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The Glamour

freud

There is a line in Catholic baptism ceremonies about the ‘glamour of evil.’ It’s an interesting concept, really – the first part of it, the idea of a glamour.

We use glamour now to mean glamorous (nice circular definition there) – pleasing to the eye, the kind of image that excites desire. There is no negative implication there, only praise for appearance. Originally though, glamour had a more sinister meaning: enchantment – a kind of magic that situated you in the eye of your beholder in an idealized state. So to fall prey to a glamour meant that, in a literal sense, you couldn’t see their flaws anymore, which is to say, you couldn’t appreciate the situation anymore – too wrapped up in an idealized version of  the other person to see them as they were.

Taking this all together, then, ‘the glamour of evil’ has a very specific meaning. It means something like the deceptive appearance that we take to be real, that deceives us about evil. It’s not so much the ‘evil’ part of it that is of interest there, as the ‘glamour’ that leads us there – the idea that we are misled, by not questioning surface appearances, into making mistakes, here and elsewhere.

In a way I don’t think ‘evil’ is a particularly useful concept. We mostly use it now to denote acts that are so far beyond the pale, none of us would do them. It’s an issue that I have with a lot of pop culture, the way it presents questions and situations that are basically irrelevant to my life. It’s become so intensified that evil is now an egregious moral crime, not what we would call an ordinary mistake.

This is what makes the idea of the ‘glamour of evil’ more interesting, and more relevant. Because the glamour of evil is really about how we are deceived by appearances, by our lack of awareness, into error and suffering.

It is clear to me now, in reviewing my life so far, that if I had been more aware, everything would have gone more smoothly. But I was, in a way, under a glamour – about how things would work out, about where the actions I took would lead. With greater wisdom, I would have seen the train wrecks from a couple miles off, and moved to avoid them. But instead I marched blindly on, and was surprised when I walked into a mess.

This is the ‘glamour of evil’, in action. And this, in a way, is why awareness is so important. Awareness is the corrective, the anti-glamour – things as they are, neither better nor worse.

As it is.

So it goes.

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