I think it is safe to say that just about anyone can look at the world and know it ought to be different. It ought to be in harmony. It ought not to have suffering. We look at the impoverished and say this shouldn’t be this way. We look at a starving child with flies buzzing around him and our hearts cry for justice. We look at an abused animal and we have disgust against the one responsible. Our minds cannot even comprehend the massive numbers of casualties of war over the centuries.
We see an unjust world and yet even though we are in this world we seem to know there is a justice from which it falls short. We struggle between what we experience and what we can imagine. Why can we imagine a world with no crime, war, famine, pestilence, hate, discrimination, and poverty? Why can we imagine a utopia when we obviously don’t have one?
Whether it be expeditions for a fountain of youth, or political revolution to create a classless society, or attempts to purge evil and embrace good, or find harmony in the balance of the two, many have sought to find paradise. Many have sought the ideal life, but none have succeeded to create a utopian community.
It seems we can apprehend a reality we have not experienced that tells us that things ought to be good. That people ought to get along and love one another. That war ought not to be waged. That poverty, hunger, and thirst, ought not to exist. That crime should not prevail in this world. I will be so bold as to say we know this as true while at the same time we are very much aware that we see a world that is not in align with our ideal.
Now I do have a reason to suggest of why we can imagine a better world and yet see historically that the world is full of pain, suffering, crime, war, and overall injustice. Of course, we also see a world that does have joy, peace, love, kindness, goodness. We see generosity, we see people who exhibit the good in many ways. We see great achievements. There is good in this world and we know that too.
Every great movie or novel pits good against evil depicting the very real battle between the two in a struggle for the good to win. Some stories bring about the triumph of good over evil whereas some leave off with the continual struggle between the two. Still others conclude with a sobering evil being played out without being averted. I recently watched such a film where the main character died in the end, an accidental victim of the concentration camps. I was dismayed for we do really think movies, as well as life should end well, but it doesn’t always. We live in the real world no matter how much we want it to be different.
Just the same, to get back to the reason for the cosmic tension between good and evil with the ideal of the perfect actualization of the good in the world harkens back to the Judeo-Christian story of creation. God created a good world that became corrupted by the experiential actualization of evil by man and is now topsy-turvy yet on a course to have paradise regained. This gives explanation for the good we idolize in the world with the corruption still mixed in while having the knowledge that it ought to be otherwise. We were created good for a good world and yet we live in a corrupted world with knowledge of the incorruptible.
Our knowledge even of what would be the best good is also corrupted, but we know enough to know it ought to be better. We may disagree on what that better is, but we all agree it ought to be better. That idea of there being a better gives credence to the proposition that there is an objective good by which to judge something as not measuring up or as accurately reflecting the good. Just because our mental apprehending of that objective good is often subjective does not mean that the objective isn’t there behind the veil and that we see glimpses of what could be made manifest in this world.
Personally, I think that the Christian worldview does a good job of explaining why there is a struggle between the evil we see and the good we know is possible. I know not everyone will agree with me and that’s okay. I’m just offering an explanation to consider, not an exhaustive one, but a partial one for we only know in part as we see those glimmers of truth and realize their reality. We are all learning how to take those glimmers and bring them into fruition in this world. I think the more we work together, knowing that no one sees fully, but that we all see in part and together can see in a greater part we can make manifest that which we behold.
The Christian explanation also provides the substance of hope that all of creation will enter into paradise regained. We are not doomed to always struggle with the existence of evil for it will one day be purged and that which walks in the good which is God, Himself will remain and be reborn incorruptible.