There has been so much loss over the last year for me and my loved ones. My divorce, for starters, was devastating for everyone involved. I remain confident that it was the right thing for all of us in the long run, but there is a reason that in a Tarot deck “Death” stands for change. Any major life change is like a death in the family. It’s something you have to grieve for, even if it is the best thing for everyone all around.
Then of course Death has literally darkened the door of everyone I love. My sister was murdered last summer - just as I was beginning to get over the loss of my marriage and to be optimistic about moving on to my new life with a new love, we found her lifeless body in the woods. I don’t need to rehash for any of you what a profound loss that was, and has continued to be. I don’t expect any of us will ever truly get over it, but the key is learning to incorporate it into our lives.
You hear the word “Evil” pretty early and often in life, but for most of us, we never actually have to face it. Star Wars introduced us to The Dark Side of the Force; Cinderella had a Wicked Stepmother who delighted in her torment; Superman and his friends fought for Justice against the Forces of Evil. In real life, most of us are never faced with such clear examples of Evil as Lex Luthor or Darth Vader. Life doesn’t have a soundtrack, and when you meet a would-be bad guy, there is no foreboding music to let you know that you should beware.
My existence is not like most. I have stared into the face of Evil. Evil feels nothing but hatred and anger, often thinly disguised as humor or righteous indignation. Evil delights in the torment of its opposition, and desires control above all else. One thing I have discovered along this path is that Evil’s power resides in fear and the willingness to escalate conflict beyond the point of no return. I have heard so many say “if anyone did that to my sister, I would kill him.” It’s easy to say that when you haven’t walked a mile in those shoes. Would you really?
"Many that live deserve death and some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them, Frodo?" – Gandalf the Grey; Lord of the Rings.
Taking the life of one that serves Evil does not right the wrong. Nothing can do that, because Evil has taken it so far that it cannot be taken back. My sister is dead. Neither does it make a hero. A hero is one that saves lives. Destroying an agent of Evil does not necessarily do that. Evil always has more agents, because there is always another victim.
Aha! That’s the secret. Evil is defeated by removing the source of its power. At the end of the day, an agent of Evil is nothing more than a human being that bleeds and bruises like the rest of us. The power of Evil resides in the fear it strikes in the hearts of its victims. Why then must we fear? Victims give power to Evil by fearing it. Instead, we must educate ourselves, and be willing to stare into the face of Evil and say “No More.”
“The only thing we have to fear is Fear itself.” – FDR
Evil does not protect its agents with some kind of invincible barrier; it gives them the power to strike fear by being willing to inflict pain of all sorts. Therefore, the way to defeat it is to be aware of it, and not to fear it. We must arm ourselves with inner strength and confidence, heightening our awareness, minding our surroundings.
The following is an excerpt from my Rokyu (Green Belt) Board of Review, back in 2001:
“My sister’s husband, who is a rather blunt instrument, enjoys jumping out to frighten people. When I was living in the house with them, I came out of the hall bathroom once, and he jumped out and shouted loudly to try to startle me. Instead, I instinctively dropped into a stance and threw a strike to the side that the sound came from. I looked, and there he was, covered in a Big Gulp sized amount of orange juice, holding a broken plastic cup.”
I will never forget the look on his face: deflated, defeated, disgusted. How dare I refuse to play the part of his victim anymore? Didn’t I know that I was supposed to shriek in terror for his amusement? He never tried to do that again. Instead, years later, he picked on my daughter. He delighted in making her cry when she was 3 years old by stomping around loudly like an ogre, and stealing her coat. Then when she would sob and run to me in fear, he would cackle and then offer her candy, as if to say, “Good little girl. You have reacted appropriately to my reign of terror. Have a treat.” Conversely, my niece, Alex, never reacted fearfully to him. She rolled her eyes at his ridiculous shenanigans and bullying.
“I f*$%ing hate the girl. I have since the day I met her.” – Matthew Leili when asked about Alex
Greeting fear with a display of strength is the best way to defeat Evil. That doesn’t mean we should be stupid, and go looking for trouble, or be oblivious to that which should be feared. It simply means that succumbing to the fear and cowering from Evil only gives it more power. Evil hates that which it cannot control or make to be subservient. It hates it, because it fears it. As I have already demonstrated above, at the heart of power lies fear.
“You have no power over me.” – Sarah in Jim Henson’s “Labyrinth”
Last weekend I traveled to Connecticut to pay my respects to Baird Robinson, my sweetheart’s father, and by all accounts a kind, gentle man who lived a great- if a bit shorter than some of us would like- life. It was a lovely service in an Episcopal church. I had never attended an Episcopal service before, and I find that the description that I had heard before, “Catholic Lite,” was fairly accurate. There was Communion, which I of course abstained from completely. (There is the option of kneeling at the altar and crossing your arms to indicate you don’t wish to partake, but I’m Jewish. We don’t do kneeling.) There was also a very beautiful choir selection, and many scriptures read.
In many ways it reminded me of my Grandmother’s Funeral service: a church worship service with an underlying theme of remembrance for the honored dead that we had gathered to celebrate. Included of course were The Lord’s Prayer, and the 23rd Psalm. The Episcopal service is very responsive. The priest reads a line and the congregation responds.
Priest: The Lord is with you.
Cong: And also with you.
As the service’s only Jewish attendee, I abstained from the readings, except for one line of the 23rd Psalm:
“I will fear no Evil.”