Pick a Side, Any Side

“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” — Edmund Burke

In 5th grade, while on vacation with my family, I remember going to a bookstore (my favorite place!) where my mom told me I could buy a book. I went right to the sci-fi/fantasy section. I spent a lot of time reading the back covers on dozens of books and finally chose one. Pawn of Prophecy by David Eddings. I had never read a fantasy book before but the description on the back cover intrigued me. Here’s what it reads:

“Long ago, so the Storyteller claimed, the evil God Torak sought dominion and drove men and gods to war. But Belgarath, the Sorcerer, led men to reclaim the Orb that protected men of the west. So long as it lay in Riva, the prophecy went, men would be safe.

But that was only a story, and Garion did not believe in magic dooms, even though the dark man without a shadow had haunted him for years. Brought up on a quiet farm by his Aunt Pol, how could he know that the Apostate planned to wake dread Torak, or that he would be led on a quest of unparalleled magic and danger by those he loved — but did not know?

For a while his dreams of innocence were safe, untroubled by knowledge of his strange heritage. For a little while…”

It’s the first book of the series, the Belgariad. It’s a story about a boy who eventually finds out that he is the instrument of a Prophecy. He discovers he is a sorcerer with great power, and he learns that he will eventually have to stand up to an evil god, Torak. Along the way he is joined on his quest by people who will teach and protect him until he’s ready to face Torak alone. During his quest he keeps trying to deny his destiny. He’s afraid. He often asks “Why me?” to which he gets many different answers. By the end of the fifth book he stops asking “Why me?” and starts asking, “How?” He accepts his destiny and trains for his coming trial. He eventually faces Torak and wins.

This book did something to me. It got me thinking about good vs. evil. It got me wondering what I would have done if I was Garion. Would I have slunk back to my home in fear and cowered there hoping someone else would face the evil? Or, like Garion, would I have found the courage to face a GOD?!? I wasn’t sure if I had that kind of courage. But a little voice inside my head said, “It’s a choice. You decide if you want to be good or evil. You decide if you’re going to have courage or fear. You decide if you’re going to stand up and face evil or sink down into fear.”

I told the little voice that I didn’t know if I could succeed, if I could actually stand up to evil. I was too afraid. And the voice said, “It’s not about knowing. It’s about deciding and taking action.” So I chose. Right then and there, in grade school, I made the decision to be “good.” To stand against “evil.” To do what was right. To be a force for Good on this planet. To be a hero.

That decision shaped all the rest of my actions. Whenever and wherever I could I stood up for those who were getting beaten down. I sought justice for those who were treated unfairly. I was kind to everyone. I let my compassion guide me. I did what I thought a hero would do. I wasn’t facing an evil dark god, to be sure… but I was facing something just as bad — other people who had chosen to be evil. And then there were those who hadn’t decided yet.

Why decide? Why pick a side at all? Why not let other people “handle” things? Why get involved? If it doesn’t directly affect you then why do anything at all?

Because all it takes for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing. What if no one stood up to Hitler? What if no one said no to slavery? Where would we be today? Where could we be tomorrow if all of you who are good decided to start acting like it?

When you actually make the decision to be one of the good guys it shifts the balance back towards good. Where do we stand today? Which way does the scale tip? In sheer numbers, I’d say it tips towards evil because everyone who hasn’t decided for themselves is inadvertently standing on that side.

Do you have to quit your job, don a cape, and pick up a light saber? Well … actually … no. First just decide if you’re going to be a Jedi or a Sith Lord. That’s it. Come down firmly on a side. Your actions will change once you’ve made the decision. And help will come to you once you’ve decided.

There’s a Garion inside each one of us. An innocent with a choice to make. Realize that if you haven’t consciously chosen to be good or evil then you’re deciding to stand with evil, in the dark, in fear; and you’re lending evil all your power. And if that’s what you want, then that’s your choice. But if you’re going to do that then you might as well put on your darkest cloak, pull up the hood, and start collecting resumes for henchmen.

The rest of us will be out there fighting for your soul, whether you value it or not.

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