There certainly seem to be those who, from an early age—indeed, from the earliest age at which independent action is possible—behave in a way that most people would deem evil. As soon as they are able to pull the legs and wings off a fly, for example, they do so; as soon as they are able to destroy things for no adequate reason, they do so. Their pleasure comes from causing harm to others, and they take such pleasure, if not quite for the duration of their lives, at least for many years.
Their bad character, then, seems a quasi-neurological, genetic, or at least congenital condition. They are not mentally deficient in the usual sense of the words; rather, they suffer from (or make others suffer from, for they rarely complain of it themselves) what the British doctor and anthropologist James Cowles Prichard first called, in 1835, “moral insanity.” Philosophers may puzzle over how far such people should be held responsible for their actions: for to account someone morally responsible for his acts requires an ability to act other than how he did act. I point only to their existence.
What’s less often noticed is that some people are unusually sweet-tempered, good, or kind from birth, and remain so for the rest of their lives. They are without malice toward others, even when others exploit them or repeatedly do them a bad turn. They are charitable in their thoughts and never seek personal advantage by doing people down. Strangely enough, they often seem to go through life with a kind of protective aura around them, that no evil can fully penetrate and destroy their benevolence. The same question arises with regard to them as with to their opposites: How far is someone to be praised for his goodness, if he is good by nature?
Whatever the answer, most of us, I take it, fall somewhere between the two extremes.
Instrumental Study: This official Spotify playlist includes dozens of artists with only a couple of tracks to their name, but all 146 songs sound like they could be on the same album. Every track is a soft, gentle piano piece, like something a character in The English Patient would play in an empty manor house on a rainy day in a flashback. This music will not distract you. It might make you feel like a page of Chicken Soup for the Soul.
Focus and Study: Search either of these two terms on Spotify and click the top result. You’ll get full genre pages full of Spotify-curated playlists. Browse around to find the right mood.
In the wake of the second world war, Russia and the West feared the domino effect of enfeebled countries like Albania falling into the clutches of imperialist capitalism or communism. Each side deployed literature as a frontline force in their struggle. For the CIA, which covertly funded magazines such as Encounter and Mundo Nuevo, books were ‘the most important weapon of strategic (long-term) propaganda’; for Alexander Solzhenitsyn, in a different context, his precious notes and drafts of The Gulag Archipelago ‘were as dangerous as atom bombs’. Books were lobbed into enemy territory like grenades. Between 1952 and 1957, from three sites in West Germany, a CIA operation codenamed ‘Aedinosaur’ launched millions of ten-foot balloons carrying copies of George Orwell’s Animal Farm, and dropped them over Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia — whose airforces were ordered to shoot the balloons down.
Together, the elements of the Popeyes chicken sandwich are so perfectly balanced that they meld into one another to form a new, entirely coherent whole.
You’ll just have to click the link. Some of these are almost, literally, unbelievable.