The fantasy that we are monsters

French River area of Prince Edward Island © Chiyacat |

I’m back on Prince Edward Island in my reading, reliving The Great War with Lucy Maud Montgomery and Rilla of Ingleside, her fifth book featuring Anne Shirley Cuthbert Blythe of Green Gables, published in 1921. Montgomery wrote two more, prequel tales, but years later, so this will conclude her first 7-8 year burst of creativity and provide the last word chronologically on Anne and her family. Given what I’ve heard of the author’s feelings toward war, it will not be the happiest of endings.

Are all stories, even those as whimsical as Anne of Green Gables, fated to grow darker as young people grow and learn more about the “realities” of the world? Or is the one who thinks the worst of humanity the one who is really living the fantasy?

We are capable of unspeakable cruelty, or there would be no wars or murders or mayhem, but our better angels call to something truly deeper and childlike within us. Our earliest natural instinct as children is to explore and learn and delight in life, before the fear and violence are trained into us. Our instinct and desire are to stay alive, to feel and enjoy this life we have. Anyone who understands that instinct in themselves is not going to wish harm or death on others.

We react violently when violence is thrust upon us, but I have to believe, left to ourselves, we mean no harm.

Perhaps I’m the foolish scientist in the old movies who doesn’t want to kill the monster, only to be killed by the monster itself. I’m not so naive as to suggest that monsters don’t exist, but I do dare say that monsters are created, not born, and some monsters spend their time rallying our emotions to think of certain others as monsters, for the sole purpose of raising up generations of actual monsters and zombies.

How do we drive the monsters away? I am encouraged that one teaching and one teacher have resonated for more than 2,000 years: The one who taught “Love one another” and “Turn the other cheek” and forgiveness and understanding.

Somehow, from time to time, some have twisted his words into justifying the monstrous, but at the core of his life was his willingness not to strike back even at his murderers. The reason I have hope is that such a man continues to inspire the human heart at its core. If that is the core at the deepest level of our nature, we can defeat the monsters within and among us, and with love.

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