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Evil fascinates, yet repels. Its illusion seems to obliterate every vestige of life, to those sitting in the malaise of our broken world, I among them.

I hungered for the fresh prose of other such worlds gripped by evil, and retrieved from my bookcase the historical novel, All the Light We Cannot See (2014), A National Book Award Finalist written by Anthony Doerr. A terse thriller set in Nazi-occupied St-Malo, France, it exposed me to Hitler’s dragnet of evil and its aftermath: resilience of spirit in restoration—But not without prodigious growth in two teenagers, the blind French Marie-Laure and the German orphan Werner, terrorized by the sinister Sergeant Major VonRumpel, gemologist for the Reich. In August 1944, Allied bombing made short shrift of the Nazi’s last holdout.

Even more compelling than when I first read this historical novel were its jigsaw-fitting word-images replete with sensory data; urgency clothed the story line such that I could not remain uninvolved. Its freshness washed my imagination and restored hope in a transcendent presence at work, even now, in our Covid-plagued world.

And the book’s title, All the Light We Cannot See, speaks to this uncanny way of knowing, accessed by its author. Such knowing dismantles stratagems of societal evil concocted by global perpetrators in underground labs and conference rooms and spread broadside by fear-mongering news outlets.

Just as Light guided Doerr’s teens through monstrous evil, we too, through heart-faith, can experience such guidance. It’s always there. We just have to be humble and listen.

Wrapping story around horrific events disseminates their skeletal outlines into bite-sized pieces for readers’ assimilation and learning.

Such an event occurred the night of January 30, 1945, during a freezing snowstorm upon the Baltic Sea. The Soviet submarine S-13 torpedoed the German transport ship, the MV Wilhelm Gustloff, nine hours into its passage. On board were 10,000 refugees fleeing from the Russian and Allied offensive. Only one thousand survived.

For three years the author Ruta Sepetys, the daughter of a Lithuanian refugee from World War II, researched this disaster until, in her imagination, Salt to the Sea (2016) was conceived. The story unfolds, piecemeal, through four characters: Joanna, a twenty-one-year old Lithuanian nurse; Florian, a seventeen-year old East Prussian preservationist and restorer of works of art; Emilia fifteen-years old, Polish and eight months pregnant; and Alfred, a seventeen-year old delusional German seaman assigned to the Wilhelm Gustloff.

Like a skilled minimalist painter, Sepetys reveals more by what she leaves out. Her precise words have dropped depth charges upon this reader’s psyche, its rumble evoking a slow burn and profound feelings for the characters.

Salt to the Sea, an historical novel, also leaves me with questions. In seventy-five years, will anyone be writing of today’s refugees caught within the cross-hairs of global politics? Since when has it been all right to minimize the losses of the poor, even their lives?

All of this cries out to God—And it does.

 

At 11 P.M., I awoke with this shocking dream:

It is night. A wealthy, mean-spirited old man lives alone in his country estate. A solitary lamp illumines the great room in which he lounges upon an oversized wingback chair, his crop of white hair tangled about his large ears. His thick lips suck a cigar, its juice darkening the creases around his mouth. Because his health is failing, he needs help with personal care. Within the shadows, numerous young women, clad only in bikinis, await their turn to be interviewed. Each must kneel before him and allow him to fondle their breasts and other body parts. I’ve no recall of having been touched, but I was hired.

Disgust forced me to end the dream by returning to consciousness. I could not bear to see myself in service to Evil, the wealthy, mean-spirited old man hiding out in my psyche. Such corresponds to the archetype of the Negative Animus as discovered by Dr. C. J. Jung in his analytical psychology in the early 1900s. I still shudder with the implications of this dream, especially having lived within its thrall for much of my life.

That the Beast is still around unnerves me.

After I reflected upon my entrapment in the dream and short-circuiting its momentum, I resorted to composing a different ending. I returned to that great room, shielded my eyes from the wealthy, mean-spirited old man, grabbed my purse, ran out the front door of the country estate, found my car under the waning moon, and raced home, still panting. Only deeper consciousness in the present will prevent further entrapments. For that I rely totally upon Precious God.

 

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