Heart of Darkness
Did you read the Heart of Darkness in school? Probably so. I think it is one of those “classics” English Lit teachers love to force people to read.
Not exactly an entertaining read but I don’t believe it was intended to be entertaining in the way we view entertainment today. This novel is famous for the deeper meaning present in the storyline. The surface story is set in Africa and discusses the European exploitation of the Congo region through any means necessary (including the brutal treatment of locals and harvesting of resources). However the greater storyline and the theme I took away from this novel is the inclination of man’s heart towards evil.
It seems that man has been exploring this question for quite some time.
Where does this inclination come from?
In light of recent events, our society seems to struggle with answering this question.
Take today for example – Charlottesville, VA.
Based on my understanding of the situation, a white supremacist extremist group gathered in protest and was met with backlash. The protest/riot turned violent resulting in at least one death and dozens more injured.
As I review social media, I see numerous people beginning to parcel out blame for the current state of affairs in our nation. Blame President Trump, blame President Obama, blame Black Lives Matter, blame the alt right etc.
The battle lines are drawn, largely divided between Left and Right. There is strong consensus that the events of today were evil, but there are very few answers when it comes to explaining evil.
Why are we so confused on this? How can we not see what is so plainly apparent about the human condition?
No Moral Reference Point
This seems like a recent phenomenon to me. The confusion over right and wrong in the public sphere. Good and evil etc.
Honestly, I think it is a recent phenomenon.
Our culture has sought to remove God from the conversation with little thought of the consequences. This effort has become more pronounced recently, but has been occurring for quite some time.
(And before you write me off as one of those people saying “you remove God from our schools and this is what happens!” just hear me out. My personal conviction is that the Lord is present even in the midst of those circumstances. My belief in an all-powerful God convinces me that He is present whether we reject Him or not.)
For a good portion of my life, our national conscience was slowly drifting away from the awareness of a higher power. I am not even talking about the God I believe in. I am merely talking about a Creator of a moral framework that we just take for granted. A reference point for morality.
Lately it seems we are content with moving away with a little more speed. A little more purposefully.
The lines of justice have become blurred, the standard for love has been compromised, our morality as a nation has become relative.
I believe we are now beginning to see the consequences of the removal of a singular reference point for morality. It is as if we removed the skeleton from a body and expected it to stand.
And just like the skeleton, we are collapsing in on ourselves.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident”
Our nation was built on the existence of “Self Evident Truths”. What is a “self-evident truth”? I suppose it is a truth that is discernible without proof. In simpler terms, It is what it is.
The self-evident truths of our nation are spelled out in the Declaration of Independence and include equality and a certain set of rights that are not to be infringed upon (aka unalienable rights).
Where do these come from? The founders believe they came from a “Creator” and this idea has informed our society up until recently. The ideals we take for granted as Americans are built on this foundation. This fact is inescapable. You cannot appeal to the self-evident truths of equality and unalienable rights without a reference point. You cannot appeal to morality at all without a reference point. There has to be some sort of starting point for the creation of these self-evident truths.
How can we honestly define good and evil without some sort of official standard? You can’t. And we are seeing this play out before our eyes. The battle lines are drawn and we are seeking someone, anyone, to blame.
My Heart of Darkness
So, who is to blame?
We are to blame.
Present in all of us is a Heart of Darkness.
Left unchecked by a moral reference point, we will bend sharply towards evil with very little understanding of why and the events of today will continue to happen.
We will act in ways we don’t understand because we continue to suppress the only way of understanding the condition of our heart.
You cannot comprehend darkness without the presence of light.
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?