De Bonum et Malum Natura

It may seem odd, but I spend a lot of time thinking about the nature of good and evil. I see it in the shows I watch, the books I read, the games I play, the people around me. What does it mean to be good? What does it mean to be evil? Are we these things because of who we are, what we do, or some of both?

Yeah, these are some of the things I think of at night. It’s part of why I find myself drawn to the paladin character type in RPGs and video games. I don’t like doing bad things, even if they don’t necessarily qualify as evil. I don’t like lying, even though I’m good at it. It churns my stomach, makes me sick. But if it makes me feel so bad, why did I do it for so long? What kind of person does that make me?

In a lot of games, and movies, and a lot of media, there’s a pretty stark line between good and evil. You’re either one, or the other, and once you’ve picked a side, there’s no changing it. But in others, it is how you act now, who you are now, that defines you. One of my favorite shows, Angel, was like this; the main character was a vampire – someone whose dead body was inhabited by a demon who remembers everything about the person, but isn’t them- and did terrible, evil things for almost 200 years. But then, he was cursed with his old human soul, and made to feel remorse for all the things he did. So eventually he chose to work towards good rather than evil. He can’t make up for everything he’d done, but he can try to make the world better. 

Something Angel said – several things, really- stick with me. One is that, and I quote, “If there’s no great glorious end to all this, if nothing we do matters… , then all that matters is what we do. ‘Cause that’s all there is. What we do. Now. Today… Because, if there’s no bigger meaning, then the smallest act of kindness is the greatest thing in the world.” Maybe there isn’t always a bigger picture, a grand plan. Maybe good and evil aren’t grand chessmasters pushing pieces around, each piece always static and unchanging. Maybe good is the guy who helps a friend, and bad is the guy who lies to everyone. But that can all change – you can change – dependent on what you do.

I still don’t like playing bad characters – I just find it kinda skeezy. But I think now that while there is good and evil, it isn’t always as clear as we think it is, and it doesn’t always stay one way or the other. To quote another crimefighter, in a relatively recent movie, “It’s not who I am underneath..but what I do…that defines me.” So I guess I’ll just have to work on doing more good things. 

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