“Well, if you’re interested in an old man’s two cent’s worth, I don’t believe in good and evil.” Arnold was dishing up warmed over pie onto plates at the big dining table off the kitchen. He had vanilla ice cream to go with it. The coffee was fresh ground and rich. Sometimes good stuff just happens.
“Sometimes life is just unfair and bad stuff just happens. To good people.”
“So that’s fate, but not evil? Is it the work of God?” Tante asked him.
“Gods and devils have never meant much to me. If the god of Abraham is the choice I was given for the great decider, I reject that choice. He was kind of a schmuck.” He took a big bite of pie.
“Is it karma then, reward and punishment, cause and effect?”
“It’s just life. Suppose there’s a guy. He’s a good and virtuous guy, pretty well off, a firm believer that if he does the right thing, he’ll be happy and prosper and everything will be fine.” He sipped some coffee. “Then one day, his world falls apart; his wife and kids are killed in an accident and he loses all his money due to a clause in his insurance policy he didn’t know about. He hasn’t done anything wrong, but still, all kinds of bad stuff has happened to him.”
“So not karma, but still, it could be the will of God.” Tante was really interested in Arnold’s perspective. After all, they were children of the same culture in some sense; not her Koori culture, but her Anti-Christian one.
“That would be a pretty unfair god. But then maybe the guy gets sick, too, the stress being too much for him and all. And then suppose everybody starts questioning the guy, second guessing things like what he might have done wrong, whether or not he’d done the right maintenance on the car that his family died in or whether or not he’d read the insurance policy closely enough. They figure that maybe the disease is punishment for having screwed up somehow. That would be even worse.” He paused for a minute. “That’s the god of Abraham for you.”
“What do you mean?”
“The Book of Job. It’s all about a grand and majestic omnipotent God being a real shitheel to the maggoty worm that is one of his most faithful and virtuous followers basically just because he’s God and can do it and Satan pesters him into it. There’s no justice, no equality, no rhyme or reason, just a couple of powerful overlords screwing around with some guy who pretty much tends to try to do the right thing and takes things as they come and deals with them without a lot of complaint. God and Satan are assholes.”
"Sounds like if there’s any evil in that story, God’s got a pretty big hand in it.” Tante sighed.
“Sometimes shit just happens.” Arnold was comfortable in that bottom line. “There’s a lot of injustice in the world. We’re not all Zeus, some die young for no good reason, sometimes people get persecuted based on color of skin or genetics or belief system. Genocide happens.”
“But sometimes the karma of man has a pretty big hand in it as well.” Tante had been giving it a lot of thought. “Something caused the accident that killed the family and the insurance company that had been collecting premiums from the family should have followed through on what they promised and the guy shouldn’t have lost everything in addition to whatever twist of fate took his family. Disease due to stress? Sure, from what I’ve seen, attitude has an awful lot to do with disease. And genocide? That’s totally the hand of man.”
“As is ecocide.” Yanaha’s head shake was in the negative.
“Not the hand of god then, right?” Arnold was nodding his head in agreement as he said it.
“Could be a lot of interactive effects of karma for the poor guy who lost everything. It’s not his own personal karma, just the karma of the cosmos. The Book of Job tells us that the guy in charge is just an asshole sometimes and you have to deal with it.” Tante was nodding as well.
“Of course, there is some truth there as well, and there is some cause and effect, some karma.” Yanaha was thoughtful, playing with new ideas running around in her head. “Humans likened to maggoty worms when compared to the gods. We are beasts, organisms of the earth. We do bring some of our karma down upon ourselves.The pollution we’ve brought to the air and water, the changes to climate, these are things that we have wrought.” She continued. “That is comprehensible. The gods who think themselves above the maggots and the worms don’t mind destroying Gaia.”
“But there are things that just happen.” Zeus and Juno had come in to join them at the table. He opened a bottle of wine and sat as he poured and spoke. “When the meteor that crashed into the earth sixty five million years ago came hurtling down like Thor’s mighty hammer, it’s not like the dinosaurs brought it upon themselves.”
“It’s all a matter of scale.” Haile looked up from Mac. “The guy who lost his family and riches and health perhaps due to the karma of a drunk driver and bad insurance and neurobiological influences on health suffered the effects of interaction of those factors at a personal level with no fault of his own. The Holocaust and Dafur and Cambodia and Bosnia and genocides all over the world are the results of interactive effects of choices and actions at a scale of greater magnitude. So is the damage being done to environment. The meteor? Perhaps just more complex levels of interactive effect of karma still. Binary choices raised to the power of infinite possibility.”
“One person can’t carry out a genocide on her own. Still, is there some thing called evil that creates a hate filled leader like a Hitler? Or a Trumpet? I was inside that guy’s head. What I felt was anger.” Tante was really getting into this.
“I felt fear.” Ja
“I felt isolation.” Haile.
“I felt sorrow.” Yanaha.
“I felt guilt.” Arnold
“But did anyone feel evil?” Tante asked.
No one spoke up.
“It just seems to me that the idea of an omnipotent monarchical god who doles out rewards and punishments and whose will can’t be questioned and who works feats of magic and brings on plagues and warfare and who can bring people back to life or replace the dead with ready substitutes, that kind of god reeks of control.” Arnold finally broke the silence.
“It reeks of Patriarchy”. Juno.
“It reeks of otherworldliness.” Yanaha.
“It mostly just reeks.” Tante.
“No, give me sense perception and reasoning, no mythical gods beyond what’s here. There’s an organic intelligence inherent in the matter of the universe, it has its own divine rationality. There’s no need for the spiritual.” Zeus’ left brain was speaking again.
“So my dear, the entire cosmos can be reduced to cause and effect and rational action? Is it all so mechanistic?” Juno was grinning at him seductively. Their minds turned each other on, a lot. She ran her left great toe along his calf.
“Reduction of the universal divine rational into the fragmented individual human rational is the problem. Control of the passions can be a challenge.” He smiled back. They were definitely communicating.
“You do seem to have a lot of testosterone. One of the guys in the park told me testosterone was evil.” Tante was taking it all in. Zeus was pretty easy that way.
“Ah yes, we all have our social roles to fill. When the rationalists all get their passions under control and recognize their interdependence and responsibility to the whole, rational harmony will no doubt follow.” Juno took a sip of wine. “Sometimes we just have to accept what is, recognize that the cosmos was here for an infinity before Zeus and it will be here for an infinity after Zeus is gone. His passions mean little in the grand scheme of things.” She winked, lightly bit the tip of her tongue.
“There is a certain order to the cosmos, mathematical. It’s in the stars. Cooperation is key.” Zeus had gotten very serious in his tone. “But wholehearted Stoic detachment from desire is not for me, nor is dispassion. I have social roles, I have duties, I am passionate about them. I cannot sit dispassionately by as the Oligarchs destroy environment and humanity, destroy the potential for our children. Perhaps the great Roman generals preferred not to pass judgment; I reject that. I feel. I have grand desires. I have anger and grief and joy. I choose not to accept the nakedness of the Emperor and the way things are.” He was breathing hard, his voice boomed.
“You have compassion.” Ja was entranced by the zeal of Zeus’ delivery.
“Deep passion, grand desires, yes.” So was Juno. She, too, was nearly panting, her pulse rate was up.
“There is beauty in the finitude of life, it makes it worth living well. As do those things that come for the infinity after Zeus is gone. Carpe diem.” He toasted his wife and blew her a kiss.
The doorbell rang, and the spell was broken.
The End is Near