Speak No Evil


We started with the Three Wise Monkeys: “See no evil, Hear no evil, Speak no evil.”  Somewhere along the way, a fourth one was added — “Do no evil” — and things began to get a bit dicey.  True to form, we found a way to twist that fourth Monkey’s arm until he instead exclaimed, “Have no fun.”  What better way to encourage an appetite for corruption than to undermine the primary method for avoiding it, by suggesting that there’ll be no fun to be had without it?

Whether in the East or in the West, our societies program us to seek and revel in corruption in very subtle ways.  In Chinese King Fu movies, there’s usually at least one scene where the characters drink until drunkenness — and then, of course, there’s the obligatory fight — all in good fun.  Governments and even religions glorify the blood-and-guts images of war in an attempt to sway us either this way or that.  No matter which way one might turn, there always seems to be some form of evil available for ready consumption.  And consume, we do — though usually not so much that one feels guilty and loses any sleep — but just enough to have a little fun.  Or a lotta fun.  Or not.  Well, so much for those first two Monkeys!

As it turns out, the third Monkey is quite different.  Not only is his wise recommendation the most valuable, but the challenge of speaking no evil is one that can be consistently met.  Unlike the passive intake functions of seeing and hearing (their active forms being looking and listening), speaking is an entirely volitional act.  Through the utterance of words (and sound, in general), change is effected upon the outer environment, as well as the inner environment of the speaker.  Words actually create, shape, and reshape reality itself.

Of course, a major pitfall in rising to this challenge stems from the difficulty of defining exactly what constitutes evil.  In a world where there are few absolutes, both good and evil are relative, and measured in degrees.  That which might be a good thing in one situation might not be all that good in another. A secondary problem arises when one questions whether talking about evil is an act of evil in itself.  Still another problem emerges when one wrestles with how to address those whom one perceives to be corrupt.  Is it okay to lie to a liar?

By allowing only that which is true to cross one’s lips, one can speak no evil.  This is easier than it appears at first glance.  It simply takes less energy to support the truth than it does to support a lie.  Because one lie will usually necessitate the need for the creation of another, before long, one winds up creating a completely alternate reality that is undergirded by nothing more than one’s imagination; nobody can maintain the consistency of such a web of lies but for so long.  In contrast, even when one’s memory of the facts of a situation is faulty, one always has recourse to objective reality when the truth has been kept.

Thus, through careful management of one’s tongue, the avoidance of evil becomes also an act of thrift.  With no need to waste time and energy on creating new lies to cover up old ones,  perhaps one might better use those savings to seek fun of a type yet to be imagined.



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