Malice and Malaise
The Earth is full of the fruits of malice. Malice is not just the “urge to kill” as noted in the last post. It is the harrassment, too, by the spammer and hacker or, for that matter, of the political ratfucker and ratfucking politics, which has become pretty much the norm of contemporary politics, being war by other means. It’s also cruelty in the treatment of animals. Malice, and the delight in malice, is what motivates the bigot and the fanatic equally.
What is the root of such malice? Why does malice seem so out of control today?
The Book of Genesis, and other legends of the Flood, has it that the Deluge occurred because the “imagination of men’s hearts” was full of malice continuously. The “imagination of the heart” is what we have been calling “intent” or intentionality. It doesn’t matter what I will. Perhaps I will to be “good” and to do good, at least as we understand “good”. But it does no good at all, and is quite fruitless in fact, if the “imagination of the heart” overrules what the ego nature wills. Hervey Cluckley’s “Mask of Sanity” is really a disguise for this deeper malaise or pathology — the “imagination of the heart” which is today, once again, full of malice. That’s pretty much the same theme as The Who’s song “Behind Blue Eyes” mentioned in the last post.
Is harbouring and nurturing malice in the imagination of the heart the “normal” and “natural” human condition or is it instead an aberrant and extraordinary one? Much of the “new normal” seems to involve the uninhibited expression of unmitigated barbarism, brutalism, and malice, all of which are excused and justified as being “perfectly natural”. Being “perfectly natural” is now considered to be a very good thing, even though the Three Evils of Buddhism — greed, malice, and ignorance — are all just “perfectly natural” too, as are Rumi’s four nafs or “animal spirits”.
The situation reflects Gebser’s observation that the growth in “technological feasibility” has outstripped and overtaken “man’s sense of responsibility”. Rosenstock calls it “our re-invasion by nature”. If I tell someone that their act was “only natural”, I relieve them of responsibility for that act. The “natural” and the “responsible” have become antitheses. It’s one of the reasons Rosenstock chose respondeo, etsi mutabor — “I respond, although I will be changed” — as his formula for a new metanoia — or new mind. What does it mean to be responsible? We no longer even know that since “the death of God”.
What was “the Deluge” really? It was nihilism. In Genesis, the Abyss or Void or the Nihil or Chaos was not empty space, but water, water everywhere. The beginning of creation was the separation of “the waters above from the waters below”.
The Maya, apparently had a belief that while first world was destroyed by water, and the next would be destroyed by fire. I haven’t got the sinews for even contemplating what that could imply. Apparently, the four elements of Earth, Air, Fire, and Water will each take turns in time dominating and destroying the others as if anxious for all existence and being to return to the Nihil, the Void. In any event, world destruction by fire is also the dystopian hopelessness of books like Brunner’s The Sheep Look Up and Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, as well as the great fear of global warming.
Yeats’ “rough beast” with eye “blank and pitiless like the sun” is also an image of malice. Malice is the absence of empathy and, as you know, Gary Olson’s Empathy Imperiled is the flip side of Lasch’s Culture of Narcissism. Perhaps, if anything, we’ll have to come to learn the full price of harbouring malice.