I smiled, comparing myself with other men, comparing my active goodwill with the lazy cruelty of their neglect…
The excerpt above comes from “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.” I read the book several years ago. For the record, I liked it as more detective, who done it book, as opposed to a scary movie. Of course, books are books and movies are movies. I feel that comparing books to movies is a waste of time. It is like comparing lunch to dinner.
That expert made its way back to me several times recently in way that classic fiction will do. But you have to be paying attention. I was, but took my time in writing about it. In the end, I had to because it would not leave me alone. And because I was not happy with what it was trying to tell me.
The excerpt is so powerful, especially the last five words. They may capture so simply why so many people suffer in this world and have way before 1886 when Hyde was published. And continue to suffer today.
I know and care deeply for someone who works with and for unhoused human beings. I have learned a good deal about the unhoused human beings when she and talk over the phone. They are called clients by the organization she works for. It surprised me to learn, though I don’t know why, that a great deal of the unhoused population suffers from mental illness.
I had just come across the above quote a few days before I got a call from my close friend who works with the unhoused. She was quite upset. I am close enough to this person that when I hear in her voice that she is hurting, it affects me. Over the course of our call, she told me that the day before, while not at work, she had witnessed something upsetting. That was what I could hear in her voice. As she told me what she had seen, she began to cry. That, in turn, upset me.
The day before, she had seen her client from across the street. The client is prone to talk loud to herself when at the shelter where my friend works. She also asks for pieces of paper and will spend hours scribbling things of them. The client in an older woman who no one knows much about. My friend has patiently tried to find out from the scribbling and talking anything she can about this older woman. There is not much to go on. No family. No way for sure to even identity who she is.
The reason my friend was so upset was that the day before she had seen her client being filmed with a camera phone by several young men who were laughing and pointing at her. I immediately though of the above quote. But with a small change. With device in hand, we can now practice the active cruelty of neglect.
While that is something to consider, it is not where this post ends.
As my dear friend gave the details of this display of active cruelty, my blood began to boil. My friend was hurting. In turn I was hurting. I then wanted to go get revenge on the perpetrators of the active cruelty. I would seek them out, find them and smash their phones. Or worse, I would get revenge, even if it meant inflicting physical pain on them.
I didn’t though. My friend and I talked a bit more that day and I stayed where I was.
As I said, it has been a while since this happened. I could leave the post now and still feel reasonably good about myself. The intention for writing this would be partly fulfilled in that it would possibly do a bit of good in world.
But I think the real lesson for me is in the rest of the except-
“At the very moment of that vain-glorious thought, a qualm came over me, a horrid nausea and the most dreadful shuddering…I looked down…I was once more Edward Hyde.”
That second part of the expert is what caused the delay in posting about the incident. It turned the whole thing back onto me. What good would another Hyde do in this world? I do accept some solace for recognizing the Hyde in me. It is not easy.
I would much rather turn the camera around and film myself, laugh, and walk away, forgetting and ignoring what I don’t like about myself. Which is what the guys were really doing that day. Sadly, that act of active cruelty is one they most likely will never chose to do anything about.