In terms of innate poten­tiality, we are a totally depraved species. I have little trouble admit­ting as much. There is not a single one of us inca­pable given the right con­flu­ence of cir­cum­stances of unspeak­able evil, both inad­ver­tent and inten­tional.

The fore­ground of con­scious­ness is like an ice­berg floating on a sea of unknowing. What we know we know and what we think we think is a van­ish­ingly small part of the whole scope of those pre­de­ter­mined and cul­tured drives, shaped or instinc­tive inhi­bi­tions, pre­con­cep­tions, prej­u­dices, pre­oc­cu­pa­tions, and pred­i­cated impulses that lie buried beneath the sur­face of a world that we wholly hal­lu­ci­nate into mental exis­tence.

Our will is as much a psy­cho­log­ical deceit as it an expe­ri­en­tial reality. What con­sti­tutes our thoughts is no thing of solidity or fixity but a river that never ceases in its move­ment, each thought an inde­pen­dent flash of exis­tence, a reim­pres­sion of an impres­sion of an impres­sion of an impres­sion run through a pre­dic­tive per­cep­tual engine on a crude sense scaf­fold encrusted with accre­tions, such that what we expe­ri­ence is the product of processes that pre­exist the moment, the very instant of sense, the very point of con­scious thought.

What our minds design to ignore is an amass­ment near lim­it­lessly greater than what ever passes into our aware­ness. In those unknown shadows lies the capacity for so many things we cannot even begin to imagine. We are totally depraved insofar as we are irre­triev­ably of our own powers inca­pable of ban­ishing finally these demons of por­tent potency.

That it is dif­fi­cult to accept this is not dif­fi­cult to under­stand, for it elicits a great exis­ten­tial dread and par­a­lyzing fear of our dark and cav­ernous unknowns. The very mech­a­nisms which con­tain the powers to con­ceive this truth about our­selves are always urgently attempting to sub­merge these con­sid­er­a­tions of their own integrity. It is the making of mad­ness and despair.

Without the pre­tense of hope, a dogged belief in belief, an accep­tance of graces and benev­o­lences and saving acts beyond all powers and prin­ci­pal­i­ties, most espe­cially those that move within all of us, unknown to us, acting upon us without con­sent, without man­date.

Some­thing, Someone who tran­scends our inner void of hor­rors and enters into it and har­rows it and lib­er­ates it from the encrip­pling paral­ysis of knowl­edge, not its con­tent but the fac­ulty itself. I happen to believe that the entity that ful­fills that wholly imag­ined role is Jesus Christ, the second person of the undi­vided Trinity. I don’t expect others to believe in this myth, this myth which I hold fast is the Myth made true, made real.

Hume said that we “sup­pose two dis­tinct species of men, the good and the bad. But the greatest part of mankind float betwixt vice and virtue.” At the sur­face, at the level of con­scious­ness, we are nei­ther good nor bad, nei­ther moral nor immoral, nei­ther vir­tuous nor vicious. We are an entan­gle­ment of both sus­pended in ocean of pos­si­bil­i­ties and prob­a­bil­i­ties, so much of that being entirely random and total­iz­ingly out­side of our con­trol. But we are depraved in nature, fallen out­side of the bounds of per­fect good­ness and full knowl­edge. And that is some­thing that we must reckon with, that we must try to accept.

If the events of the past week, if the events of the past fifty years, if the events of the past four hun­dred years teach us any­thing, it is that human beings do not move ever and nec­es­sarily for­ward from good­ness to greater good­ness. There is no moral arc on which path we are ever trod­ding. If our his­tory tells us any­thing, it is that of our own powers we are ever sub­ject to the same essen­tial pos­si­bil­i­ties, that who we think we are is never the whole or even the larger part of the story, and that we will float between virtue and vice, some­times col­lec­tively achieving an abun­dance of one over the other, some­times merely expe­ri­encing an abun­dance of one over a great and hidden sin, some­times acti­vating the worst parts of us in hor­rific and far-reaching and trans­gen­er­a­tional crimes.

But the moral uni­verse that we live in is the always now. There is no before and there is no after. This is always the deci­sive act, the trans­for­ma­tive event in this moment and at this moment alone.

Let us try to be kind, let us try to be com­pas­sionate, and let us try to accept the bro­ken­ness of all of us by acknowl­edging the bro­ken­ness within each of us.

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