A Lesson In Good And Evil

th[4]Daily Prompt: Wicked Witch

Write about evil: how you understand it (or don’t), what you think it means, or a way it’s manifested, either in the world at large or in your life.

Evil exists. It is manifested by either our own personal desires and often ignited by a response to an external force or event.

Conscience or a greater external force prevents evil acts.

Years ago a wise man taught me a lesson. He said, “What if you found a quarter on the ground, what would you do?”

“I would first see if it belonged to someone,” I said. “And if not, keep it for myself.”

“But is it yours?” He said.

“Finders keepers losers weepers,” I said.

“Nice, a nice bit of philosophy by which to lead your life,” he said sardonically. “And it even rhymes. The point is, is it yours? Did you earn it, inherit it, or create it?”

“No,” I said.

“What would motivate you to think it was yours?” He said. “Is there a sense of gladness and happiness when you find it? I see people all the time find money and skip away as if it were theirs, but someplace some person is missing a quarter to complete their bus fare on a rainy night. They can‘t buy a meal because they are a quarter short. They can‘t make a phone call. And people are happy because of a person‘s misfortune of losing a quarter, finding it, and keeping it for themselves.”

“So what do you suggest I do?” I said.

“If you see a car alongside the road and the keys are in it, what do you do?” He said.

“I’d leave it there,” I said.

“What stops you from getting inside and driving away?” He said.

“The car has a registered owner,” I said. “That would be auto theft.”

“So if something is registered by the authorities than that makes a difference?” He said.

“Certainly,” I said. “But there is also the matter of value. A quarter is certainly not worth the same as a car.”

“But if that quarter gets a person a bus ride or is able to make a call for someone to pick them up the value is the same is it not?” He said.

“Yes,” I said.

“So, if I understand you,” he said. “Whether something is right or wrong depends on the law (a car registered to another person) or the value placed on something?”

“I see,” I said. “It has nothing to do with what is accepted by the community, but what my conscience will allow me to do?”

“I think you’re getting it?” He said. “So tell me in your own words what you see?”

“Very simply, the quarter does not belong to me neither does the car parked alongside the road. Even if registered to no one, it’s not mine. Perhaps the person may comeback and retrieve the quarter.”

“Evil presents itself in many ways,” he said. “And often times in a way in which we have to make decisions. At first it becomes a burden to make such decisions, but eventually it becomes easier. It’s much like riding a bike; when something comes along that knocks us off-balance we recover without even thinking about it. First we must train our conscience to recognize good and evil, right and wrong.”

“Thanks for the lesson,” I said.

“Think for a moment,” he said. “What is the base motive that would make you think that quarter belongs to you? Remember, ‘Finders keepers losers weepers.’”

“A desire to possess something that is not really mine?” I said.

“Right,” he said. “Bad and evil comes from greed and a desire to do what we don’t have the right to do, possess, or control.”

“But solid food belongs to mature people, those who through use have their powers of discernment trained to distinguish both right and wrong.“ Hebrews 5:14

“But each one is tried by being drawn out and enticed by his own desire.  Then the desire, when it has become fertile, gives birth to sin; in turn sin, when it has been carried out, brings forth death.” James 1:14,15

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19 comments

  1. Brilliant. Good and Evil is such a fascinating topic. Even when religion is taking out of the context, and basic morality/humanity is left, it is very interesting and deep. Enjoyed this very much.

    • Thanks for reading and a reply. Certainly it of interest to me also. We are all endowed with a universal code of ethics. The trick is to cultivate and expand it to new and arising situations.

  2. A fine, fine metaphor. I wonder, however, how you respond to this quote of Arthur Koestler: “We are unable to embrace the total process with our awareness; we can only focus on little lumps of reality (The Yogi and the Commissar)”? Secondly, how are you doing lately, less exhausted?

  3. Interesting aspects, a question of degree. For myself I’d scoop up that coin with a clear conscience—if I needed it. In so much as a coin is fungible and the next guy along would in all probabilit— certainty take it anyway, better in my hand than his. Hers.

    As for the car, no way. God might put a coin there to ease my weary burden, but a whole car? A suspicious soul, I’d suspect ‘trap’ — and given His omniscience I’d be right.

    So I’m a dishonest man?
    Diogenes would running shrieking for a box of matches at the sight of me … to comment adequately on this post (well done, too~!) would take more time than I have. Bugger …

    • Thanks for taking the time to comment. I certainly don’t judge a person nor wish to imply a person is wicked who picks up a quarter, but where does one draw the line? The lesson my friend was teaching me is evident.
      To paraphrase the Bible at Luke 16:10. The one faithful in little things will be faithful in big things and the one unfaithful in little things will be unfaithful in big things. Just a thought.

      • The line is drawn where conscience dictates. Sadly we rationalise to soothe a flustered conscience. But we can’t lie to ourselves, not successfully.

        As for that quarter, obviously lost and whimpering for company, I’d scoop it up and wipe away its tears. (A good rationale can soothe any conscience.)

        But I wouldn’t poke my hand into someone’s pocket (or a blind man’s cup) and steal one. Yet I would happily and cheerily withhold from a robber; lie to the tax man for example—robbing someone back who is robbing me seems a moral duty, in fact.

Blather away, if you like.

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