War Diaries, April 11, 2022

“Because of its fascination evil has considerable power over the human soul, so much power, in fact, that C.G. Jung once aptly commented that only two things could keep a person’s soul from falling under the power of evil:  if a person’s soul is filled with a power greater than the power of evil, or if a person is contained in a warm, related human community.  Jung once wrote to William W., a founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, ‘I am strongly convinced that the evil principle prevailing in this world leads the unrecognized spiritual need into perdition, if it is not counteracted either by real religious insight or by the protective wall of human community.  An ordinary man, not protected by an action from above and isolated in society, cannot resist the power of evil.” John Sanford, Evil: The Shadow Side of Reality


I have come to the conclusion that to ask the question, Why are there those who are capable of such egregious acts against their fellow man, is the wrong question to ask because this question has no answer.  Nor can one answer why another human being can bring himself to commit outright murder, more specifically commit genocide against an entire community based on nothing more than a simple willingness to do so.  


The wrong question, in this instance, has no answer.


Mythologically, in parable, through story, rhyme, song and tale, only are we able to make sense of human cruelty.  In the Gospel of Thomas, Jesus said: “The Father’s kingdom is like a person who had [good] seed.  His enemy came at night and sowed weeds among the good seed.  The person did not let them pull up the weeds, but said to them, ‘No, or you might go to pull up the weeds and pull up the wheat along with them.’  For on the day of the harvest the weeds will be conspicuous and will be pulled up and burned.”


Theologically, ‘Father’s kingdom’ as it is written in this parable would indicate the world of matter and not paradise or the world of spirit as it might otherwise be understood when speaking of such a kingdom.  In God’s world, then, there is evil.  In the world of matter.  The enemy comes at night to sow the weeds.   There is the act of evil and the concept of evil.  An example of the act of evil is the intentional destruction of a place, including its inhabitants.  The concept of evil is how we come to terms with this act.


Most of our residents took the day trip to Kraków on Saturday.  We left the bus and walked across the road together into the town square.  There, we decided to identify the restaurant before splitting off into smaller groups for sightseeing.  As we were approaching the restaurant location, I noticed a man talking to one of the women in our group.  I walked over to him and asked if he spoke English.  He did.  Then I asked if he knew her.  No.  He did not.  This is when I knew he was a predator.  At which point, my voice became very angry and confrontational, asking why he was talking to her as he had no business doing so.  To which he replied, ‘I am opening a new firm in Kazimierz.’  ‘Oh, I bet you are,’ I said.  ‘I am looking for Ukrainians.’  ‘Oh, I bet you are,’ I repeated.  Then I told him firmly to get the hell away from our group and to leave us alone. He wanted to give her his email address and I said, no, give it to me.  I will take it.  He was bold enough to ask who I was, to which I replied, ‘None of your damn business.’  He gave me an email address, which of course was fake.  Weeds among us.


Our cousin met us at the restaurant, and when I told her the story, she said there are reports of kidnappings in broad daylight.  Yesterday, Paul sent me an article about teenagers traveling alone from Ukraine into London who are being lured into the sex trade.  Weeds among us.


Max is leaving us today because he was able to get a Canadian passport.  He still must get it stamped before he can go but can’t get through the throngs of people in Warsaw who literally sleep outside the embassy waiting for the chance to be at the front of the line when the doors do open.  Every time he has tried, there are about five hundred people stacked on top of each other waiting to be called.  It’s impossible at the moment to get what he needs here in Poland, but there is a chance he might fare better in Rome, so he is heading there. 


Max is Igir’s good friend.  We were standing in the coffee area this morning, saying goodbye.  I couldn’t help myself.  I started to cry and then said to the boys, ‘Please forgive me, but I can’t stop the tears today.  I just simply can’t.’


When I think to the extent to which an individual can formulate sophisticated schemes of corruption, exploitation, manipulation, lies and harm specifically designed to bring injury against another, it’s not something I know how to externally process. 


The other day, I heard that one of the stores here in Staszów fired two of their Polish employees with the express purpose of hiring two Ukrainians because they get a sizable benefit from doing so.


All these stories swirl around inside of me as I’m saying goodbye to Max, apologizing for the tears.


Our guests welcomed the opportunity to talk about what they were feeling too.  Igir said that before the war, he thought about a new car, his job, holidays, buying jewelry for his wife, going out with friends — nothing special he said — but now all seems meaningless, as all he thinks about now is life.  Is his wife healthy?  The baby?  Are they out of harm’s way?  When he hears a car backfire, he jumps because he will always hear the bombs dropping, the sound of gunfire.


Max does not want to go.  Not really.  Yes, he recognizes the good fortune of having contacts and resources to begin again, but he is also aware of the road that lies ahead of him, the one without his country.  He will be in exile for the foreseeable future.


I was telling them about Paul’s family, scattered out around the world after WWII.  His father didn’t come back to Poland until fifty years later.  About the Nazis here at Sichów taking Stefan’s grandparents to the concentration camps.  About Basia and Bogus’s mother who was arrested as an eighteen-year-old, tried and taken to Siberia.  Her crime?  She was Polish and she lived in what is now the Ukraine, and the Russians wanted to cleanse the communities of Polish speaking residents to populate the area with only Russians.  Sound familiar?  Paul tells me just this moment that they are carting people off from Mariupol. 


Evil: The concept and the act. 


Paul’s parents and their contemporaries, cousins, siblings, aunts and uncles managed to create new lives.  They re-settled and had children and their children have since had children, and so it goes, the generations beget the next. 


Zoia is walking outside.  I can see her from my window.  She should be walking outside her own home somewhere in Kharkiv. 


Max and Igir should be going to work there today.  What’s wrong with dreaming about buying your wife a nice piece of jewelry?  What’s wrong with planning a vacation or dreaming about an adventure?  This question does have an answer and it is nothing, nothing in the world is wrong with this. 


The weeds don’t grow there.  They grow elsewhere.  They grow in the heart before they manifest in the mind to become an action. 


What are our actions?  Mary Magdalene could not stop the crucifixion of Jesus.  But she could anoint him with oil.  She could not have prevented his death, but she did have the courage to walk with him to his end.  In the last Holy Hour of his life, in the Garden of Gethsemane, the inevitability of his death could not be altered, but the love he felt in his heart was his own to express. 


There is not a saint, humanitarian, disciple or mystic among us who has not experienced what St. John of the Cross describes as the dark night of the soul.  In fact, we who are ordinary also experience these confrontations with the unconscious.  John Sanford reminds us of what Jung called the lifelong process that aims at fulfillment, the process of ‘individuation’, in which the conscious mind and the unconscious mind are acting in unison and not in opposition to each other.   


The weeds grow here.  In the minds of those who are unconscious.  And as painful as it is to accept that we are helpless against this phenomenon, we can fortify ourselves by observing our own actions, our own hearts and following the precept of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali – First Do No Harm.