One night a few summers ago two of my dearest school friends came to visit me and we went out for a humble dinner and beers, during which my friend said one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever heard. She said, “there is so much beauty in the world, and so much of it is expressed in people.” It’s literally one of the few phrases I’ve heard in conversation in all my life that I remember verbatim, because I found it such a marvelous thought – or rather, observation, because it is absolutely true, and not just her subjective interpretation of the world. Human beings are fantastic. And yes, they are also evil. We are all beautiful, and we are all also ugly; such is the tragicomic nature of our human condition. As someone eons wiser and sooner than me once said, there is no light without dark, and this is true. But I want to focus on the light, on the good, because far too much emphasis is placed already on all things sad, bad, evil, and it is easy to forget the fact recollected in the also wise words of my friend: there is goodness in people.
And thus, since there is goodness in people, there is goodness in me. I must believe that. I do believe that. But another part of me, powerful, dark, and scary, taunts me with thoughts of the contrary, abuses me with tactics of shame and intimidation, makes me think I am not good – not good enough for my family or for my friends, whom I let down everyday; not good enough for love, which abandoned me once and will never come to me again; not good enough for my colleagues, who wouldn’t bet a cent on me; not good enough for myself, for my own acceptance, for my own love, for my own respect.
I know the darkness in me, of me; I know it all too well. I own my demons: they are me. I don’t have skeletons in my closet – I am the skeleton. I am the ghost of my past, because I never faced it, healed, moved past it. I have grown used to this negative side of my character so much that I have become that – and my goodness is not disappeared, for I still believe I have good values, I still believe I am a good person, I still want the best for those I care about, I still covet equality and justice for all, I still want to fight for those wronged and cheated and against the unfairness of life. But I suppose those have just become my ideas now, and not anymore my actions, not anymore what I demonstrate to others, what I represent and exemplify with leadership, because I have become my darkness.
It would be so much easier, I would feel so much better with myself, so much more at peace, if any one of two things were true: either I actually felt what I must be showing people I feel, or I actually acted according to the way I feel. It is so confusing to be how I am; so confusing that I, but only I, on my insides, see both sides of this coin, simultaneously: there is what I wish I did, what I wish I demonstrated, what I would like to do, and there is what I end up doing, demonstrating.
I wonder if others struggle with this dichotomy of self, or if they see their good and their bad as a continuum. I wonder if I’ve always been this way, I wonder why I’ve become this way. I wonder why, if I know what I want to do, and know what I want people to see from and think of me, and know what I want to demonstrate to people, and know how I should do things in order for them to align with the values and morals that I uphold so deeply and consider to be so important, then why do I feel like I am unable to do them, like I am unequipped to be consequent with these thoughts, why I consciously choose to refrain from acting upon them, why I, by omission of action, stand idly as I deliberately yet not malignantly hurt those around me. I wonder why I think of myself in some ways as an observer to my own life and actions. I wonder if other people give their bad so much thought, so much power. I wonder if they wonder so much.
And alas, I set about to write about the goodness in people, the beauty of humanity, and all I have done is focus on my dark.
I am sorry – but lately, that is all I see.
Because at the end of the day your goals and ideas and wants – they are ephemeral, and if you do not put in the effort to make them tangible, visible; if you do not wish them into action, materialize them; if you do not vocalize them, share them, make them known, make them felt… then they are irrelevant, then they are lost, then they are nothing but synapses in your own caged brain. And what a shame that is, because then this beauty that is in fact within you, within people, is nothing more than potential; then this beauty is not expressed, and then we can err on the side of mistrust, of thinking there is a lack of beauty in this world, then we can grow to believe that there is not so much good in this world. That is when we start to doubt that my friend’s beautiful observation is anything more than the wishful thinking of an illuminated, hopeful, innocent twenty-something; that is when we dismiss it as the ramblings of a bright-eyed, cliché, naive millennial; that is when we would be wrong.
And here, nestled in this crack in our collective thinking, this fact that we mistake for an absurdity, is where evil sets in, where blindness selective to all things pure and good originates. This is the most dangerous and forgotten truth of our lives.