Occasionally I get asked why I chose the Twitter tag (@rascality) that I did. Here’s the snippet from Alan Watts (in Myth and Religion) that first brought the word to my attention many years ago, when I was in high school:
But as Saint Paul puts it so well, “The will is present with me, but how to do that which is good, I find not. For the good that I would do, I do not, and the evil that I would not do, that I do.”
In other words, we all come down to something in ourselves that is called the yetzer hara (יצר הרע), the wayward spirit that God is supposed to have put into the soul of Adam. In my translation, it is our element of “irreducible rascality.”
We are all basically scamps in one way or another. I know all sorts of people who are full of outward virtue, but it always turns out that they need money. Of course, when it comes to money, virtue flies out the window. We do have an element of rascality in ourselves; we know it very well. The question again is, “How can it be transformed?”
For me, rascality is a human potential that exists in everyone that pops up the moment we become a little too sure or rigid about what’s good or what’s right. It’s what makes us question the rules rather than follow them instinctively, and what gets us to play with words, interpreting them rather than taking them literally.
It’s what got Adam curious about the Tree of Knowledge, and Eve capable. It pissed off the boss, and cost them their home and livelihood, but bought both their freedom and independence.
I still think they got the better end of the deal.