There Is No Good Without The Bad

If we look deeply, and intense enough, at the world, we begin to see patterns emerge. We can start to realize that the world may not as random and unpredictable, and thus as scary, as we think. We can see people behaving in habitual behavior, following routines that have been set in place. We see laws and rules posted for following, and synchronized steps of engagement trenched in interactions. Once we understand, or notice, a deeper meaning of behavior, we see patterns emerge within people, where comfort and security is often sought out in the minor moments, leading to a recognizable pattern of decision making (as if there is any decision at all. There sits a psychological theory that states that we have no decision power, that everything is in line with our habits. Even when we break a habit, it is not our decision or our will, it is habitual behavior re-manifesting).

Then, as if contrary to all notions of normality we adhere to, something shatters this mold. Someone breaks the law, skips the rules, or brings a gun to a school full of children (we see, when studying the why of ‘negative’ behavior, that this too is a pattern, but for sake of the essay, I will categorize it under the contrary to pattern paragraph). Our routine is suddenly demolished by a huge traffic accident, or our boss wakes us in the morning to call us into work.

This is the separation of Order and Chaos. As seen in the widely overused Taoist symbol of the Ying and Yang, order and chaos go hand in hand, and even sit inside of each other, knowing that at any moment that dot of chaos that sits within order can take over, breaking the balance, and immersing the world in chaos. Order is the routines, the pattern of behavior we all get in to. Order is the set work shift, the set route we take to work, the strict regimen we put our bodies or minds on. Order is a bedtime, or an alarm in the morning (although, in the morning, this may feel like chaos). Chaos is the opposite. Chaos is a broken routine, where we have to operate on the fly. Chaos is the panic, the danger we feel when our safety is question. Chaos is the wing it mentality we may take with our evenings, where we do whatever we may feel like in the moment. Order is the parent, the discipline, the structure. Chaos is the child, the freedom, the wild nature.

As seen in the Ying-Yang symbol, both order and chaos are needed, in perfect balance and harmony to reach success. Too much order, and we become robotic; consciousness is put at the wayside for obedience, and tyranny takes over. Too much chaos though, and panic sets in. People run wild, and primal instincts begin to reemerge. We see the scale shift often in workplaces. Older, more conservative workplaces value order, and can soon emerge totalitarian in their adherence to rules and regulations. On the other hand, younger, more liberal workplaces (think tech startups) often lean towards chaos, usually for two reasons. First, it seems as though there is a rebellious nature against the prestanding structure and order of typical workplaces, and second, there is an idea that chaos can produce creativity, so removal of desks and typical work spaces become commonplace (the literature though, would disagree with this notion. Creativity flourishes in structure and discipline, not chaos. “Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work." - Gustave Flaubert”).

I’ve seen first hand both regimes. Growing up, my mother’s home represented pure chaos. As a child, I naturally gravitated towards chaos, so I didn’t have an issue with it. The lack of bedtimes or eating schedules seemed natural and went well with my lack of care for any discipline. But, regardless of how I felt, the effects of chaos took hold. Homework was never even seen, much less completed. Fatigue was devastating, as obviously when no bedtimes were enforced, I’d stay up all night. Food was usually on a wing it basis, and nutrition was not very valued. Freedom was given wholeheartedly, as I had the ability to choose almost every aspect of my life. This was good and bad. Obviously, the freedom to choose led to poor decisions, because I had no idea what would led to productivity as a child. But, the freedom taught me consequences and how to control power. While I loved my mother’s home at the time, it represented pure chaos.

My father’s home, on the other hand, represented pure order (speaking strictly when I was a child. As I grew, so did the balance between order and chaos). There were strict rules on phone use and bedtimes, as 10 PM was the hour of reckoning. Dinner was made and served every night around the same time, with the exception of nights of sports. There was no argument, or equality of voice with my father, as he ran a totalitarian-like household. Freedom was rare, as it was always ‘what I say goes.’ Discipline was strictly enforced, as the greatest thing you could be to my father was obedient. While, as a child, I did not like my father’s home as much as I did my mother’s, it is because he lived on the far side of order. We could argue back and forth if any is better than another, but the moral of the story is that if you stray too far to either side, you end up in the same place: dissatisfaction, and inefficiency.

We often strive to eliminate chaos from our lives, but the truth is, that we can’t have one (order), without the other (chaos). They come hand in hand, like a package deal that we can’t seem to separate. While we may lean towards one side or the other, we must find a balance that is not too lopsided, so as both aspects are available to play roles when we need them. Order keeps us disciplined, chaos keeps us flexible.

Just as there is no option of divorcing chaos and order, there is no option of divorcing good and evil. We may try to draw hard lines in the sand for sake of mental separation and clarity, but there is a very fine line. Although we want to label things, people, and objects as good or bad, they are a mixture of both. Studying history, we see a tendency to label the Nazi prison guards as ‘evil’, as if to take an axe to the notion that we, and them, are anything alike. “I would never do that, I am a good person, and they are evil”. This, while comforting, is not true. While many things these people did were evil, they were people nonetheless, with a similar capacity for evil and good as you and I. There are very few, if any, things completely good and completely evil. Understanding this does make horrendous acts more human (and thus more understandable), but it also puts a burden of uncomfortable responsibility on our shoulders.

There is no good without bad. This is true in all relationships as well. There always is bad with the good, we just decide if the baggage if worth it. As in people, everyone carries their evil deep down inside, and if not, then their capacity for good is diminished. Judging saintly humans of the past, we see that Martin Luther King Jr wasn’t faithful to his wife, and that Gandhi had differing views of women and people of other races. Laced with the good, there is bad.

This isn’t to cut down these people, or set a rain cloud over your parade. Quite the opposite actually. These humans, as well as anyone who has held a successful relationship, worked so hard on the good, that it was able to outshine the evil, despite the realization that the evil will never leave. Carl Jung stated that, “No tree can grow to Heaven unless its roots reach down to Hell.” If you don’t understand the evil that lies dormant inside you; if you stay ignorant with labels such as wholeheartedly good or bad, you’ll never grow to heaven, because the path upwards leads simultaneously downwards. This is why Dr. Jordan B. Peterson said that the path to tranquility leads through the darkest forest, and warned us to beware of being called by God.

Personally, I have seen this manifest in my life in a number of ways. I have attempted to divorce the good from the evil on many occasions. I witnessed the evil inside of me (the shadow, for sake of simplicity) divulged into a full fledged personality. I witnessed the capacity of my core, and saw a deep truth that I could get so much darker. So I panicked, and pushed that truth to the depths of my being in a way that highlighted only the good parts of me. I erased the label of evil and stamped myself with a “good” mark. That was, until I grew as high up as I could, and my roots began to falter. I needed to go down, so into the depths of my soul I went. Lying there, occasionally protruding it’s ugly head, was my capacity for evil, and it was at this moment, that I understood that this, as much as my capacity for good, is always going to be a part of me.

There is no way for me to go up, without me also going down. I can’t become ‘saint-like’ without first understanding I can become ‘devil-like’. I can't become a patient and understanding communicator without first being a 1 AM blubbering buffoon. I can't strive to consistently speak the truth if I didn't previously live in lies. There is no good without the bad. There is no relationship without the inklings of dissatisfaction, or fear of separation. There is no pleasure without sacrifice (which either comes before the pleasure, or after). You can’t have the sand between your toes moment of eternal peace without the knee cracking moment of a college peer looking you in the eyes and telling you: “You know, no one here really likes you.” They go hand in hand. The same way that there is no love without heartbreak, no relationship without discourse, one cannot achieve peace without first encountering conflict.

Thus, when things are good, we should be more appreciative, and more mindful of the battle that is occuring to conquer that evil. When we have good memories, or encounters with others, we should keep in mind the possibility of evil that could and may manifest, as to 1. Prepare resilience, and 2. Take comfort in the good, even if momentarily.  

As for us, as humans who may be able to see, or to feel, what lies inside, don’t hide from it. Send your roots all the way down to the depths, as to create the ability to grow as high as possible. There is no shame in this, no reason to hide this part of us. As I stated before, there is no virtue in harmlessness, because anything good without the capacity for evil is just weakness, or a lack of will. And if not, if we continue to subject ourselves to the naivety of the idea that we are harmless, and that there is no evil within us, we will feel helpless and small, playing a victim as we blame the world for the problems that exist, without being able to see how we contribute to those problems. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn found this truth the hard way, but nonetheless understood that, “The battleline between good and evil runs through the heart of every man.”

So the same way you can’t have order without chaos, you can’t have good without evil.