I DON'T know a lot about ballet. Other than watching the movie Billy Elliot when I was a youngster, I’ve never really been grabbed by it. I like to get my thoughtful provocation from other forms of art and culture.

But I found myself this week embarking on a curious journey to find out more about The Judas Tree – a 1992 ballet production I’d never heard of, written by a man – Sir Kenneth MacMillan – that I’d never heard of.

It caught my attention when MacMillan’s widow insisted in a magazine interview that he wasn’t a misogynist and lamented the current “fashion” of re-examining historical art and culture in a negative light, and I wanted to know why. So off I went on a search and found myself reading a number of reviews about a violent ballet by MacMillan which depicted gang rape and death. Needless to say, having grown up thinking ballet was about pink outfits and tutus, it wasn’t what I was expecting.

READ MORE: Sir Kenneth MacMillan's widow rejects 'ridiculous' misogyny claims

I wanted to know more. It sounded horrific, but I craved more knowledge. What motivated him to create this? What was the purpose? What was he trying to say? Was he depicting depraved violence against women out of some sort of voyeuristic glee?

So I started reading. I found that The Judas Tree was a piece about betrayal, jealousy and rage. It’s about a raw darkness that exists within people, whether acknowledged or not, whether explored or not. It’s said to have taken some of the ideas represented in the ‘Gnostic Gospels’ – a bundle of texts found in the mid-1900s, but written within 200-400 years after the death of Christ, which offer a very different view of the figure we call Jesus and his relationship with Mary Magdalene.

The Gnostic Gospels? Well I knew I’d heard of them, but I could only vaguely remember what they were. So off I went again, hunting for information. Believer or non-believer, the texts are fascinating. They suggest a contradiction between more modern ideas in Christianity. They suggest that in order to find God all one needs to know is their own self, and darker ideas about spirituality and the soul are in these texts for pondering.

In The Judas Tree, the sole woman of the piece is depicted as a sort of dual being; she appears to woo the men, who play the characters of workmen, and make the foreman uncontrollably jealous. He then appears to spur the men on to gang rape her, before he finally kills her. Disgusted by his behaviour, he kills himself. This really is dark stuff.

But it’s dark stuff that I couldn’t stop thinking about. I found myself lost in thought about the nature of the self and the spirit, about the eternal contradictions battling within us at any given time, about the need to confront the dark ideas that dwell within this species of ours and to expel them like vomit through the safety of mediums like art and culture, where we can all be afforded the space to think and analyse.

Of the piece, MacMillan himself once said: “There are things in me that are untapped and have come out in this ballet that I find frightening. This is a dark one.”

READ MORE: Sir Kenneth MacMillan's widow rejects 'ridiculous' misogyny claims

I still don’t know a lot about ballet, and I doubt this will spark a love of it. But what I do appreciate is challenging thinking.

I understand that those who’ve experienced rape or any other kind of violence might not appreciate it so much. Trauma has an overpowering effect on individuals; depictions of what they’ve already endured can cause an involuntary physical response, like a panic attack, that is completely outwith their immediate control.

But something else has emerged in recent years in the land of debate. While the concept of “trigger warnings” are an effective means to signpost something that could prompt a trauma response, what they shouldn’t be is a label to stick onto anything that’s vaguely thought provoking in an effort to flag it as an immoral abhorrence in need of shunning from creative spaces.

To deny the existence of the worst of humanity is to deny the very elements that make us all human. If we must have the sickly-sweet Mary Poppins then we must also have the rest. This is what art, culture, music and film must be allowed to give us. It’s up to us what we expose ourselves to. We can choose to see as much or as little as possible, and there’s no way of controlling how it is perceived any more than it’s possible to ensure people won’t use knowledge for malicious purposes.

READ MORE: Sir Kenneth MacMillan's widow rejects 'ridiculous' misogyny claims

To see everything through the prism of the last five minutes is painfully superficial, and suggests a fundamental lack of faith in people’s abilities to cope with difficult ideas and think for themselves.

Sometimes it’s only by confronting what we call evil that we can grasp ever harder for the light. To reduce MacMillan’s troubling reflections to misogyny plain and simple is to do a disservice to creativity, intellect and curiosity. Imagine a world where all of those things are expected to thrive under such mindless censorship. Now that really is troubling.