Revenge is a dish best served cold. But what if it’s really hot outside? To understand an idea sometimes it’s best to examine its clichés as these signifiers give us valuable clues into the root of its meaning. Boiled down to an essence, humanity has in many different cultures and times reflected on its more base fundamentals. If there’s truth in every lie, then the same is true for these master thinkers insight into humanity, in this case, revenge.
“An eye for eye only ends up making the whole world blind.” Ghandi
While the sentiment is clear there’s a lesson to be learned from losing an eye. You know, for a polytheistic, reincarnating, spiritual guru Ghandhi seems awfully Christian here. And isn’t that why the Beatles dropped LSD and pretended to be Indians in the first place? To get away from the whole Christian, repressed British thing? We should look at Ghandi’s proclamation as one of two outcomes. Yes, we could be a blind world, stumbling over our mistakes in our bloodlust of spite. But if I lost an eye, I’d be real careful about my other one and would most likely avoid those who took it from me, especially if I already got one of their eyes too. We each got ours and have a whole lot more to lose in the next round. Seems like everyone would learn some truly valuable insight after the first round. Maybe an eye for an eye makes a world of Cyclops’ that know not to fuck with people?
“In revenge and in love woman is more barbaric than man is.” Nietzsche
Certainly the man has a point that seems indisputable. It can be seen every Saturday night in almost every bar if you look for it. The Germans knew how to get to the root of a miserable situation and for the inventor of the concept of the super-man, its interesting to see how much credit and power he bestows on women. He means this as a terrified compliment and it stands as a powerful reminder of masculinity’s ultimate failure, that it can never be as brutal or as vengeful as its feminine counterpoint.
"Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves." Confucius
Confucius takes the viewpoint that revenge brings further pain and misery and can only end in a spiral of darkness and bitterness. That’s a valid viewpoint once you relinquish all your worldly possessions. If desire is the root of unhappiness then revenge is its physical manifestation. Digging one’s own grave is not righteous work, nor does Confucius offer any sympathy. His stark, minimal phrasing espouses a rationality that few revenge possessed individuals could appreciate. A warning is valuable even if you choose to ignore it.
“If you prick us do we not bleed? If you tickle us do we not laugh? If you poison us do we not die? And if you wrong us shall we not revenge?” Shakespeare
Shakespeare’s work remains a standard because at its core it understands and represents the weakness of humanity. Henry IV spends a good deal of time on the subject. Hamlet thought that revenge should have no bounds. Don't even get started with Othello. Shakespeare posits that revenge is a natural reaction in the most basic sense. It doesn’t hurt that conflict is the essence of drama and such was the man’s forte. There’s an authenticity to the classicism that speaks down through the centuries, a universal truth of humankind’s constant failure and desires.