I pick up and reread C. S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity now and again and I am (shouldn’t be by now) often surprised by how it feels so contemporary. But of course, that is how reading about universal truths should feel.
“Suppose one reads a story of filthy atrocities in the paper. Then suppose that something turns up suggesting that the story might not be quite true, or not quite so bad as it was made out. Is one’s feeling ‘Thank God, even they aren’t quire so bad as that,’ or is it a feeling of disappointment, and even a determination to cling to the first story for the sheer pleasure of thinking your enemies as bad as possible?”
There’s a lot of that going around some fifty years after Lewis wrote it. That is, essentially, the essence of schadenfreude – bad joy. But it gets worse (and feels more uncomfortable) as Lewis continues:
“If it is the second then it is, I am afraid, the first step in a process which, if followed to the end, will make us into devils. You see, one is beginning to wish that black was a little blacker. If we give that wish its head, later on we shall wish to see gray as black, and then to see white itself as black.”
This is, of course, where that “love thy neighbor” thing, and the lesson from the Good Samaritan parable, come into play – if I can put down my paint brush and can of black paint.