I just finished reading A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle, the first in a series of five books. It finally grabbed my attention when they arrived on the planet Camazotz (about half way through the book, particularly chs 7- The Man with Red Eyes and 8- The Transparent Column). On this planet, everyone has given up their individuality, difference, or freedom, for all conflict and calamity is said to arise from these elements. When the children play, they all bounce balls and skip rope in cadence. Mothers open their doors and call their children in at the same time. Paper boys deliver papers while others are inside their houses. Any deviance from this is grounds for pain. Oh yah, this planet is devoid of pain, suffering, war, etc. because they have all sacrificed their individuality, difference, and freedom.
What would I trade to mitigate or eliminate evil? Would I give up my individuality, difference, and freedom? Color me selfish, but probably not. I REALLY like those things. Of course, on Camazotz, the people live in fear, because expressed individuality (e.g., bouncing a ball out of sync with others) means being turned over to the authorities for “processing.” All the people are asked to do is submit to “IT,” that ominous entity which hovers in the background (IT is power “incarnated” in a disembodied brain). Conform, and all your problems will evaporate. Don’t ask questions, because that edges one closer to individuality, difference, and freedom. I forgot to mention, that there are earthling children who visit this planet in order to find the father of two of them, but also fight evil which is pictured as a darkness that can be felt. It exists throughout the universe, enveloping some planets, and having a real fight put to it on others. Also, these children have been left on their own by the trinity of ethereal beings, Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which.
This got me thinking back to my post on the problem of evil. Let’s say I was god, and didn’t have to trade anything to eliminate unnecessary pain, suffering, and evil. Why would I relent? Might I have a purpose in allowing it to exist? Perhaps it gives people room to grow. Without room for theft, there is no opportunity to demonstrate honesty. Without the chance for revenge and murder, there is no opportunity for mercy and forgiveness. Without despair being a possibility, there is no understanding of unrelenting joy. But I have left people to develop their moral goodness on their own. Their good response in the opportunity of potential evil is their own, not mine. What do they need me for, then? Isn’t this free will defense, this soul-building theodicy, actually atheistic at its core? Or are there things behind the scenes of which humans are oblivious? The trinity leaves the children in fear for their mission and safety. This almost seems to be open theism before it existed 30 years later (i.e., of course, if these ghosts are taken to be the Judeo-Christian god)!
SPOILER ALERT: everything works out. Well, one of the children gets possessed by IT, the other two children and the father are transported to another planet, the trinity of ethereal beings decides to help send Meg back to Camazotz, unassisted but for a riddle to help her, and then she’s back to saving herself. Are we left on earth to save ourselves, work out our own moral goodness, and die well without god’s help? At least the children and father had direct relationship with the trinity of ethereal beings for a little. What does actual humanity have? I look forward to all comments, if you gots them.