The Cultural Contrast of Light and Darkness


I’ve been watching the Firefly series over the course of the weekend, taking advantage of some much needed R&R. If you’ve watched the show, you know that for the most part, the heros in the story are a sort of anti-hero. It has a western outlaw sort of feel to it, and the boundaries between right and wrong are blurry if you look at it closely enough. However, there is a definitive line between the “good guys” and the “bad guys”.

Throughout American culture, we see these contrasts in movies and TV all the time. My personal favorite is the Star Wars series, where there is a definitive Dark Side and a definitive (though not directly called) Light Side. We recognize these sides by the nature and choices of those who follow each of those sides. It is our culture’s way of showing the struggle between good and evil, which we know exists in the real world, but we can only hope that the good wins out over the evil more often than not.

So then it got me thinking about the concept of good and evil and what it means to us and our actions. Its easy for us to see good and evil in these movies, because they are defined by the characters and their choices. But what about with us? Can we say that about our actions? And if so, what do we say to ourselves about ourselves depending on our behavior?

Let me give you an example. When we see someone in the movies cheat on their significant other in a movie, we see them as evil in some way, depending on the justification made in the film. In real life, however, if we are that person that cheats, we have justifications for our actions, and reasons why we do what we do. We do this so that we do not see ourselves as evil.

And what good would that do really? If we perceive ourselves as evil, then that affects our Words about ourself, which eventually affects our Actions. However, if we justify our Actions, no matter how “wrong” they may be, then we absolve ourselves easily. Some theraputic approaches believe that this is best, so that we don’t bear ourselves down with guilt, and that we’re all just a bunch of victims. Where anything that isn’t nurturing is abusive. So all our actions are justified in the context of what has happened to us.

Personally, I think this is a bunch of crap.

Let’s face it. Guilt exists as a result of our core belief system (which is your set of rules about what is right and wrong). Having these rules is what allows our society to exist with a level of civility. No matter what you believe, you have some idea and semblance of what is right and wrong.

So what’s my point here? I mean, I can sit here and pontificate about right and wrong, darkness and light and sit here and tell you how to live your life based on what my Core Beliefs are. Truth is, whether we like it or not, we take our cues about our Core Belief System from these TV shows and movies. We want to be like those characters we identify with, and take on their values as our own to justify what we do.

Don’t believe me? Think about the shows you watch…did you start watching them because of the things you believe, or did you change your beliefs based on the show and the characters you like?

I’m not immune to this. I play all kinds of video games and played through them as various characters, both good and evil. What guides them through the story is based in some way on their goals or ideals, and whether or not we buy the reasons why they justify their actions.

I guess what I’m trying to say here, is that our Words and Actions are judged in some way, either by ourselves or those around us. Fact is, everyone screws up and does something wrong, and the point is not to define ourselves as good or evil the way we do in these fictional shows. Its better to learn from these screw ups, decide the kind of person we want to be, and take your life by the horns and be that person.

See, these sterotypes can be both harmful and helpful. The key is to use them as a tool to be a better person. Now what that means is different to each of you, but the idea (at least to me) is to use your Core Belief System and the ideas you want to pursue to become a better person. To strive to be better than who you are today, isn’t a new concept, but without a road map of who you want to be, you will continue to stay who you are.

Light and Darkness are a daily choice. Which choice will you make, and what does it mean to you? Tell me what you think!