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Is Good Evil and Evil Good?

Café-Salon Philosophique #28

January 9, 1999

No. of Participants: 15

Topic for the Evening's Discussion: What is good? What is evil?

Samuel welcomed all new and old back to Barnes and Noble located at 2915 Pearl St. following a break for the holiday season. Cathy volunteered to read the Cafe Guidelines which is an outline for guiding group discussion.

We were then asked to bring forth from our thoughts a universal topic that the group could focus on. Someone mentioned discussing good and evil. Everyone agreed. So, Samuel asked us to define "what good and evil meant to us."

John began. "Things that have value are good - like ethical standards." Jeanette wondered, "why do we even have to question what is good or what is evil?" To her, defining good and evil is a "judgement call."

Stephanie brought up the fact that "value and belief systems have changed over the years. What used to be considered evil 50 years ago, isn't necessarily evil anymore." "The changing times of our world creates a constant redefining of the words good and evil."

Marc stated, "those things that advance Society as a whole are good."

Samuel asked the group if they thought "Microsoft was good?" No replies. Just some blank stares. Next question, "Is killing good?" Wayne used the acts of war, riots and terrorism as examples. "If only 100 people are killed versus 3,000 we would say this was good, wouldn't we?" "This cannot justify killing though. No killing is good. There is no justificiation for murder, war or terrorism." But, why after hundreds of years do we still act like barbarians towards our fellow mankind? Why do people in this world choose destructive "ways to escape," such as, through crime, drugs, war, suicide, etc?

Samuel then bounced participants back to defining the concepts of good and evil. Marc identified "mother's love" as a good thing. "Children raised in a loving, trusting home or environment, tend to have a better outlook on life." "Bad is when I stub my toe and hurt my self, " Marc said.

Stephen thinks of bad as being when "stress and disharmony rule." "Good brings peace." Aziza struggled to define good and evil. She said, "one man's good can be another man's evil. And vise versa."

Celia believes "good is harmonious when one is in balance with things in the world." "I think of Mother Theresa as being good and Hitler and Alexander the Great as being evil by how they treated mankind."

Stephanie commented, "good are those things which allow freedom." "Evil is oppression or coercion." Wayne remarked, "I hate pain but, pain can be good because it is like an alarm clock." It signals you to pay attention to your body. "Something else that is good, is when I don't agree with my self." "I enjoy the war with my self because I know I am going to learn something."

That was all for concrete definitions on good and evil. I would like to add this definition of good which comes from the book, "The Flame of Attention" by Krishnamurti.

He said:

"Good means to be correct. Correct means to be precise and accurate, not pretentious. Good also means to be completely honest along with a good sense of integrity."

"To be good also means to be whole and not fragmented. We have been brought up in fragmented, chaotic traditions. What is important is not what goodness is, but why one's brain is caught in tradition. So one has to learn and try and understand why the brain, which is very subtle stays caught up in following the falsehoods of these traditions."

The next question posed by Samuel was, "Can evil be equated with power?" Marc mentioned "the rise of the Catholic Church as one example of how power can be oppressive and take advantage and misuse the wealth of the people by building and constructing cathedrals and other structural symbols."

Another corrupt use of power in the church was Tibetan Monks using monies of the people to develop and build huge monasteries while denying people a fruitful way of living, and by convincing them that "poverty and death was good." People were taught to "suffer this life time and the next one will be better." These are just a couple of examples (which happen to be religious) of how organizations mislead and exploit people's intelligence, take their money and their time.

Power can also be corrupt if it is used for manipulation, coercion, self-gratification, or seeks to harm or injure the individual or others. Power is corrupt when it preys upon the weak. Power is misused when one tries to convince others "that they know what is good for them" like gurus.

Jeanette couldn't put into words how to distinguish between good and evil. But, she finally stated that she could see good as being, "peace, love and growth." Marjorie said "the concept of good and evil has to be based on one's own personal experiences. Ethical and nonethical issues must be taken into consideration. As our values and beliefs change throughout our life, so does our interpretation of good and evil."

"Good brings harmony and balance to all things. Good is that which enhances communication," Steve said.

Samuel then asked the question, "Is it worth being human? Is it easy? What about the God self?" No answers to these questions.

Attilio believes "fate decides beliefs. It's how the spirit moves you." How one "thinks" determines what is good or evil. People are unaware of how thoughts travel and can have a "rippling" effect on all aspects of life. The attitude and approach one uses in life is important and makes a difference in relating in the world.

Negative attitudes can stop, suppress, compress, and stifle one from carrying forth worthwhile actions. We say, "not now, I'm busy, I'll do it later, I can't do that, etc."

Having a positive outlook or attitude is a skill that must be developed, cultivated and used every day. Become aware of your mood when you first get out of bed. If it needs some shifting, think of something that would make you laugh or think about "something good that is going to happen today" for a more positive approach to your day.

Wake up with new eyes every morning as though looking at things for the first time or as if everything were brand new.

Try objectively viewing yourself from "The Helicopter." From this "perch," you can become a watchful observer of what you say, do and how you act. Alot could change if you are able to laugh and see the amusing side to the "human follies" that you are observing.

Wayne commented, "civilization was invented by us humans and if you really look at what we have created, it is a kind of cosmic joke."

Samuel concluded the meeting by stating how studying and living the art form of mime has "kept him sane in the midst of madness" in this crazy world.

The overuse and abuse of words can be a great source of confusion and create chaos which was evident in tonight's meeting by the long periods of "rambling" that took place.

Is it possible for you to stay sane in the midst of madness? Are you comfortable with periods of silence? Do you find the time to be with silence?

There is a saying, "At the edge of words is silence. At the edge of silence is realization."

Can you possibly even conceive of such silence or understanding? Think about it!

The next meeting for Cafe will be January 23, 1999 at Barnes and Noble, 2915 Pearl St. Start time is 7:30 p.m. Hope to see you there! Bring your friends! (Cafe did not meet the week of December 19th due to inclement weather)

Reported by Alessandra

"Samuel brings awareness to the soul of people and gives the artists who work under his direction the need, dedication, and love for the world of silence and the beautiful art of movement."


- Marcel Marceau, BIP 1961

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LCDS is an independent school for self-discovery through the human Arts.  The school offers seminars and workshops teaching the concepts of Theater, Mime, and Movement.