Thursday, December 13, 2012

Excising the Scalpel of the Soul: Learning About Human Nature From Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

For many, who dare to sit in the quiet rooms of a darkened home, eschewing the touch screens, devices and tidbits designed for the pommeling of the ears with the cacophony of voices--the voices!--choosing instead to shut them out and remain in the silent hours with the express purpose of introspection, meditation and self-scrutinizing judgment, such a daring enterprise tempts on the borders of self-loathing and despair at the site of that which lies in the recesses of the heart.  And there are other things, darker things in the abyss.  These are the things that bring trouble to the mind in flits and sparks of frantic flame.  Whence are these thoughts and feelings?  Is there not a scalpel for the soul, used for one purpose and only such, that one might cut out and remove the evil that lurks within?  Alas, there is no such tool of excising precision.  What a helpless lot mankind is, full of chaos and ruminations of greed, disdain and apathy!

That time when the toddler was dragging the blanket behind her and you knew she'd trip, but you did nothing, because, as you surmised in a flash of deductions too frivolous to catalog, you didn't "feel like it," due to either lack of energy or mere lack of desire, and so did not capture the train of the child's treasured robe in your hand and so rescue her from her fate, resulting in her fall, you knew--you knew it would happen.  And maybe there was a fleeting thought--oh it was there!--that she in fact deserved it, and you justified the action believing she would learn from her mistakes, the little hellion that she is anyway.  Besides, you justify, you know of others who do the same with the express purpose of educating the child.  How she held her head and cried in pain!  Nevertheless, call it remedial punishment in the passive sense: she must learn from her own mistakes.  And yet, that gnawing sense of guilt festers in your heart and mind and brings a dizziness to your head with lightning and stars flickering in maddening fervor.  You knew she would fall, and you did nothing.  You even smiled at the prospect.  Are you not a wretch?

Like the time when you thought of that starving orphan but shrugged it off with a C'est la vie?  Or when the elderly person died and you concluded the good thought that there is now less of a debt burden upon society.  Oh, how could you?  But no, you didn't actually hold on to that thought.  You dismissed it as evil.  Good show!  And you do other things like that.  Still, you wonder, you ponder, whence are these things?  What is its genesis and spring?  And how might I excise these irksome appellations from my innermost being?  Alas, there is no such tool of excising precision.

Dr. Jekyll, noticing in himself as the good doctor, not an hypocrisy, but rather upon his desire to be seen as a nobleman, covers up his "impatient gaiety of disposition," wanting the townsfolk to see only his mature, solemn side.  It is this that causes the poor doctor to realize that in man there are two natures, good and evil: "I have been doomed to such a shipwreck: that man is not truly one, but truly two."  The scalpel he concocts in his laboratory shall remedy this disjointed prison!  Alas, there is no scalpel of the soul, as the evil in Dr. Jekyll arises as the more powerful, insatiable monster who lusts for dominance, Mr. Hyde.  Dr. Jekyll laments, "It was the curse of mankind that these incongruous faggots were thus bound together--that in the agonized womb of consciousness these polar twins should continuously be struggling.  How then, were they dissociated?"

But the madness of the abysmal depths of man's heart knows not this boundary only: that there exist two, rival twins doing battle for good or ill.  Ah ha: something worse.  There is the whole person, under which these two natures are subsumed, that smiles and welcomes the malice and repugnant poison coursing through the veins of the heart.  The despairing doctor tells us his experience as both Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,
Even as good shown on the countenance of the one [Dr. Jekyll], evil was written broadly and plainly on the face of the other [Mr. Hyde].  Evil besides (which I must still believe to be the lethal side of man) had left on that body and imprint of deformity and decay.  And yet when I looked upon that ugly idol in the glass, I was conscious of no repugnance, rather of a leap of welcome.  This, too, was myself.  It seemed natural and human.  
You see the dilemma.  Dr. Jekyll is still there in some sense, even as Mr. Hyde views himself in the mirror, the "person" of Dr. Jekyll welcomes the "nature" of Mr. Hyde, the evil side of him.  He (Dr. Jekyll) reflects upon this viewing of his evil side and knows that there was no repugnance at the evil, but rather a welcome.  He then concludes that "This too, is myself."  The introspection here on the part of Dr. Jekyll, the afflicted nobleman, leaves him in a desert too barren to yield the fruit of his former disposition of gaiety: he dies in a gnarled, fetal position, putting an end to himself.  Rather he puts an end to the selves in his self.

Alas for an excising tool to cut away that part of man that so easily bends toward ill will!  In this chaos, where are the wings of an eagle to hover?  Where is the painting brush with which to take the disjointed colors on the palette of our souls and recreate something beautiful?  Who will mend us together, and where may we find rest in order to benefit from an integration of our fractured selves?  It starts with soaking in the silence and letting the questions come.

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