THE SEVEN DEADLY SINS
Once the Seven Deadly Sins formed a support group to buck up their spirits. For the longest time they’d been in denial about their condition. Deadly Sins don’t cry, each told itself, convinced there was something demeaning in having to reach out to others, an admission of weakness from which its reputation might never recover. Only when they couldn’t ignore the seriousness of their problems any longer were they forced to acknowledge they all needed help. The common complaint among the Seven Deadly Sins was that public behavior was degenerating faster than their own ability to adapt or at least to work out new coping strategies. Every day they found themselves confronted by an increased demand for multitasking, trespass-wise. This challenge they could handle, albeit with a strain, but the nature of trespass now, the uninspired depths to which it had sunk, was what had brought their own spirits so low. Sinning just wasn’t what it once had been. Consider the disappointments that Greed had to contend with of late. Compulsive buying disorders? Glassy-eyed 24-hour bidding at online auctions? The mass pursuit of cheesy “collectibles”? Forget thy neighbor’s wife, there was so much else to covet and so little time. And all of it yours for practically nothing, so long as you still had one card not maxed out quite yet. While for those with more money than they could count, tax cuts on demand were the new gusher in the backyard. The worship of Mammon risked becoming a bore at this rate, with no sacrifice expected and no spiritual gamble to give it that secret allure. Even avarice was being debased by predatory lenders and financial markets acting like schoolyard bullies with little fear of being whistled to a stop. Where was the investment in your own self-worth from putting whole families out on the street when so many were there already? Or what of Lust? How could Lust, once capable of driving a person mad, now find itself mud-wrestling tag teams of by-the-number porn stars lip-syncing canned moantracks and peep-show touts hosting entrap-a-pedophile episodes for a TV audience with the squint turned all the way up, not to mention the makers of smirking teen comedies and fashion-mag sex advisers announcing yet another list of “100 Tips On How To Please Your Lover” for all those thumbing the new issue after the last list failed to work? Where was the power anymore to lift one out of such numbing banalities and into the far reaches of the erotic, where senses moved at the speed of light? Then there was poor old Gluttony, stuck with gourmet clubs and chatty cooking shows and recovery programs where the good life was considered a “treatable eating disorder.” So widespread had gorging oneself become that the latest fast-food empire might as well have been branded Gargantua-to-Go. But absent everywhere was the gouty bon vivant of the past, regaling the table with stories of food, fine wine, and finer talk until dawn, all of that replaced now by the belch of the champion wiener-eater at a county fair. And Pride? Pride really didn’t know what to make of the crush of minor-league vanities laying claim to its mantle. Towering hubris displaced by a gauche posturing for the microphones by whoever got there first, bone-deep narcissism yielding to the self-promotion du jour, mere Chamber of Commerce boosterism and a kiddie parade passing for Roman-scale civic vanity, claims that flag size matters in patriotic performance when the moment is right, a thousand little preenings over nothing decked out as evidence of a “mandate to lead”—such were only some of the mortifying embarrassments Pride had to suffer hourly. But if Pride was dismayed, what about Envy? This once-powerful Sin wondered how it could maintain any self-esteem whatsoever after being reduced to little more than background noise in people’s lives. Envy as the new norm was all around, a case of overexposure that cheapened it to such a point that any insistence it be taken seriously merely served to show how ludicrous such a demand now was. And with humdrum jealousy seemingly enough for most, perfectly matching their sense of injury about everything from stolen love to a promotion given anybody else, what need was there for the true soul-gnawing power of Envy? What a bewildering, disheartening comedown. Nor did Anger escape humiliation, though it could find some solace in being the Deadly Sin with the highest recognition factor at all levels of society. From a general resentment at life’s failure to deliver on your personal wish list to a conviction the entire world was engaged in a conspiracy against you, the belief that somebody must be to blame for everything and should pay the price festered in untold hearts. As did political and religious differences, where the smaller the point under dispute, the greater the animosities became and the more brutal the attacks. “Fine,” growled Anger, “but when you’re sore at everybody in equal measure, how do you tell the difference between mere road rage and global strife?” And when parties to any conflict, whether political or religious or both, suddenly found it to their advantage to embrace what they’d long condemned and lashed out with sarcastic ire at any who dared question the reversal, then Anger wondered if it was about to be dethroned in the affections of longtime followers by shallow but attractive Hypocrisy. The Deadly Sin most put out by its fallen state, however, was surely the unlikeliest: Sloth. How could any self-respecting Sin not be shocked at the fate of Sloth? Bodies turning to flab were one thing, but to witness the spread of intellectual and ethical flab as well was to see indolence take on new meaning. From rent-a-scholar think tanks to the public servants they provided cover for to snooze away at their desks or else actively sabotage what they’d been sworn to uphold; from high-salary incompetence and lax standards in the boardroom to slack protection for the public from the inevitable results; from journalists who should know better chumming about with politicians and repeating their slogans as news rather than thinking for themselves to pundits, bloggers, and radio bloviators who hadn’t come up with a new thought in years, apparently, seeking to hide their slow-wittedness with character smears of anyone who actually might have—all this evidence of clogged synapses and moral blockages left even Sloth complaining of headaches and gasping for breath. Given such trials faced by the Seven Deadly Sins, no wonder they felt the need to support each other, pull themselves up by their collective bootstraps, and carry on somehow. It wouldn’t be easy, but what other option did they have? The way things were going, it was hard to imagine any of them would be worth risking one’s soul for pretty soon.
Copyright © 2003-2004, revised 2008, by Geoffrey Grosshans