Greed, Gluttony, and California
Okay, so maybe California is not the direct result of the devil, but he was definitely one of the State’s founding fathers (or ‘Framers’ as they are required to be called in California textbooks now). People who would have been burned at the stake just a century ago are now the most influential ones in our kid’s lives. I remember my grandfather seeing the 1970’s version of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders uniforms and becoming increasingly uncomfortable. I’m not sure if it was one of those “teacher, I CAN’T come to the blackboard right now” moments that all boys go through a few times in their lives or if it was the fact that he was watching the scantily clad women parade around the TV screen with his impressionable grandson in the room with him. Maybe it was a bit of both. Either way, I’ve never changed the channel when they’re bouncing around the screen during a game.
We all know the Seven Deadly Sins. The photo to the right embodies a few of them by itself, but have you stopped lately and taken a really good look at how many of them we commit on a daily basis without giving the act a second’s thought. Hey…..stop looking at the picture, dammit!
Pride – Thomas Aquinas, the Medieval Theologian and eventual Catholic Saint, wrote “inordinate self-love is the cause of every sin.” (I’d put a picture of St. Thomas Aquinas on this page but I’m afraid it would cause a noticeable imbalance with the previously posted art.) Think about that statement for a second. It could not be more true of our society today. Kids are taught to love themselves above all else. We have grown to believe that our own needs and wants are more important than those of anyone else on the planet. Common courtesy has been pushed aside to make room for self-serving YouTube posts, popularity, and unjustified respect. No one is willing to be truly great anymore. We just want adoration laid at our feet simply because we exist. Remember when you actually had to earn respect and loyalty. Now it seems that the more shocking and vulgar you allow yourself to be in public, the more of a following you will have. The most mundane act has propelled categorically unworthy celebrities into realms of fame they have no business even locating, let alone residing in.
Envy – Envy is the desire for another person’s traits, status, abilities, or situation. Envy causes us to grieve when good things happen to our neighbors. In it’s most innocent form, envy can be witnessed at any child’s birthday party. The kid having the party and receiving the gifts and attention is on cloud nine. (Usually launched there by the fuel of cake, anticipation, and attention.) The kids who are simply attending the party watch as their friend opens gift after gift and is treated like royalty. Their little brains can’t comprehend the fact that THEY will be the ones getting that attention in just a few short days, weeks, or months. They have an excuse. What’s yours? What’s our excuse, as adults, for feeling a sense of personal accomplishment when a celebrity loses some of their luster? (Insert Charlie Sheen reference here) Why must someone lose in order for us to feel victory? This lesson was taught to me by my father a few years back when he lost a job he had loved for over three decades to a sniveling little weasel who lied and manipulated his way into the minds of the Board of Directors. I was angry. I wanted revenge. I wanted to march into the corporate headquarters and de-brain the bastard sitting in what should have been my father’s office. My father however, felt none of those things. We were walking my son down the cul-de-sac near my home. I asked my Dad why he wasn’t more angry and he explained that anger is a waste of energy. It took a while for me to see it that way, but eventually the company that had abandoned my father went to crap and my dad is happier than he’s ever been. Not because of the company’s failings. He’s happy because he truly practices what he preaches and that my friends is a trait I hope to someday master.
Gluttony – Gluttony is the inordinate desire to consume more than your body requires. There is no better example of gluttony than America. We are a country built on excess. We shovel food in our mouths at a rate that would make most countries literally sick to their stomachs. And don’t think that just because you don’t have a big muffin top belly hanging over the top of your designer jeans that you are not part of this definition. Even the physically fit citizens of the US consume more than will ever be required for survival.
In the words of nineteenth-century Russian Bishop Ignatius Brianchaninov:
Wise temperance of the stomach is a door to all the virtues. Restrain the stomach, and you will enter Paradise. But if you please and pamper your stomach, you will hurl yourself over the precipice of bodily impurity, into the fire of wrath and fury, you will coarsen and darken your mind, and in this way you will ruin your powers of attention and self-control, your sobriety and vigilance.
TV commercials don’t make life much easier in the old stomach restraining pursuit. I can’t remember the last time I ate a burger from that place that serves it’s coffee crotch-melting hot, but every time I see an ad on TV, I salivate like one of Pavlov’s hounds. (Please don’t believe that I see myself as a perfect specimen of health and self discipline. I had a piece of chocolate cake during the game last night that would have made Rosie O’Donnell envious!)
Lust – Lust is the inordinate cravings of bodily pleasures. Of course it is next to impossible to claim innocence of this sin. Sex, flesh, and temptation are literally everywhere. Even Church has become a cleavage filled extravaganza. Lust is not necessarily something we can control as it has been proven that men have sexual urges every .00063 seconds. (Couldn’t find an actual number, but I bet that’s not too far off.) Women are just as guilty but have become masters at disguising their lust. The problem is not that lust exists. The problem is that we as a society continue to encourage such behavior. My stepdaughter wears shorts to school on a regular basis that would have made her the most popular girl in any school I ever attended as a kid. The sad thing is that even with the distinct hint of ass-cheek hanging out of her shorts, she is one of the most conservatively dressed girls I see on the campus when I drop her off in the mornings. Where are the parents when some of these little “Businesswomen Of The Night” are getting ready for school in the morning? I think we all know lust is a sin. Is it time we start demanding more of an opposition to it’s rampant control over us? Can we do such a thing? Can we prove to advertising agencies that we will continue to buy food, beer, and clothing without having to see someone’s half naked daughter first? Is it time that someone let Victoria know that her Secret is out of the bag? We get it, Vicky…..you like to wear little silky things that make your A-Cups look like C’s. And while we’re on the subject; why the hell do I get a Victoria’s Secret catalog delivered to my house in MY name?!?! I know I could just call and cancel it if I wanted to but quite frankly that’s none of your concern and I’ll thank you to stay out of my personal affairs. I will not post an illustration of lust. If you want to see pictures, type in ANY body part in your search engine and see what comes up.
Anger – Anger is manifested in the individual who spurns love and opts instead for fury. It is also known as Wrath. It’s easy to point to almost anyone you know and remember a time when they lost their temper or said something they later regretted. Anger is just as controlling as lust, yet we somehow have managed to keep our anger in better control than we have managed to keep our sexual urges. Not by much though. Think about it…..would boxing, wrestling, UFC, or any of that other nonsense be as popular as it is if it weren’t for our inherent anger issues? No it would not. Domestic violence, child abuse, animal cruelty…..all bi-products of anger. The aggressive mentality we breed into our kids is often mistaken for success. The more people who fear you the better you’re doing. Horse-shit!! Stop teaching your kids that their worth is based on the amount of ass they kick you hillbillies! That’s not the way the world needs to work. There are times when physical strength is needed, but it will never be in a ring, chasing another man in tiny shorts while drunken villagers demand blood. I could kick your ass but that just means that someone else is going to come along and kick my ass. Anger really has no place in the world I am trying to build for my children. If it has a place in your world then perhaps YOU are the on in need of a good old fashioned, knock down – drag out, beating.
Greed – You all know what greed is, and we are ALL guilty of it. We live in a society that would gladly be boiled alive in oil as long as the oil was the finest money could buy. We’re basically the Roman Empire in a modern world. We’ve learned nothing from the many lessons greed has taught us in the past. We continue to empty our moral accounts in exchange for possessions. I’m not a dirty hippie or anything. I love my house. I love my car. I love the nice clothes that I own, but I didn’t buy any of those things because I needed to prove to someone else that I have money. People who hold their monetary wealth over people are never as happy as they make themselves out to be. Those who do find happiness in wealth alone deserve to be laughed at when it all gets taken away. The big house, the fancy job-title, the snide remarks about those with smaller account balances than you…..what the hell is it all supposed to prove? You’re not as happy as I am, I can assure you. The things that you have squandered; those things that you lay in bed at night wishing you could get back; they’re my treasures now. They’re my treasures because I don’t view them as possessions. I don’t view them as royal subjects or just pieces of my great life. I view them as my family. Do you honestly believe people are going to remember how much money you made in your lifetime after you die? Do you think they’ll care how big your house was or that you travelled to exotic places? No. You will be remembered for the life you lived, not the money you spent.
Sloth – People often get sloth confused with gluttony and while it is true that the two often go hand in hand, they are two very separate sins. Sloth refers to the avoidance of physical or spiritual work. In other words, when you take a shortcut; cheat on a test; use steroids; delegate work to another; or any other manner of getting out of work……you are sinning. When you see an opportunity to minister to a stranger but you shy away at the last second; you are sinning. My youngest stepdaughter has a rather annoying habit of putting clothes she doesn’t feel like folding at the moment into the dirty laundry hamper so that someone else will wash and eventually fold them for her. She saves herself all of six seconds by deploying this little maneuver, but she can’t understand why it upsets me and her mom the way it does. (She’s a teenager, so therefore by law, we as her parents are stupid anyway.) I see guys at the gym every night that just personify this sentiment. You know the ones I’m talking about? Juiced up on steroids to the point that their heads are even muscular, yet I rarely see them lifting a weight. Whatever happened to the pride you get from working hard toward a goal. I’m proud of the work I’ve put into the body I have. I’m proud of the victory I can claim over my addiction to nicotine and even more proud of my little brother’s victory over alcohol. NO ONE can ever say that he took the “easy way” out and if you do……I’ll forget all that crap I wrote about controlling my wrath!!
Things have got to change or we are literally heading down the same road as all the other great civilizations that crumbled before us.
As always, thanks for playing.