I attended Unity Church for several years. I learned a great deal about prayer, meditation, the practice of inner peace and that the ideas and images (my judgments, preconceptions and even prejudices) I project onto the world co-create my experiences and the world in which I live: “We have the capacity to transform any and all evil into good.” (truthunity.net)

Many members of our congregation believed that if they collected a bottle of dirty water and directed their thought toward it in a concerted and earnest manner, they could change it to clean water. They believed there was no such thing as evil in the world. At that point, the church and I parted ways — amicably.

Jay Austin and Lauren Geoghegan, both 29, believed the world was inherently good. They quit excellent jobs in Washington, D.C., and began cycling around the world. Both were from relatively affluent families, and Austin, an advocate for sustainable, simple living, owned a “tiny house.”

On their blog (simplycycling.org), they describe the kindness and generosity of strangers as they biked through Africa, Europe and central Asia. In April 2018, Austin wrote: “Badness exists, sure, but even that’s quite rare. By and large, humans are kind. Self-interested sometimes, myopic sometimes, but kind. Generous and wonderful and kind. No greater revelation has come from our journey than this.” Badness.

Traffic stop near the border of America and Mexico

Traffic stop near the border of America and Mexico. Without taking my hands off the wheel, I told the heavily armed officer that I was carrying and that I was licensed. He asked where the gun was — in the glove compartment — and then told me to show him my driver’s license, which I did (slowly). He then waved me on with a “be careful out there.” Anyone who believes there is no evil in our world has never experienced it firsthand.

Then, on Sunday morning, as Jay and Lauren had joined with five other cyclists to pedal through Tajikistan, a small car made a U-turn in front of them, accelerated and smashed into the seven cyclists. Radical Muslim men then jumped out of the car and began stabbing the injured cyclists, killing five of them before speeding away. According to a story on National Public Radio, Jay and Lauren’s “fundamental faith in humanity” never flagged. ISIS claimed responsibility.

According to bicycling.com, two European cyclists, Holger Hagenbusch, 43, from Germany, and Krzysztof Chmielewski, 37, from Poland, were pedaling through southern Mexico when they met in Chiapas and began cycling together.

A few months ago, their bodies were found at the bottom of a ravine just off a major road between the towns of Ocosingo and San Cristóbal de las Casas. Mexican authorities initially brushed off their deaths as accidents, but pressured by the European Union, the Mexican authorities suddenly discovered that the two had been murdered and their bodies kicked into the ravine. One Luis Alberto Sánchez, a special prosecutor newly appointed to the case, has opined that robbery was the most likely motive for the killings. Chmielewski was shot in the head, and Hagenbusch was beaten to death. Then the bodies were partially dismembered.

If you don’t believe in the presence of evil in our world, you’re living in a soft, protected American bubble. I’m not picking on Unity Church, and I’m not arguing religion or philosophy. I’m suggesting that we carry for a reason. We carry because we know that there is evil in the world and that it can be random and violent and cruel. History acknowledges that evil is alive and well and has been alive and well for hundreds of thousands of years, even long before history began.

We carry because we have a duty to protect ourselves and our loved ones from evil, from criminals and from criminal governments. We carry because simply praying for peace, meditating on love, trusting that people are good and decent at heart, and expecting those people to think and act in that manner is sweet and nice but surely prone to fail — catastrophically.

So, I carry because I can and because I believe that there is an equal amount of evil as good in the world and that if I am subjected to it I won’t drop to my knees and preach it into goodness and light. I’ll draw and aim … and see how that works.