The Story That Created Evil
There was a time when all things were seen as one. Nature, the animals, and all of the ideas, discussions, and stories between them were brought together in a common identity. They were entirely singular in their diversity, and with their singularity existed harmony. All of the trees and the ants and the people and the rest knew they were different things, of course, but they also knew that their difference was the key to their success. The flowers needed the bees, and the wolves needed the caribou, and the humans needed the fish. Everything and everyone thrived in the harmony, even though they knew it meant that they may have to kill or be killed, use or surrender to violence. Harmony included the violence, but it did not include the evil. The evil could not exist in such a place.
As time passed, the world grew. More animals and things took up the space that they all shared, and for the harmony to continue existing, it was necessary that a level of order was maintained among all of the beings. At first, of course, the concept of leadership was welcome, as it was simply another part of everything. Those who led also saw themselves as part of the harmony of the world, reliant on those who they led. All were still one, and the harmony was maintained.
It was this way until a great leader began to question the way things were. “I am not a fish or a tree,” this leader said. “I am not the water or the grass or the sky. I have nothing to do with those things. I am above them, and I am the master of them.” This leader told those that were led this story. It was a new way of seeing the world not in terms of harmony, where all were reliant and obligated to each other, but where all were opposed. It was a story of fact and fiction, of animate and inanimate, of us and them, of winner and loser. And of good and evil. Because all believed in the harmony of things, it was widely accepted that the great leader’s story should be heeded.
Yet there were those who protested. “This story is dangerous, and we should not hear it. This story has destroyed the harmony of things and of the world. It will bring nothing but conflict and needless harm to all.” What they did not realize, however, is that “once a story is told, it cannot be called back. Once told, it is loose in the world” (King 10). It was too late, and all were grasped by its opposition and discord. Even those who called the the return to harmony were trapped by the story, and they were only able to attack the story head on, arguing against it in the dichotomous terms that it had created.
Since that story was told, there has been no returning to the harmony and peaceful coexistence that was. With that story came all things evil, as well as all things holy. By giving birth to opposition, the story brought forth unending conflict that will exist until, somehow, a new story is told and accepted by all.
I would not be surprised if you found some of J. Edward Chamberlin’s thought in here. That’s because it is in here. I do believe that one of our greatest philosophical challenges will be overcoming the conflict that is borne from binary thought. That is what this story is about – evil and good/holy are both created at once by the telling of a story that allows us (and, indeed, forces us) to see the world in terms of opposition and easy categorization. I wanted to create a story about the beginning of Evil that uses dichotomy because I actually believe that is at the root of it. This course is all about how stories shape perceptions and define identities and et cetera, so it seems entirely possible that the first person to define the world in these terms created the concepts of good and evil. It had to happen at some point.
As one would expect, this story came out differently every time as I told it orally. This was not unexpected. What I did find interesting is that I was far more comfortable with it once it was written down. Erika Paterson discusses the power of oral storytelling, most of which she says stems from the side of the listener rather than the teller. “The listener has far greater power to change the story,” engaging in an active interpretation with the storyteller at the time the story is told (Paterson n.p.). I believe that, perhaps, this is why I felt more comfortable writing my story rather than telling it orally. I did not have to engage with an audience. I did not have to explain anything beyond where I thought it should be explained. I could create points that were more open to interpretation than others, rather than interrupt the story with explanation for the listener. It was more intentional, the cadence was purposeful, and each sentence did what I wanted it do.
Moreover, my comfort likely came from the fact that I’ve never really engaged in oral storytelling of this kind. It felt forced and formal. At times it felt silly. I’ve been writing for far longer, and I’ve been presenting these ideas in a written format far more often, aside from formal debates and informal discussions with peers and academics.
This will take a lot more exploration on my part, but maybe it will spur discussion below. All kinds of stories are powerful – we know this from reading both Chamberlin and King. However, Paterson lends credence to oral storytelling over literary storytelling. I am fielding discussion here, but perhaps no one is better or more powerful than the other. Both types of storytelling hold immense power, but different power. At times these powers may compliment, and at times (as I found) they may conflict. Thus, some stories should be told orally, some literarily, and some in both forms. Maybe it all depends on which story is being told, and by whom, and to whom. What do you think?
King, Thomas. The Truth About Stories: A Native Narrative. Toronto: House of Anansi Press Inc, 2003. Print.
Paterson, Erika. “Lesson 1:2 Story & Literature.” ENGL 420A Canadian Studies: Canadian Literary Genres May 2016. University of British Columbia. Web. 30 May 2016.
Walt, Stephen M. “It’s Time to Abandon the Pursuit for Great Leaders.” Foreign Policy. Foreign Policy, 3 March 2016. Web. 30 May 2016.