“A film should be like a rock in the shoe,” says Lars von Trier, one of the Dogma 95 film auteurs whose films succeed in doing just that: disturbing the soul.

I have found that most media sources I have been consuming lately fit into this thesis of art. I have brooded on this for many mornings lately, beside my IKEA candles that smell of wonderful desserts.

Lars Von Trier’s film Nymphomaniac (both volumes, which I finished yesterday) made me feel sick to watch but also helped me understand the myriad of all-too-real human perversions and why these tendencies are so pervasive.  As if my shoe was still too comfortable, I also watched the new television show The Knick, which is gruesome but cemented my gratitude for being alive today rather than in 1900.  It also re-instated my gratitude for modern medicine, which unfortunately millions of people all over the world do not have access to, and that is truly a real terror.

And then this book, The Lucifer Effect, has illuminated for me that when it comes down to the grit of it, all of us have the potential to be inhumanely horrible or unnaturally good. We are malleable, which is a hopeful attribute, for it means that we can change, whether it be for the worse or for the better. And we need to acknowledge that the “monsters” in society are not monsters. They are human, and we could easily become them:

“Maybe each of us has the capacity to be a saint or a sinner, altruistic or selfish, gentle or cruel, dominant or submissive, perpetrator or victim, prisoner or guard. Maybe it is our social circumstances that determine which of our many mental templates, our potentials, we develop. Scientists are discovering that embryonic stem-cells are capable of becoming virtually any kind of cell or tissue and ordinary skin cells can be turned into embryonic stem cells. It is tempting to expand these biological concepts and what is now known about the developmental plasticity of the human brain to the ‘plasticity’ of human nature.” Dr. Philip Zimbardo, The Lucifer Effect.

I do believe that art, in whatever form, should disturb your routine, but I don’t necessarily think it needs to poke and prod the darkness inside you. There is a lot of darkness already in the world to sort through.