“Imaginary” good and evil

From Phillip Yancy: (though most of it isn’t his, I got it from his article).

Simone Weil said imaginary evil, such as that portrayed in books, television shows, and movies, “is romantic and varied; real evil is gloomy, monotonous, barren, boring. Imaginary good is boring; real good is always new, marvelous, intoxicating.”

This, I have learned, is one of the hardest things about writing (and reading too). It falls into the same category as a discussion I heard/read somewhere about how much easier it is to maintain your image if you are an “evil” leader, than if you are a “good” leader.

The argument goes: For the former, everything you do reinforces your image– who you are (Even the “good” you may choose to do sets your people on edge, because everybody’s wondering what’s really going on, or when the other shoe will drop.); while, for the latter, no matter what you do, someone will be unhappy, and you will lose your reputation of “goodness.”

Most people today call Jesus a “good teacher” (if nothing more), and leave it at that (“How can anyone have a problem with a man going around telling everyone to love each other?”). But, other writers have pointed out, most people in Jesus’s day had very strong feelings about him. And not all of those positive.


Getting back to the original quote, I’ve always wondered how best to make Good and Right as complex and alive as all the bad that must inevitably be in a good story.

I think it was my husband that pointed out one element of this difficulty: Everyone has encountered evil. Many of them intense evil. Far fewer have noticed a good on that scale.

I’m not saying it isn’t there (though I can think of several cases where even I, on the outside, can’t see it), but good does not usually impress itself so unignorably on the individual as evil does.

One thought on ““Imaginary” good and evil

  1. Pingback: Untangling Tales » Archive du blog » Who’s the Accessory?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *