Evil is still on my mind and I came across this stunning scene in the book I’m reading “The Brothers K” by David James Duncan. It goes well with my last post, but with some beautiful images. The speakers are Bet, a ten-year old girl and Peter, a 16-year old boy. (The whole book is worth a read, but if you want to cross-reference, it’s on page 210.)
“ When a person gets really mad and maybe slaps someone or jerks their arm… I think an invisible hump of energy might go flying all the way up their arm and right into their skeleton or insides or whatever— a hump of mean, witchy energy—and I think it might fly round and round in there like a witch on a broomstick flies around the sky, and right on hurting invisible parts of the person you don’t even know you’re hurting, because you can’t see all the ways their insides are connected to the mean thing you did to their outside. And from then on, maybe that hump of mean energy sits inside the hurt person like a coiled-up hose or a rattlesnake, just waiting in there. And someday, when that person touches somebody else, maybe even way in the future, that rattlesnake energy might come humping up out of them by accident and hurt that next person too, every thought they didn’t mean to, and even though the person didn’t deserve it.…I think it happens. I really think it does.”
“I think it does too,” Peter said. “I think what you said can happen, does happen. But every witch who ever lived was once just a person like you or me, that’s what I think anyway, till somewhere, sometime, they got hit by a big, mean hump of nasty energy themselves, and it shot inside them and crashed and smashed around, wrecking things in there, so that a witch was created. The thing is, thought, I don’t think that first big jolt is ever the poor witch’s fault…
“Another thing is that everybody gets jolted. You, me, before we die we’ll all get nailed, lots of times. But that doesn’t mean we’ll all get turned into witches. You can’t avoid getting zapped, but you can avoid passing the mean energy on. That’s the interesting thing about witches, the challenge of them—learning not to hit back, or hit somebody else, when they zap you. You can just bury the zap, for instance, like the gods buried the Titans in the center of the earth. Or you can be like a river when a forest fire hits is—phshhhhhhh! Just drown it, drown all the heat and let is wash away…you lay a river in the path of any sort of wildfire. I’ve felt how there’s a world and rivers and high mountains in there. And there are lakes in those mountains—beautiful, pure, deep blue lakes. Thousands of them. Enough to wash away all the dirt and trouble and witchiness on earth.
“But to believe in them! To believe enough to remember them. That’s where we blow it! Mountain lakes? In me? Naw! Jesus we believe in, long as He stays out of sight. But the things He said, things like The kingdom of heaven is within you, we believe only by dreaming up a heaven as stupid and boring as our churches…if you want to stop the witchiness, if you want to put out the fires…just crawl clear up into those mountains inside you and on down into those cool, pure lakes.”
Like so many of us, I’m at a loss how to respond to such evil as terrorism, how to understand such utter hopelessness in life that one is willing to slaughter innocent people, how to accept the horror that good people can randomly lose their lives in the prime of life. None of this solves it and there are political, economic and religious responses that can help turn this around. But ultimately the real work happens inside of us, each and everyone us, recognizing when the witchiness has entered our blood, refusing to pass it on, learning how to climb the mountains of our better selves and douse the fire of hatred in those cool mountain lakes.
Thank you, David James Duncan.