I’ve been in a tiny bit of a rut lately. So I’ve been reading some different things, trying to loosen up my mind, studying quantum physics and the cosmos, catching up on a little Carl Jung. It has interested me in a unifying theory way and also has made me ask myself why I write these crime novels? Why I write at all?
I hated physics back in high school. It seemed too abstract, all formulas and equations. I only studied to do well on tests. But now that I’m older, I’m enjoying physics as an academic exercise, although without any of the math. It’s difficult wrapping my head around some of these mind bending issues, like the fact that there are infinities of varying shapes and sizes, but I’m trying.
One such phenomenon fascinated me and returned me to the question of why I write. It has to deal with electrons and how they are observed in experiments. Researchers have discovered that when electrons are observed, they act differently than when not observed. They act like particles and not waves, which begs the question of why? I’ve tried but can’t totally wrap my head around this phenomena. It boggles the mind, as do so many physical laws that are now being discovered.
How does this relate to writing? It made me realize that since humans are made up of particles, it’s possible that we react in the same way.. Think of a novel in a similar fashion. Does that novel sitting on the desk change itself, or the reader, in any fundamental way? But it surely undergoes a change when it’s being read. It transforms not only its ideal as a material object when being read, but it also changes the reader who is reading it. So in essence, observation really does change reality.
The universe has no morality, only physical laws that we (certainly not me) are still in the process of discovering. The universe is what it is. Does the universe care about morality or illegal and unethical acts being conducted on earth? I think not. It only abides by its own strict laws. Maybe what transcends the universe cares, a God for lack of a better term. It seems that the universe as we know it tries to maintain a balance between order and chaos.
I believe that the relationship between good and evil is similar to the yin and yang of the universe. Without evil, there cannot be good. Without knowing that evil exists within all of us, how can we ever come to terms with the true meaning of evil? The guards in Nazi Germany could just as easily have been us under the right conditions. To say that we as individuals would have ever performed such a brutal act denies the essence of our humanity: that we are endowed with both good and evil. Our unique purpose in life is to keep the evil in check. It is to understand the evil that lives within us and strive every day to reject it as an option. Only by admitting our duality can we ever hope to grow as a human race and prevent this from happening again. I believe this is one of the reasons I write crime novels. The best villains are not just the simplistic bad guys, but nuanced and complex humans who have decided through free will to do bad things.
Here’s what Carl Jung said about it. “Unfortunately there can be no doubt that man is, on the whole, less good than he imagines himself or wants to be. Everyone carries a shadow, and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is. If an inferiority is conscious, one always has a chance to correct it. Furthermore, it is constantly in contact with other interests, so that it is continually subjected to modifications. But if it is repressed and isolated from consciousness, it never gets corrected.”
Most of the great stories throughout history seek to explain the balance between what is right and what is wrong. The Old Testament vacillates between order and chaos, and developing a moral society. So does the hit zombie show, The Walking Dead. Marvel comics continually tell these epic stories that ricochet between chaos and order. The goal of the writer is to continue to push human narrative and elevate the higher consciousness of humanity. Like beautiful music that takes our breath away, and speaks to us on a higher level, great stories and literature helps society develop a moral core that we pass onto future generations. Successful crime novels continue on this moral trajectory and stimulates the human brain in a way that helps build on these cultural traditions.
We humans are children of the cosmos and an inevitable result of the Big Bang. Thousands of years of evolutionary biology and cultural progression has led us to this point in time. Who we are and how we got here is a major part of why I write.
Thanks, Joe, for the insightful post. I’ve been a student of Jung and his writings for a long time. Here’s a reflection of Jung’s thinking I’ve put into a nonfiction piece I’m writing that I think is relevant to pour culture and politics today:
“Jungian psychology . . .posits that when the shadow (the dark side of the ego-personality) appears, many of us deny our dark sides, though we can nevertheless see that blackness in persons who are different than us. Rather than integrating our dark sides as creatively and positively as possible, we often project them onto others, like perceived political, ethnic, racial and religious enemies,”
Enjoyed this philosophical rumination on Jung, the cosmos and writing. I think Jung did an excellent job describing the topography of the human psyche. Writers are like explorers who go out into this shadowy landscape and return with stories to tell.