In a world that is childishly enraptured by Christmas even before November has played out it may be hard to imagine, much less accept, the existence of evil.
Far better to wallow in a world of fairy lights, party punch bowls, and low-calorie, high-salt nibbles.
But then reality, like evil, has a way of catching our attention. The death on Sunday of mass murderer and Californian cult leader Charles Manson must be such a moment.
Manson was jailed for life over seven 1969 murders which, by the terms of today mass shootings in America — Las Vegas, Texas, Little Rock or any of another hundred sad locations — seems a modest outrage.
Despite those extravaganzas of violence a mass murderer, especially a serial killer, still evokes a chilling presence.
That is why Shankill Butcher leader Lenny Murphy stands out even in the litany of horrors unleashed over three decades in Northern Ireland.
Even the briefest reflection on his gang’s savagery driven by evil helps to explain the attractions of carnivals of distraction like Christmas.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved