Wednesday, June 01, 2011

“I want to be well” says the Volcano

Evil. It’s hard to pin down, difficult to figure out.

We know it when we see it, especially in others. We say, “he’s the devil” or “she’s wicked.” Locating evil is the only way to comprehend the incomprehensible, take in the unimaginable. “Why would he do something like that? How could she do such a thing?” Sometimes we attribute such atrocity, such horrific behavior to madness. Crazy people do crazy things. But, that doesn’t settle the issue; we know he was “normal.” She was “fine.” But then, everything changed. He’s not the same guy; she’s not acting like she used to. We know we haven’t changed; we’re the same person. We saw things clearly. We know what’s right and what’s not. But what about them? How do we make sense of their bizarre behavior, their destructive bent, their calloused heart? Evil. We blame evil. Evil took control. Poisoned their soul. Ruined a perfectly good human being. Evil showed up and spoiled everything. Evil becomes our scapegoat.

But what happens when we discover that evil lies within us, too? That our fiery passion can erupt and destroy others? When the molten lava of our selfish inclinations explodes and reveals what was inside us all along? What do we do when evil is no longer “other” but “us”?

This seems to be Sufjan’s struggle. Accepting that evil is our fault (not “his” or “her”) makes the landscape of our souls seem so much more messy, the terrain of our social world more chaotic. Broken relationships are sickness; death is a social disease. Why does life have to be so hard, especially when all of us want to be well? The default mode, the pseudo-response to this broken down world is to say “it’s your fault.” But, the truth of the matter is: the murdering ghost lives in all of us. Islands are formed from volcanoes. “I want it all for myself” is such a lonely life.

“Oh, wretched man that I am, who will save me from this impossible soul?”