I am currently watching the second season of Dexter in which we meet the character of Lila, the ex drug using, found-art, wantony sexy NA sponsor with whom Dexter finds an point of connection. As her charcter articulated some of the fundamental questions around good and evil which Dexter seeks to explore last night, it occured to me that she is not the first brunette, moreally ambiguous character of Lila I have encoutered. In Angel, Lila the lawyer erred more on the side of evil, but was not without her own ambiguity, particularly in her relationship with Wesley and her death (and post-death activities). This led me to wonder about the origins of the name, and whether it was just a co incidence or whether there might be some deeper purpose in the use of the name.
Lila derives from Sanskrit and means “play” or “amusement”. While this seems not totally off the mark, according to Wikipedia (which naturally know all) Lila is a concept within Hinduism: “Hindu denominations differ on how a human should react to awareness of Lila. Some emphasize a joyful embrace of all aspects of life (“intentional acceptance”) while maintaining distinction from the Supreme, while others advocate striving for oneness with the Supreme. Lila is an important idea in the traditional worship of Krishna (as prankster) and Shiva (as dancer), and has been used by modern writers like Stephen Nachmanovitch, Fritjof Capra, Alan Watts and Robert M. Pirsig.” Interestingly, given the moral ambiguity of the Lilas I have encoutered, Robert M Pirsig’s book is entitled Lila: An inquiry into morals.
So a Lila who is a ex junkie, who sees all people as containing good and evil and who accidentally killed a man who indeed deserved it, is clearly part of a tradition. Lila in Dexter does seem to be striving for “intentional acceptance” and I will be interested to see where the series takes her and her relationship with Dexter. She can’t turn out to be as evil as a lawyer though – the other Lila will have her beaten in that respect.