Greenwood Encyclopedia of African American Literature

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Seven Sins

We bought an HD TV quite a while ago, but we usually forget to tune in to the HD channels, a practice that a younger member of our kinship-network finds exasperating. Today, however, we tuned to the HD version of the History Channel, or one of the HC's incarnations. HC on HD. Wow. Go crazy. Party down with some documentaries.

We watched a show on the seven (deadly) sins, which I can never list completely--and this failure on my part probably gets us closer to double-digits in sin-counting. Anway, here they are.

Envy
Sloth
Gluttony
Wrath
Pride
Lust
Greed

I'm not sure, but these look more like "common traits" than "sins," but I guess they could count as both. I also think they "bleed" into one another. Envy and pride seem to do a lot of commerce, for example. Wrath and greed. Sloth and gluttony. Eat a massive turkey dinner and then go try to be non-slothful.

The program featured some neuro-scientists from U.C. Berkeley, and, as one might expect, they have been able to map brain-responses to such things as greed (a kind of addiction, at least partly) and lust. Also, the economist Robert Reich, whose approach I happen to like, noted that a sensible goal is probably not to try to eliminate greed but to channel and manage it so that (my words, not his) the greatest good may be enjoyed by the greatest number. In other words, he's not a big "free market" guy, but then again, no one else is, either, because there's no such thing as a "free" market. Somebody's always got a finger on the scale, inside information, a head start, or whatever (in my humble, not prideful, opinion).

The scientists from Berkeley did not seem to be fatalistic. They did not imply that because our brains may be hard-wired to struggle with resisting greed or getting out of a "greed cycle," we should give up on trying to reduce greed. They are suggesting, I think, that there simply is a neurological/chemical piece to what was once described soley in terms of sin, or of one person's "moral failing." Similarly, the possible connection between clinical depression and sloth seems obvious.

I was thinking of writing some poems based on the seven (deadly) sins, but I'm feeling a little slothful--I mean tired; yeah, that's the word: tired. Besides, thriller-writer Lawrence Sanders (R.I.P.) already got there before me and wrote a series of books based on the sins. And then there's the infamous film, Seven, which I think was too greedy in its need to be horrifying. The real master of the seven sins, however, was Dante, with his Divine Comedy and its circles of Hell. ("Comedy" seems like a bit of a stretch in this case.) I don't feel any envy toward Sanders, Brad Pitt, or Dante, by the way.



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