us’

  1. Rick says:

    Congrats on being Freshly Peessed. I feel that the Devil gets too much blame. If we do something that we consider wrong, then it’s our fault. It’s not the fault of the horned one.

    • colemining says:

      Thank you Rick- it was quite the nice surprise!

      I am fed up with our propensity to blame any and all outside forces- up to and including the devil- for the bad crap in the world. If bad crap is happening it’s because we are LETTING it happen- either through active or passive facilitation. It’s pathetically easy to blame Old Nick for the wrongs of the world and then do nothing about them. The buck stops here.

      Thanks for reading!

  2. bethbyrnes says:

    Cole, congratulations on Freshly Pressed – well deserved! And thank you for the kind words too.

    I have to confess that, having been raised a Roman Catholic, the devil played a vivid role in my childhood. In fact, one of my earliest memories is of some relative — maybe my nanny — telling me to stay away from the basement in our house, because the devil lived there. Naturally, I was in that basement from time to time for one reason or another, with some adult, and thus had a terror of the drain in one dark corner where we never seemed to venture. Clearly the devil had to be there and I was deathly afraid of that drain. (Why do adults do things like that?)

    So, without realising it, I have always had a loathing for that figure and all that goes along with it, including incubuses and other parts of our cultural legend where human beings try to image this concept of pure evil. It has always been a distasteful subject and despite the literature we have all read, like Milton, Dante, as you reference, I have never really embraced the archetype in my own reading or contemplation.

    But, I think you have accurately identified why we are so horrified and repulsed by the concept: at some deeper level we recognise that Mephistopheles is merely our endarkened, unconscious, selfish and diabolical selves. I would turn to Jung and the Hermetic archetypes for further insight into our primordial connection to this concept. Perhaps if we did spend more time analysing the development of this figure throughout our history (both personal and collective) we could concretise the grip this divisive selfishness and hatred have on us and dispel it with the antidote(s).

    Truly a thought-provoking post!

    • colemining says:

      Thanks Beth! And thank you for, once again, contributing to the inspiration for the post.

      I LOVE how you ‘confess’ to having been raised RC. Can’t shake the habit? ;P

      I do think that Jung- and his theory of archetypes- nailed it. I will write further about how the conceptualizations of the devil and the development of the Shadow intersect and demonstrate the interplay of these dark ideas we must struggle to overcome.

      The Devil is the perfect Scapegoat- if we have him around as a realized and externalized figure we don’t have to be held to account for those evils we, as humans, do or suborn. Lately I feel like we truly need to be liberating the devil from his role as the go-to guy we blame for those myriad things we are unwilling to acknowledge as being the product of humanity. Doing so might force us to take steps to admitting to our culpability in the evils that are perpetuated. And admitting a problem is the first step to recovery, right?

      Thanks for reading!

  3. Heck, yeah, it’s freaking cool. Much deserved congrats!

  4. quiall says:

    Great post! So true. and I love that song: Please allow me to introduce myself

  5. lennymaysay says:

    Hey, well done with being FP’d.

    Co-incidently, I just posted something on my facebook page about how absurd it was for a Pastor to blame the devil in the high-profile Oscar Pistorius murder case before court here in South Africa.

    http://www.timeslive.co.za/local/2014/03/14/satan-killed-reeva-pastor

  6. Congrats on being Freshly Pressed!

  7. I’ll be most interested to see what you have to say on the subject. I definitely believe in taking responsibility for our own actions, good, bad or otherwise. On the other hand, I also believe that evil exists in the world and does its work through those who choose to idolize evil in its many forms. Should make for interesting discussions, yes?

    • colemining says:

      Oh Susan- interesting discussion is what I am MOST hoping for. I agree with you- there is certainly evil in the world and it is MOST certainly the subject of far too much idolatry, but I COMPLETELY believe that the evil is sourced in us- as humans- in the same way that the goodness- as represented by all the various deities we have created- ALSO originates with us.

      If we can imagine the great goodness of a omniscient and loving god it is because we can access that from within. The same applies, unfortunately, to evil.

      I object STRONGLY to the personification and externalization of evil since it allows people to defer responsibility for their actions and reactions to things. ‘The Devil made me do it’? I LOATHE that sentiment/idea/excuse more than pretty much ANYthing.

      Stay tuned- me and Lucifer have a whole lot of ‘splaining to do…

      Thanks, as always, for reading! Looking forward to our discussions!

  8. D. Parker says:

    I’ve nominated you for the Lighthouse Award. You can find the guidelines on this page:
    http://yadadarcyyada.com/2014/03/14/look-out-i-won-the-lighthouse-award/

    If you accept awards, please accept this with my gratitude…if not, I get it. They are lovely, but take a long time and it’s way, way, way too difficult to only thank a few people since so many wonderful people support us on our journeys. No worries. Thank you either way.

    Donna

    • colemining says:

      Thank you so much Donna! I very much appreciate your recognition, and you’re so right- there are just too many people I want others to be reading so choosing is pretty much impossible for me. I will certainly post about the award as soon as I have some time and encourage people to visit you- and those others who can be found on my ‘peeps I think are cool’ list. Thanks you again!

      Have I mentioned how much I like you avatar pic? One of my fave scenes from one of my all-time fave movies!

      • D. Parker says:

        If I’d gotten this before I could have just posted once, sigh, anyway, and I get that doing this awards can be too difficult. I think these are my last. While I appreciate them, it’s so hard to choose and do them. Thanks for putting me on your Peeps list. That’s a good idea. I think I’ll blatantly take that idea and run with it. Thanks about the pic, yup, love love love that scene and the movie.
        I’ve nominated you for The Sunshine Award. If you accept awards, please accept this with my sincerest regards, if not, no worries, just know that your support and blog is appreciated. While delightful, these awards do take a lot of time.
        http://yadadarcyyada.com/2014/03/15/i-won-the-sunshine-award/

        Thanks. Donna

      • colemining says:

        Thank you again Donna! Lovely of you!

  9. Ste J says:

    Well done for the Freshly Pressed, a life without some of the great literature would indeed be a cruel and bleak life.

  10. Congrats on getting Freshly Pressed! Very well deserved!

    This post is interesting on so many levels to me that my mind does not know where to focus, it’s so richly layered. Stunning, truly stunning!

    I find it particularly intriguing that this post follows your previous post, and follows getting Freshly Pressed and all which that brings with it, because in some ways the devil was created to make sense of chaos, to explain it, make it manageable and bring a certain order to it, one which comforts those who find chaos uncomfortable.

    Have you ever watched a TV series called – The Booth at the End – it’s one of those shows which uses the concept of the devil and evil, but does it in a reflective manner, making it human. It plays upon the fine line between good and evil, dancing over it deftly and illustrating how what one person does for good may be experienced by another as evil, and that all actions have consequences and those consequences may not reflect the intentions of the doer but reflects how what the doer has done affects others.

    It’s very much a case of be careful for what you wish…

    The devil is in the detail…

    Have you made any wishes lately?

    I’m joshing with you… love your mind! Very thought-provoking post!

    • colemining says:

      Thank you Ursula. I will have to have a look for that show- seems interesting for sure!

      The devil IS in the detail- this is probably why we get along so well… ;P

      Definitely- the devil is used, partially, as a tool to explain the disorder in an allegedly ordered-creation (one that was orchestrated by a good and just god). He is the ‘out’ for the inexplicable tension between this good god and the obvious evil that surrounds us. Along with the whole original sin/free will thing, having someone who WANTS to tempt us into evil ways is the tired attempt to reconcile the good god letting suffering and hatred and EVIL persist in the world.

      As I said, I don’t buy that there theodicy. There are too many stretches that beggar the imagination. When you look at the development of the biblical god- and his devil- over the course of its history, the conflict between his assumed singularity/priority (‘I am the ONLY god’), omniscience and omnipotence, and the foci of the need to blame the evil that humans get up to on something else changes as well.

      We need to take responsibility for our actions– and blaming the poor ol’ devil or an obscene doctrine like original sin? That’s indicative of a response akin to pathological denial. Still blaming the supernatural? Time to grow up. IMHO.

      Thanks for reading- and the always-insightful comments!

  11. I completely agree with you about each of us individually taking responsibility and being accountable for our own stuff, our life, our decisions, our actions and their consequences, without seeking to find someone else to blame for our troubles and the chaos of life, and that includes the supernatural.

    But blame shifting is a very appealing concept, especially onto a supernatural entity. It’s a very old human tradition. Old habits die very hard particularly when it is a custom that spans ages.

    Much of what you have said ties in with my own train of thought. It irks me too but I don’t see a solution it. People have a right to believe what they believe, and history shows a pattern which is very determined against all opposition, logic, reasoning and fact or proof. Magical thinking always seems to prevail. It has a charm which reality does not have. It offers an escape from grim reality, which always wins votes.

    But then again I was not brought up in a religious environment, religion was not an option or considered relevant, so I guess it’s easy (?) for me to approach it from the perspective which I have. I have no idea what it would be like, think or feel, if I had a very different up-bringing and perspective.

    However, using the platform you have to create a forum and platform for sharing alternative views is absolutely brilliant! Every small step counts. Big shifts are the sum total of small ones!

    • colemining says:

      Yes- it is so much easier to place the blame outside of ourselves rather than face up to the reality of culpability. I get that it’s part of nature to find that attractive. But I don’t buy it as an excuse. Not for rational, thinking adult people.

      I have been studying religions and religious belief for most of my adult life. I have absolutely no problem with people having the freedom to believe what they will and for whatever reasons, as they see fit. What I have a HUGE problem with is unexamined belief. Believing something (religious or otherwise) just because someone in power/authority told you it is so, is irresponsible. Especially when those beliefs interfere with the rights and freedoms of other human beings and/or promote the continuation of injustice.

      I’m not sure what the solution is- assuming there is even is a solution, per se. But I feel it imperative that we all start looking more closely at our beliefs (again, religious or otherwise) and take responsibility for the repercussions that those beliefs cause when they are used to drive our societies- at either the community or political level.

      My goal, moving forward, is to use this forum to get people thinking about why we do the things we do. ‘Because someone/some god said so’ isn’t a good enough answer. Not when we have access to as much information about sharing this world of ours as we do.

      It’s a great big windmill at which to be tilting- I have no illusions about that. But as long as there are people who take the time to listen to one another and the offering of different perspectives, I can’t think that it’s an exercise in futility.

      Thanks for your well-examined response(s)!

  12. … and “Congrats” on being Freshly Pressed!

  13. ChgoJohn says:

    Freshly Pressed? How cool is that! Congratulations!

  14. Satan was the most beloved of the angels, the angel of light, who refused to bow down to man and was tossed out of heaven for not obeying God’s word , or so says the legend. He has gotten a bad rap ever since. How convenient to have someone to blame all our bad behavior on: “The Devil made me do it.” If we keep repeating the lie often enough, we begin to believe it.

  15. Chuckle. Congrats on being pressed and the 666 followers (huh, that was weird writing the number out). A…..nice way you unearthed the devil from the mines of our creativity. Never thought I’d commend someone for doing a post on the guy.

    • colemining says:

      Thanks HW.

      Although I’m all about the wonder that is our mythology (shared and individual) I feel strongly (understatement, that) the archetypes have to be viewed- and employed- with care. I know that the externalization of evil- as the devil and his minions- has the potentiality to do great damage. Any creature that is credited with that much power over humanity has to be viewed through the lens of its inception- and the iteration of the character as it develops over time. Great writers and artists- in the Western world, certainly- have moderated the view of the devil through their great works. I don’t claim to be among their number, certainly, but- from my perspective- un-demonizing the demon has the potential for incredible benefits for all of us.

      We ‘just’ have to let go of this idea that WE are not the ones responsible for the evil done to others. A hard task when the idea that there is always something ‘other’ to blame has been inculcated over thousands of years.

      ‘The Guy’ has been our collective scapegoat for too long. Enough, I say. Time to identify the ‘monsters’ among us as the human beings that they are- and call them on their monstrosity so their evil ceases its perpetuation.

      Thanks for reading.

  16. Reblogged this on An Upturned Soul and commented:
    Excellent post from an inquiring and very intelligent mind and soul.
    Nourishing food for thought!

  17. ‘Confessing’ to being a Roman Catholic here too. 🙂 Really interesting read. Lots I’ve thought of on. I’ll be giving this more thought and following to see where it goes.
    You truly are an educator. In the widest possible sense. God bless your parents for raising such a one as you. Hope you’re bearing up.x

    • colemining says:

      Thank you Anne-Marie. Hanging in there as best I can. We gave Dad a lovely send off today- lots of wonderful friends and remembrances and I managed to make it through a reading of my post/memorial of him without losing it completely, so this is godd.

      I will be returning to my ‘defence of the devil’ as soon as I’ve had a space of time to catch my breath somewhat. Thanks, as always, for reading! xo

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