The Devil You Say

This is a work of fiction.

image by Sammy Sander on pixabay — free for use under their content licence

I went in search of the Devil.

Surely, I thought,
there must be someone to blame for this mess.

At first, I thought the Devil must reside in ‘bad’ people —
The morally weak, the corrupt, the greedy, the selfish.
There must be space in them for the Devil to take root.

But I spoke to those people,
and though they seemed somewhat deranged,
they were hurt, damaged, rather than wicked.
I could find no Devil there.

So then I sought the Devil in the details —
It was the system that was broken, destructive,
The Devil, I thought, just knew how to play the system.

But all of my charts just ended up in vicious cycles.
How could the Devil be the source
if there was no space for it
in the infinite loop of cause and effect?
The Devil, to my surprise,
could not be found in the details.
The details took no position;
they just were as they were,
caught in the intractable flow from now to Endgame.

Perhaps, I thought, the Devil is cleverer,
disguised in more innocent attire,
pretending to be unaware, inattentive,
in over its head. Was incompetence the real demon?
That would explain a lot.

But how do you explain away a genocide
as being an act of mere ineptitude,
an inadvertent clumsiness, a set of foolish errors,
compounded, born of incapacity?
I could see incompetence everywhere,
a lack of basic proficiency in everything,
but there was no Devil hiding behind it,
cloaking itself in its buffoonery.

So then I set my sights on “—isms” and ideologies.
Perhaps, I thought,
the Devil resides in righteous, inflexible, fanatical beliefs,
pursued to the bitter end.
Therein lay the sclerosis, it seemed,
the unreasonableness, the willful blindness.

But what lay behind that? When I looked closer
all I could see, in the religions, the cults,
the political platforms and spiritual persuasions,
the convictions, the dogmas, the teachings,
the absurd oversimplifications,
the intransigent faiths of all stripes
was fear,
soaked in anger and reinforced by hatred.

So I asked myself: Where does the fear come from?
And I thought I knew the answer:

Aha! I thought — I see now. I know where the Devil hides:
In stories!. They’re the real Devil’s handmaidens.
It’s the stories that are to blame.
We have the wrong stories, fearful, angry ones, bitter fables;
We need only create or rediscover the right ones, better ones,
and the Devil will be flushed out,
unable to feed on lies and deceptions.

But although I read them all, to diagnose them —
so many stories! —
I realized that none of the stories was real.
They were just a hook to hang the fear and anger on.
The fear and anger were there even without the mask of stories.

I couldn’t give up: Surely I was getting closer
to finding the Devil,
now that I knew where it wasn’t.

I kept searching. Capitalism?
Nope, just another system; we’ve already dealt with them.
Modernity then! Damn. Turned out that’s just a word
for “everything I don’t like about the current situation”.
I studied the wisdom of indigenous cultures:
The wetiko — the disease of European culture.
Surely the Devil can be found there,
in the land of ghosts and vampires.

Alas, that too was too simple an answer by half:
Dig down, and almost nothing
can be explained by geography:
There are ghosts and vampires everywhere,
but the Devil defies identifications
with places and times. If it exists at all
the Devil is always and everywhere.

Science, help me here! Surely you can tell.
Is the Devil in our brains, and in particular
in the dominance of our dissociative left brain,
or the psychosis of its entanglement?

Aw, c’mon science, don’t tell me that!
That there’s no free will to dissociate with,
no actual decision-making to entangle, and
no time in which our poor muddled brain can do anything?

OK, I’ll bite then — we’re all just
the product of our conditioning,
and maybe not even real. So where, then, is the Devil?
Where, in this emergence of appearances, will I find a clue
to how everything in this world has gone so wrong?

No, damn you, don’t “that’s just our nature” me.
I’m not buying that dreary Rogue Species homo rapiens stuff.
Please — anything but that.

That’s the only alternative you can come up with?:
There is no Devil. Why not? Why?
There is no why.
Everything just is as it apparently is, for no reason.
That’s a tautology. Not buying it.

Clever though — Can’t argue with it.
Unless, unless… you’re the Devil, just playing with me.
Confusing me with words, and ideas that don’t make sense.
Telling me, absurdly, that no one and nothing is to blame,
for anything.

If you were really the Devil, after all,
that’s exactly what you would say,
so that the terrible stuff going on can continue, unchallenged.
I’m on to you now.

Pitchfork and torch fire in hand, I’m on the hunt,
I’ll find you. You’re around here somewhere, for sure.
Closing in on you, Devil. Someone is to blame,

and it must be you.

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