I am about two-thirds finished with my forthcoming mystery novel, Every Wickedness.
The plot, as you can tell from the title, revolves around all the interlocking, seemingly intractable problems and even cruelties that can reinforce each other and sometimes result in the violent tangle we call wickedness.
Is that all there is in life, just people being mean to each other?
No, of course not, and I am trying to contrast that with scenes that show kindness and goodness.
The chapter I wrote yesterday revolves around one of my main characters, a young guy struggling with homelessness and his personal history of child abuse and teen alcoholism. He sells street newspapers and early one rainy morning he is startled and upset by something he sees. He panics and starts acting out. A cop comes by, swears at him and roughs him up,
A guy from the adjacent copy shop comes out and quietly intervenes, de-escalating the situation. (Nonviolent Direct Action!–A Just Peace practice!) The cop leaves, and the copy shop guy invites the street newspaper vendor to come into the copy shop, out of the rain, to dry his papers. He pours them both a cup of coffee.
This morning I was trying to think of other mystery novels where there are chapters about random acts of goodness and I could not.
To paraphrase Augustine of Hippo, you can’t really know goodness without the contrast of evil, as you cannot see the light in a painting if there are no shadows. This is tricky, in Augustine and in life, as there is the subversive idea packed in there that ‘therefore evil is justified in order to show the good.’ Not so. Evil is never justified.
Yet, goodness is all around and I think novels need to show that. Goodness is not just a means to see evil; goodness is good in itself.
And I hope some will see themselves in the copy shop guy and learn to practice nonviolence.