Humans Are Perverse

Only part of us is sane; only part of us loves pleasure and the longer day of happiness, wants to live to our nineties and die in peace, in a house that we built, that shall shelter those who come after us.
The other half of us is nearly mad. It prefers the disagreeable to the agreeable, loves pain and its darker night despair, and wants to die in a catastrophe that will set back life to its beginnings and leave nothing of our house save its blackened foundations. Our bright nature fights in us with this yeasty darkness, and neither part is commonly quite victorious, for we are divided against ourselves and will not let either part be destroyed.
Rebecca West, Black Lamb and Grey Falcon (1941)

So we all have a bit of Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in us, and to be human is to have a dark side. The universe is bipolar, and both visions are correct, even at the same time as we learn in Zen. The world is either a good place where the possibility of decency and success combined exists, as in soaring goodness of Shakespeare’s best characters, or it is consists of a blackened existence, as in a Ben Jonson play where near every character is a scoundrel with a depraved heart  and the the few good men are ineffectual and impotent and as in Dostoevsky, evil always triumphs and good falls down in the gutters to defeat.
Bottom line: the human heart is both divided and perverse.
P.S. That Rebecca West book is not only one of the finest novels of the 20th Century, but it is also one of the greatest works in English-language literature. And it’s only 1,181 pages long!

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0 thoughts on “Humans Are Perverse”

  1. half of us loves pain? when you’re suffering do you half love it? i don’t think so…
    bad people are selfish- they like pleasure for themselves and pain for others, no?

  2. Robert I highly suggest reading Bodhidharma’s sutras (he is considered the first patriarch of Zen, so its trustworthy 🙂 ). His teachings are phenomenal. Aside from the meditative work it provides, it also gives a real idea of human tendencies. I’ve started studying Buddhism and this is why, as you’ve seen in past posts, I have an interest for Buddhism and Taoism.

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