Sunday, April 6, 2008
(In)vidia, Gula, Ira
I've always found sin to be kind of a mushy concept. Not like evolutionary theory, with its pert suppositions and lissome logic. Not even like gravity, which, although it doesn't make a whole lot of intuitive sense, nevertheless possesses a certain voluptuous appeal.
Sin is just...old. And droopy. Yet still wearing spandex.
Mostly it's that the institutions and milieus in which sin made such good, incisive sense have crumbled. If you no longer believe in heaven or hell or the sartorial advisability of miters, then sin, like an abandoned baked Alaska, melts into tautology. Why is it sin? Because it's sinful. Why is it sinful? Because it's sin. You should have eaten the whole damn baked Alaska when you had the chance.
So it's probably an OCD -as opposed to a religious- impulse that's at the root of my fascination with the Seven Deadly Sins. I like the way they slice, with precision, the great pie of human wrongdoing into manageable chunks. Also I like to group them, in proper medieval fashion, into trivium and quadrivium. First come the foundational sins of lust, gluttony, and sloth, that holy trinity of overindulgence; after a thorough grounding in these you are free to explore the more artistic sins of wrath, pride, envy, and avarice.
And here's the thing: sin may seem as inchoate as smoke these days, but, like smoke, it's got fire under its butt. You may not go to hell for practicing the Seven Deadly Sins, but each of them is a sure-fire way, over the long haul, to make yourself unhappy. Sin leads, if not to Styx, at least to stultification.
There are a million paths, broad and subtle, to unhappiness. The Seven Deadly Sins can, if nothing else, help us flag our boulevards. I am only occasionally troubled by lust, avarice, or pride. I am intermittently slothful. My greatest sins, the ones that rattle my bones, are envy, gluttony, and wrath.
Tell me yours.