Imagine you’re a hot-shot Florida Lawyer. You’re recruited by a huge New York firm headed by John Milton. You’re given opportunities and the tools to be a man of tremendous influence if you’re willing to sacrifice your moral compass to do so. Milton is a man of fairly small physical stature and enormous confidence. He deliberately, despite his wealth and power, chooses to be on the ground level of life, he takes the Subway and studies all those around him. He knows things about people. In particular, what they want and how to get it for them. The bonus, he doesn’t judge them. He takes the shortcomings of mankind with a grain of salt, he is Satan after all.
This is the subplot of 1997’s The Devil’s Advocate. A movie I have seen so, so many times. The story is great, the acting decent, Pacino as the Devil is incredible. This may be a reach for you to believe, but his performance was nothing less than fucking brilliant. To me at least, because it made sense. The devil is a man.
I’ve been on a spiritual journey my entire life. I’ve openly questioned the existence, motives and methodologies of a kind and benevolent God, yet sought him out in every moment of beauty and despair for as long as I can remember.
Fairly recently, I’ve come to totally embrace the idea of a God. Primarily and unfortunately because I believe in evil. I believe it walks the earth among us. And if you believe in Evil, it logically follows that you must have faith in a being that can conquer it.
The Devil’s Advocate is the first thing; book, movie, sermon or any other medium that illustrates how I believe Satan really works. I believe that it really is just that basic. An unassuming guy that walks among us. A man that accepts your longing for the pleasures of bad behavior. He gives us want we want without judgment. He tests but never violates the concept of Free Will. He is the cool older brother that buys his underaged brother a 6-pack of beer and says he isn’t responsible for what happens. He bills himself as the answer to the impossible standards of God. He is merely providing a service. He is a man of the people that provides mankind the opportunity to indulge in every sin and desire as he openly mocks God as the ultimate trickster who challenges man to be something he is not capable of; truly virtuous. According to him, God makes it impossible for man for his own amusement. He calls it a cosmic gag reel.
“Look but don’t touch.”
“Touch, but don’t taste.”
“Taste, but don’t swallow.”
It is very easy to believe that such a man, or several versions of him, exists. Not unlike Mall Santas who answer wishes for presents, they instead ask you what wickedness you desire and then give it to you. Even with the limitations of Free Will can we all admit that many people are more than willing to sell their soul, regardless of the circumstances, with very little encouragement? The craving for wealth and power have an incredible allure. And there is no lack of people to step on to achieve them. With such a demand there has to be a vendor they can count on.
The movie really made me think. I hope you watch it and get something out of it also. I’ve always believed in Evil. I’ve seen it in action. I watch for it. But I don’t look for winged serpents and demons, I look for it in people. The people who start the shit and watch as it plays out. He’s everywhere and can be in anyone. But, to quote Pacino, “they don’t see me coming. I’m just me, the hand up Mona Lisa’s skirt.”
Indeed, that explains the smile that has baffled viewers for centuries.