I discovered something very disconcerting about good and evil in a novel about a pre-human cluster of families entitled Lucy Lives by Mark A. Weaver. Yes, you got it: the protagonist is named after that Lucy, the famous fossil discovered in1974 in Ethiopia. If only a book like that had been on the seminary reading list I would’ve been fairly forewarned and much more prepared for that congregational jungle out there. To be fair, this novel would be great prep for any venue laden with politics, such as the workplace, academia, neighborhood associations, and of course governments themselves.
The author explains that about 3 million years ago, Lucy and her fellows live in trees and are hairy like apes, but walk like humans. So they are “on the way” to human-hood. At the beginning of the story Lucy ranks very low on the social hierarchy and is subject to the leader’s tyranny. On the first page we read, “Lucy was still new around here, and the others tended to make her nervous. Conflict was common among them, more often than not instigated by their leader Bul…or his horrible mother.” Lucy finds some consolation in reminiscing about the group she was born to, where the leader was caring and helpful. Thus we have here the grandmother of all soap operas.
Throughout the story of Lucy’s life we learn of groups forming and losing members, of individuals trying to become adopted into new groups, of some leaders ruling by greed and intimidation, while others rule by fairness and cooperation. And on top of all that many new things are happening to cause shifts in power. Lucy, for instance, accidentally discovers that she can throw rocks and therefore kill animals for food. This was revolutionary by the way, as getting meat in the diet vastly improved their quality of life because they did not have to constantly forage for food, leaving more time for other things. She first keeps her skill a secret among a very few friends and she starts to teach her inner circle how to throw……See how this sounds like a soap?
So how do good and evil fit in? Weaver um “weaves in” some nonfiction segments between the chapters where he enlightens us about evolution, making this an unusual book for sure. One of his main points is that evolution is amoral. Whatever works to perpetuate a species through reproduction is “successful”. Thus during Lucy’s time, the groups that ruthless dictators ruled reproduced and flourished just as well as the ones ruled by more benevolent types. Maybe even more so. Think unbridled polygamy. And here we are, Homo sapiens, having won out among all the other prehuman species that died out and spreading around the entire world like crazy for eons.
So from a purely evolutionary perspective, good and evil have equal standing. I find that dumbfounding. But it explains so much. Leaders who rule by intimidation and craftiness are so plentiful on our church (temple, mosque, etc.) boards, and at our jobs, and of course in our society’s political arenas, because such rule can be successful in maintaining and expanding power! No wonder it is not easy for good to prevail over evil. Nor is it inevitable that good will win, even though it has been as successful a strategy for group survival.
This is perplexing to take in, as Judaism and other religions I know about at least hope for if not guarantee that in the end, good will be the victor. I wish I had understood the truth about why evil exists to such an extent ages ago. That way I would not have wasted so much energy being surprised and so dismayed about this or that evil situation. I wished I had said to myself, it’s natural, so deal with it. Join the battle against it and no complaints.
I assume my readers too are still cheering for good to vanquish evil no matter how even the score is. And since both can endure, at least so far, maybe we need some way for humankind to experience evil as more dysfunctional and thereby less successful. Come to think of it, this dysfunction is already happening; our collective behavior is making the Earth less inhabitable for humans (among others), which in turn will ultimately no longer lead to “evolutionary success” because we cannot live in a completely polluted Earth.
But there is another ingredient we need in tandem with that, because in the short term, an evil act such as more pollution may benefit a given group through more money and power. What we need is something for the long term, and that is an incentive of some kind to be generous, value creativity, etc. I am no genius to answer here in this scarcely known bloglet what innumerable masters of philosophy, theology and so on have stated over thousands of years. But I want to leave one humble thought: perhaps one character change we need, if we can evolve towards it in time, is an enhanced self-awareness that gives long-range planning and future outcomes more immediacy. This would jolt us into action as assuredly as any imminent threat or imminent benefit. May the good gals and good guys win.
The book, Lucy Lives: A Novel Look at Early Human Evolution, is available on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Lucy-Lives-Novel-Early-Evolution/dp/1517653258/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=
C’mon, now, after all this heavy stuff, time to have some fun: First, a video of jazzy classical music, or classical jazzy music, by Darius Milhaud on this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bv9ii_uc2Rc
And second, my husband’s humorous short play that was part of a one-act festival, about an apartment in a baseball field: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1DFdceWV7rYV4FioJndjYv1hA3Q0Vcro9/view?usp=sharing
And there’s always my microblogging on Twitter: https://twitter.com/chaplainkkaplan