J. R. R. T. on the banality of evil

A small knowledge of human history depresses one with the sense of the everlasting mass and weight of human iniquity: old, old, dreary, endless repetitive unchanging incurable wickedness. All towns, all villages, all habitations of men — sinks! And at the same time one knows there is always good: much more hidden, much less clearly discerned, seldom breaking out into recognizable, visible, beauties of word or deed or face — not even when in fact sanctity, far greater than the visible advertised wickedness, is really there. But I fear that in the individual lives of all but a few, the balance is debit — we do so little that is positive good, even if we negatively avoid what is actively evil. It must be terrible to be a priest!

—J. R. R. Tolkien, Letters no. 69

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