Solving the problem of evil in the twenty-first century

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Little Black Boy….really?

To start this blog off on an entertaining note, I will begin with a personal anecdote:

My family originates from South India, where majority of the population is dark-skinned. This is a huge contrast from North Indians, who are usually pale in comparison to us, since they have traces of British-Anglo blood in most of their ancestries. That being said, my family is pretty dark-skinned. However, I am the “darkest” member out of my immediate family. Of course, I’ve been the butt of many family jokes and ridicule because of my dark skin and features. But the joke is on the rest of my family in the summer days, when the sun is unmerciful to any sort of light skin exposed to the blistering heat. So, while many of my family members cower in the sun, get blistered/burnt skin and have to be extra careful and slather on sunscreen, I can walk out in broad daylight for hours and walk back inside without any harm being done. Dark skin enables many people extra protection from the sun without the risk of sunburning. A superb biological advantage in my opinion. (This may not be true for everyone, but this is my own personal experience). And of course, I rub this in my family’s face playfully.

That being said, the thought never crossed my mind that “Huh. I was put on this Earth to absorb sunlight, and that’s exactly what I will do with my dark skin!”

“Little Black Boy” by William Blake puzzles me. It’s a short, sweet poem about an African American boy listening to his mother’s praise and reassurement about the joys of having dark skin after he laments his black appearance.

Halfway through the poem, the mother says “And we are put on earth in this little space…[we] Are but a cloud, a shady grove” (l.16-20). Towards the end of the poem, the little boy says he will proudly play the role of the “shady tree” and shade those (I assume he’s talking of his white master/ people but I’m not sure) around him.

This poem can be taken two ways. Either the importance African Americans played and how they can “protect” and one day follow God into heaven….or the poem can be seen as emphasizing the objectifying roles of African Americans in the past. I just thought that it was somehwhat ludicrous for a mother to tell her son that she should “shade” people since that’s what his skin color is only allowing him to do.

This is just one of the theories I summarized from reading from this poem. I’m sure it can also be a sweet children’s story of how a boy finds solace in his race.


Yakun Natima: The Devil Dance of Sri Lanka

The Yakun Natima translates into the “Devil Dance” which takes place in some places (mostly rural areas) in Sri Lanka. The Yakun Natima dates back to the Pre-Buddhist era of Sri Lanka, where myths and ancient legends were the religions of the country.

The beginning of the dance consists of the Kattadiya, or the Devil Dancer. The beginning of the dance is a type of exorcism, where the person with an incurable disease is in the corner of the “arena” where the dance shall take place, and the Kattadiya dances around to rid the person of the “devils” and evils that dwell in their body. The ritual drums are beaten in rhythm as the Kattadiya, who is also the designated medicine man, dances for a bit and then attends to the patient, giving him herbal medicines and balms in order to cure him from the evil spirits.

After the first part of the Yakun Natima, the second part of the dance is like a play. It depicts old Sri Lankan legends where the Devil is displayed as a stupid, nonsensical fool who tries to tempt and corrupt the local villagers but ends up being defeated in the end. The performers of this dance wear many masks, including the one pictured above; in one part of the dance, the Devil is portrayed as a half-man half-wolf being. And of course, he is a slow witted animal, who ends up getting burned on his tail by the local farmers after he tries to make away with one of their wives but is caught in broad daylight.

The Yakun Natima is significant in world culture because it depicts how the ancient fables of the Devil are still being performed today. It also shows the comic representation of the Devil, as he is always the butt of all jokes in this performance.

The Temptation of Jesus by Gustave Dore

The illustration by Gustave Dore, “The Temptation of Jesus Christ”,  strikes an emotional and religious chord in all its viewers.

The sketch refers to the Book of Matthew, where Jesus is praying and fasting for forty days and nights in the forest before he meets his fate. During Jesus’ period of meditation, Satan appears before Jesus in order to try and tempt him away from his devotion to God. First, Satan tries to scare Jesus out of going through with the Prophecy, saying that he will die for nothing and that his people/followers are cruel and will not devote themselves to him. When Jesus ignores Satan’s many detailed persuasions, Satan takes Jesus on the top of the highest mountain, telling Jesus that if he bows down to him and worships him, then he will give Jesus all the world seen beneath them. But Jesus strictly refuses Satan’s request, telling him that he already has a kingdom in Heaven and that the only person he will worship is God. Since he has no other option, Satan vanishes.

Many artists depict Satan in a variety of ways. They either depict him as a powerful evil being, a conniving creature, or a dim-witted bumpkin. Gustave Dore, a religious illustrator/painter in the 1800s, took a different approach. Instead, he portrays Satan as a pathetic individual, desperate to convert Jesus to his side. In the sketch, Satan is bent on one knee and is flailing an arm out to show Jesus the vast amount of land he is willing to trade if Jesus bows to him. There is a look of anguish and desperation of Satan’s face as he stares at Jesus. Jesus, however, is dignified and looking away from Satan’s bribe into the distance as a halo glows over his head.

Dore was trying to personify the concept of evil being a useless, pitiful creature as Satan is in the sketch. He embodied the notion of the triumph of good over evil and the rewards of turning away from temptation.

The Simpsons’ Shadows

The Simpsons is the classic television series that has been airing for more than twenty years and has over a billion viewers. Besides portraying the typical American family, the animated is family is loved for much more: specifically their character traits. Among the characters in the Simpson family, the two siblings, Bart and Lisa, are two of the most beloved siblings in television history.

Bart Simpson is the mischievous, rambunctious, dim-witted and prank-pulling older brother while Lisa Simpson is the smart, sweet, mild-mannered, generous and loving younger sister.

The image above portrays the two in a humorous/eerie light. Above the two are walking hand in hand; the traditional heartwarming scene. But their shadows show two completely distinct forms. Bart’s shadow depicts him as the devil, complete with two horns on either side of his head, while Lisa’s shadow depicts her as an angel donned with a halo above her head.

The small changes in the appearance of the two characters creates a big impact. At a first glimpse of the show, the two fit the stereotype of the brother-sister characteristics; what they should be portrayed as. But as the image above illustrates, the personalities of the two resemble the figures of the devil and the angel more than that of a brother and sister.

Another important thing to note about the image is the position of the two Simpsons. Their actual selves are holding hands and walking together into the distance.  Their shadows, however, are holding their hands at the side. This could possibly suggest that Bart and Lisa may “appear” to be getting along and walking in harmony, but their true desire and intentions do not wish to do so.

Realistically, the image is supposed to make you laugh or even chuckle to yourself, since it was meant for comedic purposes. Albeit, one cannot help but imagine the true forms of the Simpson siblings and the eerie message their shadows seem to convey.

“These Worries” by Kid Cudi: How the Devil plays a role in Music

Kid Cudi, for those of you who aren’t avid fans and followers of rap-music, is an upcoming music prodigy as of 2010. His music is said to be “real” since his music focuses on the real life issue. His song “These Worries” from his recently released album Man on the Moon II: Mr. Rager, is particularly interesting, since it deals with the turmoils an individual has to deal with because of the Devil’s actions. His song shows the pivotal turn of music lyrics and genre, as it turns to a more theological level.

The song is about a person’s worries, and how the burden should be lifted from one’s shoulders. It also focuses on how it wears out the body physically and mentally, and how the Devil toys with people’s health and mentalities. The individual in the song wishes for the worries and the burdensome load of evil to vanish from one’s shoulders.

To be more specific, at one 1:11 in the song, Kid Cudi sings “Poof-Poof Be Gone, I see the Devil Linger On.” Translated, the song states that the worries that Cudi holds is exhausting him, and through his blurred vision he sees the actual image of the Devil lingering around him in his surroundings.

The song’s moral, in a nutshell, is to relieve one’s self of their burdens and to relinquish the metaphorical Devil from one’s vision.

Songs nowadays focus on the theological aspects of life, mostly on the Devil’s doings. Especially in this song, Kid Cudi focuses on how the Devil can crumble a person’s stature. Today’s media focuses on the divinities of one’s life, how they play a role in our decisions/crucial points of our lives, and how they can affect our true beings. Although the song is rarely short and the analysis is not as in-depth as one might think. But initially, Kid Cudi directly hit the target of society’s views and their “worries”, and how the Devil can play a role in our lives, and in our music.

Devil by M. Night Shymalan

Devil Movie Poster

Although film writer, producer and director M. Night Shymalan has had several box-office flops since his Blockbuster hit “The Sixth Sense”, his fairly recent movie “Devil” didn’t bomb as bad as movie critics expected it to.

The movie is centered around five people (a security guard, a war veteran, a rich wife, an elderly woman, and a mattress salesman) trapped in an elevator in an office building in Chicago. The incident at first seems small, causing no distress what so ever. But within being trapped in the elevator, the lights go out for what seems to be a whole minute, and when they flicker back on the first victim is killed: a mattress salesman who has been evading taxes for years. Everyone comes to the realization that one of them is the killer, and the movie takes a chilling suspenseful turn as they start dying off. Hour by hour, the lights flicker on and off, producing a dead person in the elevator until the only two survivors left is the rich wife and the war veteran. The detective investigating the case realizes that each one of the victims trapped in the elevator has had a criminal record or has done evil things in their past. Suddenly, the rich wife is killed and the veteran is left alive in the elevator. However, the veteran is not the killer/Devil. It is actually the old woman, who was hung earlier in the movie. In a chilling scene, she raises herself from the heap of dead bodies and commands the veteran to come with her, but in a last minute attempt, the veteran confesses his sin: that he was drunk driving one night and killed a mother and her son, and left the scene in a hurry. The young woman and son was the family of the detective investigating the case (PLOT TWIST!!) The Devil, realizing the man’s soul is saved, leaves, and the veteran is escorted out by police once the elevator begins to work again. The detective who lost his family is driving the veteran back to the station, but instead of conducting his vengeance like he had planned his whole life, he forgives him, with the last line of the movie being “If the Devil is real, then so is God.”
Although it is not one of Shymalan’s best movies, the movie does show the chilling helplessness the Devil can play on it’s victims. Instead of the Devil being some dim-witted creature, in the movie he is portrayed as a deceitful, clever and outrageously grisly monster as he slaughters the people in the elevator. However, the ending struck a touching cord, showing the audience that even though the Devil is real, that means God is real.

Ravana: Satan Depicted in a Different Perspective

In our society, we view the Devil as a single being, full of malevolent qualities, a few of them being thievery, deception, and betrayal. However, in most Asian cultures, and especially in the Hindu religion, the Devil is represented as a demonic entity, having nine heads, twenty arms, and garbed in traditional Indian garb, shedding a whole new light on how the Devil is viewed in our society versus the South East Asian region of the world.
Ravana is the name of the Demon god referred to in Hindu theology. Ravana is seen as an evil force in the spiritual world. He is also the dreaded God of War, seen as every arm he possesses yields a weapon. Ravana is infamous for kidnapping Sita, the goddess and wife of another god, Rama. Eventually, Rama forced his army of Gods into Ravana’s underworld kingdom and saved Sita. In the Vedas (the Hindu’s book of religion), Rama slaughters Ravana by shooting an arrow through his chest, since cutting off his heads was ineffective as they grew back. Although his body is expired, his haunting spirit is still said to cause destruction and chaos, as his living being would have on the earth.
There are obvious, distinctive differences between the Devil Westerners choose to imagine and the Devil South Asians imagine. The appearance is a striking difference; we view our Devil to be a single being, probably red, with a pointed tail, horns, a pitchfork, hooves and sometimes in a comical way, accessorized with a goatee. Whereas Ravana is seen as a fierce, gigantic King with several heads and armed with several swords, giving him a mystical instead of a demonic appeal. Ravana, unlike our Western Devil, is actually referenced to as an actual God instead of a spiteful being. The most important distinction is that Ravana has an actual cemented background story of his notorious acts and his eventual downfall, while our Western Devil’s story comes from the Bible and has been altered and revised over generations.
In our minds, we have a solid, set Devil image that we can place in stories and legends. But we forget that there are other representations of the Devil, such as the one told in the Vedas in Hindu theology.