Friday, December 18, 2009

The Essence of Everything

"'Are people born wicked?'" wonders Glinda The Good of the North in the opening song from Wicked. "'Or do they have wickedness thrust upon them?'"

Thus begins a fantastical exploration of an age-old debate:

Are humans inherently good or evil? Is personality created through nature or nurture?

From Paradise Lost to Star Wars, art has attempted to provoke answers.

Wicked claims that people are evil, but that it's no doing of their own. To assuage her guilt at being a mean roommate, Glinda befriends the unattractive, hence unpopular, Ephalba. She tries to convince the green girl that the circumstances of her birth were not her fault.

And here's a thought-provoking excerpt from NBC's sitcom, "Community":

Are we really driven by sex? If so, does that make us more evil than good?

Then, there's Donna Tartt's murder mystery, The Secret History, in which the reader considers the true nature of man; a group of elite college students plots a homicide against one of their own. When the group unravels, the question becomes whether the absence of reason is insanity, and if evil breeds evil.

Is the essence of humanity defined by what we want? Or to the extent we'll go to achieve it?

"'...What is desire?'" Tartt writes. "'We think we have many desires, but in fact we have only one. What is it?'"

What is it? And how does it clarify whether man is good or evil?

Do you know?


Shannon O'Donnell said...

I think my brain is overheating from all those deep thoughts. I have a room full of last-period-of-the-day-before-Christmas-break high school students who are being too loud and unfocused. Thus, I am not thinking coherent thoughts at the moment! ;-)

I'll be back later to see who can answer your riddle.

Anonymous said...


Jennie Englund said...

Shannon, are those high school kids inherently good or evil? I'd have to say you're on the good side, what with your teaching and all! Those two days before winter break are the hardest all year. I know for sure

Chocolate! Yes, we are driven by chocolate!

anjie said...

I can't decide if I think humans are ultimately seeking to control or seeking to feel. Perhaps the two complement each other, perhaps they conflict? Your question is interesting because it leads me to consider the level of selfishness required in pursuing control or feeling - and whether pursuing hurts or helps others. That seems to be the point at which we have to identify someone as good or evil.

Control? Feel? Good? Evil? Mmmm... Chocolate.