[GM had been writing about 'dueling' in prison.]
Apart from some spelling and grammar bandaids needed, I really like this paper. It serves well as a prompt for further conversation and deliberation. Nicely done!
Your focusing on dueling in the place wherein you dwell lifts the subject from dim historical intellectual ‘entertainment’ and plops it down into an intensively felt and lived environment. You represent your opinions well and you describe the everyday duel with the eye of a participant observer.
I want to retrieve your words: "When I said that human nature is naturally evil I truly meant it." They lead me to look again at ‘evil’ and its interpretation. Aside from the awfulness of the repercussions of evil, I ask myself an originary question — whence does it come? I’ve heard many of the mythic stories, the theological stories, and the speculative thinking about evil — but I am also interested in the philosophical origin of it. Here’s my current take:
There is word in Sanskrit, Avidyā:
Avidyā (अविद्या) is a Vedic Sanskrit word, and is a compound of "a" and "vidya", meaning "not vidya". The word vidya is derived from the Sanskrit root Vid, which means "to know, to perceive, to see, to understand". Therefore, avidya means to "not know, not perceive, not understand". The Vid*-related terms appears extensively in the Rigveda and other Vedas. Avidya is usually rendered as "ignorance" in English translations of ancient Indian texts, sometimes as "spiritual ignorance".
The word avidyā is derived from the Proto-Indo-European root *weid-, meaning "to see" or "to know". It is a cognate of Latin vidēre (which would turn to "video") and English “wit". (Wikipedia)
In the yogic sense, avidya means something that goes far beyond ordinary ignorance. Avidya is a fundamental blindness about reality. The core ignorance we call avidya isn't a lack of information, but the inability to experience your deep connection to others, to the source of being, and to your true Self. (Yoga Journal)
So here’s the question for me — Are we by nature good or evil? Or, is there a permeating ignorance that covers, shields, and deflects our attention from what is core, caring, and connecting in the realm of being and existence?
This attention or awareness is what, in my opinion, philosophy and spirituality assists in uncovering and making present to us. I’d go further and say that, it seems to me, this attention or awareness once awakened does not look at some “thing” that is good or evil, as through good and evil were some object or objective state that exists in and of itself. Rather, when you or I begin to see through the permeating ignorance within and without ourselves, it is our ‘seeing’ itself that carries with it, in its very action or activity of seeing, what we have come to call ‘good’ or ‘evil’.
In plain talk — we are plagued by ignorance.
We experience it in people, in. institutions, in history, and, yes, in ourselves. Seeing, knowing, or understanding — all of which seem fundamental in the process of approaching what we call ‘love’ — these three activities seem to be in constant conflict with blind reactivity, cultivated erroneous opinion, and intentional misinterpretation of another’s actions or words.
So, is there evil? Yes, there are innumerable examples of unkindness, cruelty, and separating-out behavior. Is there good? Yes, there are innumerable examples of kindness, healing, and connecting behavior.
But, (in my opinion, for conversation’s sake) good and evil are not a ‘thing’ nor a ‘person’. They are activities of mind and body that either hold on to ignorance or break through it to seeing, knowing, understanding, and — a worthwhile wish — to loving connection with what is within and that which surrounds us.
Thanks for the prompt!