By Meredith Wagner | Arts & Life Editor
MacBeth, who killed the King of Scotland and his successor in order that he himself may become King, to his demise, found that his delicate conscience resulted in a punishment far worse than the most severe tribunal. The nature of his punishment culminates in his pitiful soliloquy:
“Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow
Shall pass at the same petty pace from day to day
Until the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death! Out, out, brief candle!
Life is but a walking shadow. The poor player
Who struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is never heard. It is a tale
Told by idiots! Filled with sound and fury
MacBeth found that the agony he gained from internalizing the implications of his wrongdoing was punishment in and of itself. In this way, a sense of “karma” pervades in Shakespeare’s “MacBeth,” as it suggests that immoral decisions eventually lead to destruction and suffering of a caliber equal to the crime committed.
I find it increasingly difficult to believe that love wins indefinitely — especially as individuals with poor moral standards are either elected to or happen upon positions of power. While perpetrators and predators reap the benefits of a society that is often unfazed by the moral or ethical offenses of their leaders, those trying to do right simultaneously feel belittled, quieted and defeated.
As individuals with skewed moral compasses navigate their way through society at the cost of other individuals’ well-being, and supposedly make it to the top, I urge you to consider what is true, sustainable and long-lasting. Short-term gain in power and finance is attributed great significance in a culture that values individualism and pledges unending loyalty to material possession. It feels tangible and real despite its temporary nature. This is deceptive at best.
However difficult or foolish it may be to believe that love and virtue “win,” despite evidence on the contrary, I choose to believe. It is inevitable that the person who pursues love will rest at ease, while those who do not will ultimately find themselves empty-handed.
This, I argue, is grounded in reason. To inflict unnecessary suffering upon another person by means of direct action is immoral, and further, he or she who commits a moral crime is is guilty, whether persecuted or not. Assuming that the immoral person has a guilt complex, as most humans do, their unpunished guilt will be paid with psychological turmoil. The individual may suppress or repress his or her crime, convincing themselves they did no wrong, but this cannot be achieved eternally. Inevitably, the guilt will bubble to the surface and result in either personal or social repercussions.
Therefore, arrogance, haughtiness and egocentrism may result in short-term gain, but these characteristics ultimately lead to a life of frightful hollowness and fearfulness, for the described individual will likely confront their faults and find that their actions are neither valiant nor admirable.
We should not count as happy those who succeed materially or socially when we know they have transgressed themis, or moral law, in order to do so. The person who thinks only of him or herself leads a life of degenerate unhappiness, which should not be envied by one who realizes the accursedness of this lot. The happier life can only be won through moral rectitude, and the core of moral rectitude is love, be it self-sacrifcing (agape), erotic (eros) or brotherly (philos).
I struggle to identify the underlying meaning of the current conditions of chaos and suffering. Corrupt and hateful figures hold positions of power in numerous sectors of government, business and even church. The individual trying to do right in the world is often temporarily stomped out by those with louder, more charismatic voices – those who are willing to manipulate others for personal gain.
Immoral or ruthless individuals have always pervaded in human history, and I have no doubt that this will continue to be. Politicians motivated exclusively by personal agendas will maintain power. Guiltless murder and violence will go unchecked and unresolved. Sexual predators will go unpunished and continue harming and degrading women. Even though their prosperity can neither be satisfactorily explained nor justified, this is often the way of life.
It is for the previously explored reasons, however, that I appeal to whomever happens upon this article, to believe in love and pursue it wholeheartedly. Do not give into the temptation of stooping to your wrongdoer’s level, for their gain is only temporary and will eventually impose just suffering in due time. As they attempt vehemently to succeed and prove themselves to the world, stand firm in values grounded in love, service and peaceful progress. In doing this, forgive also those who have done you wrong.