I am over sixty, so I know a lot of people over sixty. Several of those — measured, responsible leaders — have giddily announced they are visiting Holland. I have always loved the Amsterdam School of early twentieth-century modernism-meets-craftsman housing design, but no, that is not why these good folks are going to that part of the world.

They want to re-live dope.

Most of them have not touched marijuana since the 1970s. They are amused by the Colorado experiment with legalization. They fought tooth and nail to have their kids avoid the Grass Pit, some unsuccessfully. But they themselves are giddy to imbibe.

Why do we seek, perhaps need, to feel illicit? We pop into porn on the Internet. We click on articles about 37-year-old teachers and 13-year-old kids. We order the third drink. We go to Denmark. We revel in the alternate.

This is not coloring your hair purple for a week: that is a statement. This is not getting drunk or high every night: that is addiction. Many folks want to enjoy the world of Evil as a discrete alternative, a break, a yin to life’s yang. I know formerly completely apolitical folk who are now immersed in literal political “hate speak.” I know Orthodox Yoga-ists who covertly — delightedly — eat a pint of Cherry Garcia. I watch endless reruns of Law and Order.

These are limited, defined breaks from “Right” living. They are “Wrong,” but they are not “Evil.” We mostly come to live in places we believe in — I think God is relentless, and is unceasing in his ridicule of my absurdity while completely forgiving of it — but despite dependability and faith, we create moments when we require grace.

Children come to know what is Wrong. And they do it. There is unabashed joy at being Bad. I think “Mission” is a depressingly overused word, but there is a Bad Mission: having defined “Good,” we opt to do, most often quite safely, Bad.

I can eat sixty Triscuits while watching Swamp People. I do this because I know I will work out the next morning. It would be better to not eat the Triscuits or watch imbeciles shoot crocodiles in the head, but I do it. An entire Schadenfreude industry of Housewives of Somewhere, NASCAR wrecks, hockey violence, soccer penalty drama, food porn, and cable TV freak shows all play off our common need to drop into the extreme, to partake of those things that we know, we believe, are bad.

I have never smoked anything despite my full immersion into the student culture of the 1970s. But, in the years prior to college, my channel had been switched to football. I wore five-pound ankle weights every waking hour —  except during games and practices — for two seasons. In my good-grade, no-dope, junior-class-president life in Buffalo, New York, most everything passed the smell test — I was defendable; hell, I was legit. But if they had been available, I would have taken every steroid I could get my hands on. Because they work. In that teenage frenzy, I would have gone to that Holland; I would have, in those ancient years, done the wrong thing because it fed my deep need to express myself, be myself, live in a raucously defiant way. But there were no steroids. Still, there were moments, many, when if being a projectile meant I could have killed the guy in front of me, part of my lizard brain was surfing on that great good thing.

We want to be bad. We need to be bad. Denial of what we know is the Right Mission is hard — but the recognition that we are opting for the wrong because we are human is, for me, the hardest thing.

I see ads for Las Vegas — “What Happens Here Stays Here.” The post-debauch woman in a $10,000 bed finds relief in waking to the rest of her life, after living in an alternative evil. An entire movie of heinous regrettable acts — actually three or four movies — lets us vicariously fulfill the Amsterdam Distraction.

Henry Ford said, “Quality is doing the right thing when no one is looking.” Pop spirituality changed that to “Being faithful is just doing the right thing when no one is looking.” But most of us are living the opposite: we want Amsterdam, Las Vegas, and steroids when no one is looking.

I am sure theologians can parse this urgent need to break from God in endless scripture and logic: but it is there amongst us civilians and highly successful at sucking away our lives. There are shadows every time there is light. We want to spend some time in darkness. Having God poke me, hard, most days, does not make my wrong moves right. Not even having His Son get wrecked and killed made me a Happy Camper — I am still watching Swamp People (but no Triscuits for a while).

We do the Wrong thing because we know we can come back, because there is a return flight from Amsterdam. But the reality is that we never left. We want blessed, alternative Evil, but God is with us, with me, even when we are wrecking things.

I am over sixty, and I am seeing the folly of Las Vegas (or Corinth 2,000 years ago), even steroids — and I am grateful that our overreaching parenthood iron-fisted that folly for our sons until they left home. I am also grateful God does not do that for me. Failure often proves to be a better teacher than “having it all.”

If I did not want to physically win, be loved, or just have the thirty-seventh Triscuit, I would be lying, because I am human. Knowing that the third drink is always there does not mean I have it. Living flooded with gifts, unasked for, unearned, makes the Dark Side what it is: compelling and worthless. That may be enough.