Joe’s Book Tour – John Milton’s Paradise Lost
These next couple books I can’t remember in what order I read them, but I know they were all in High School around the same year. The first on this list is Paradise Lost.
I was raised Catholic, as I’ve mentioned before, and I read my bible and went to Sunday school and catechism on Wednesday’s in preparation for my Confirmation. Yet, I still base most of my ideas of The Fall, God, Satan, and even Jesus, on what I read in this book.
The impact it had on me came from the moment when Satan decides that he’d “rather rule in hell, than serve in heaven”. You see there’s a moment when Satan realizes that he could ask God for forgiveness. Even after all he’s done: waging outright war against God. God would still forgive him. That’s how god is (at least in the new testament). God is all about love and forgiveness.
Yet, Satan knows that even if he were taken back, even if allowed to be at the left-hand of God again, he would just get jealous again. Satan would want more. So he decides, because he, like everyone else, has free will, to rule in Hell and see if he can stick it to God by corrupting he’s favorite creation, Humans.
What struck me most is I’d never considered that Satan might just have been an overly-ambitious angel, who just couldn’t admit when he’s wrong. I’d never considered the idea that he might have regrets.
It’s also funny to think that in 1600 Milton must have known people who make mistakes and, instead of admitting they’re wrong, double down.
This influenced my thinking by not allowing me to simply say, “that person is evil and that’s why he does what he does.” That line of thinking could no longer hold water. If Milton in the 1600s could conceive that the master of evil himself could have explainable motivations, everyone could. People have bad brain chemistry, bad genes, bad environments, or some combination of all of those and other things. Evil actions exist, but EVIL doesn’t. And, understanding why people do things doesn’t condone those actions but it can help us to actually solve problems. You see, if you simply believe there is evil and some people are evil, there really isn’t anything you can do about it. But if you understand that certain genes can increase the likelihood of someone being violent, especially when paired with certain environments, then you can actually reduce violence. Understanding that a certain brain chemistry needs to be regulated by medicine to prevent either murder or suicide is much more helpful than simply saying “The devil made them do it.”
We all have free will, and some people do honestly choose to do bad things, but what this book taught me was that I can’t simply rush to judgement on anything without at least trying to see the other side.
That’s the great thing about good literature, you can find yourself exploring ideas that have very little to do with the original text.
Anyway, I’ve cut this short because this book actually brings up a ton of thoughts that go off in even more random directions. Also, as I mentioned in my post about blogger’s block I’ve been letting this keep me from moving forward. So I needed to just get this out there and move on.
Hopefully, the next post comes out a bit quicker.