Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Evil is.... figs

You often hear that evil is missing the mark, like an arrow off the bulls-eye, or a kind of rebellious lawlessness, but I perfer the concept given to me by C.S. Lewis from his book Out of the Silent Plant. The protagonist Ransom attempts to learn the language of Old Solar and inquire about the Martian culture, but one of the things he can't get out of them is the word for evil, for it simply has not entered into their mind; the nearest thing he can do is the word bent to describe our world.
I've always liked that, because it speaks to the wrongness of evil, the unnaturalness of it. It paints a rather vivid word picture of a lead pipe turned into an unusable shape- something that is no longer what it was meant to be.

But better than this, I found I like the word-picture of evil given to me in the King James translation of Jeremiah 24:1-3. 
First, the English Standard- "After Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon had carried away captive Jeconiah the son of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, and the officials of Judah with the craftsmen and smiths from Jerusalem and had brought them to Babylon, the LORD showed me: behold, two baskets of figs set before the temple of the LORD! One basket had very good figs, like first-ripe figs, and the other basket had very bad figs which could not be eaten due to rottenness. Then the LORD said to me, "What do you see, Jeremiah?" And I said, "Figs, the good figs, very good; and the bad figs, very bad, which cannot be eaten due to rottenness."

Now, the King James (starting at verse two) which gives a fresh perspective (becomes it comes at us from an older, more unfamiliar culture) "One basket [had] very good figs, [even] like the figs [that are] first ripe: and the other basket [had] very naughty figs, which could not be eaten, they were so bad. Then said the LORD unto me, What seest thou, Jeremiah? And I said, Figs; the good figs, very good; and the evil, very evil, that cannot be eaten, they are so evil."

Rottenness is such a perfect synonym for evil.  It's an added quality, rottenness, polluting everything, destroying what was once wholesome and good, fit for consumption and health. It causes sickness to ingest and is good for nothing but to be thrown away.  It's contagious as well, put some rotten fruit next to some good fruit and wait, only a short time later both are ruined. And best of all, there is no better word for a criminal teenager than rotten. 

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