Monday, September 10, 2007

Anthropology According to Sidney Poitier

Recently I finished an autobiography about Sidney Poitier. The first black actor to win an Academy Award for Best Actor for his role in Lilies of the Field and has earned numerous other awards for his service in the movie industry wrote an interesting biography about his life. Written as a “spiritual” memoir of his life, the book, The Measure of a Man: A Spiritual Autobiography (The Measure of a Man: A Spiritual Autobiography), is a collage of personal reflections. As he recount events in his life, he examines the worth of certain values and virtues that are important to us all. Poitier offers his insights from his own spiritual encounters, but not from a Christian standpoint. What I found interesting is his comment on the evil that resides in man.

Age-old speculation as to whether the dark side is full-blown in some people and almost nonexistent in others or is distributed more widely-some in everyone- rages still from generation to generation. I personally think that there’s some darkness in everyone, though the ‘some’ varies as widely as do personality profiles in the family of man, Darkness can explode in nuclear proportions with disastrous consequences or make itself felt in small, subtle, irritating ways, depending on the day, the time the hour, the situation, and who’s in the room. The extent of the dark side isn’t easy to fathom. People who kill aren’t evil twenty-four hours a day, and the dark side doesn’t advertise. The dark side in each of usoperates from behind masks of varying complexity, coming to the fore when we elect to use its services. We all have a reservoir of rage, dissatisfaction, self-loathing, unhappiness, intolerable, feelings of inadequacy. But we don’t necessarily express these things. They’re veiled, hidden from ourselves as much as from others. But whether hidden or not, they make us all capable of terrible things. And the evil that we’re capable of enacting doesn’t flourish only in moments of rage or revenge, or in response to some unspeakable offense. Sometimes horrible acts are entertained and allowed under very considered and thought-through circumstances…Sometimes the violence in the dark side is turned inward. Some people take pills; some people jump out of the window, But whether violence is turned inward or outward, people can’t isolate components of their rage—it’s an accumulation. We think we’re raging against the darkness, but in fact we’re struggling for balance rather than chaos. ‘What got into him?’ people ask of a well-mannered neighbor who turned ballistic. ‘He isn’t that kind of guy.’ But of course he is! We’re all that kind of guy! Do I have the wherewithal to be a violent person? Of course I do…But where would I go for that intensity? Into what well of murderous impulses would I dip? That reservoir has to be there already, waiting.”

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