Monday, August 2, 2010

Better authentic mammon than a bogus god

When is passion forgivable? 

Gastrimargia, porneia, philargyria, lupē, orgē, akedia, kenodoxia, hyperephania. Working from Greek, the monk Evagrius Ponticus writes these down- to warn, to preach, to proselytize. Time and tide play with them, and these eight sins are later whetted down to the manageable seven, and as the language of scholarship becomes Latin, we get luxuria, gula, avaritia, acedia, ira, invidia and superbia. Socordia replaces acedia, but the intent remains the same, and we reach our modern Seven Deadly Sins, which most of us know- Lust and Gluttony, Greed and Sloth, Wrath and Envy, and ever ascendent, Pride. 

Theologians have always been partial to our friends the sins, that is when they aren't fighting over Arianism, Nestorianism or Chalcedonian doctrine, which is just as fun as it sounds. Saint Aquinas, the dear, felt the need to divide gluttony into six different subcategories, the sort of inane minutiæ so beloved of scholars when they run out of the truly ground breaking ideas. Some enterprising fellow chose to whittle it down to three groupings- the sins of lustful appetite, irascibility and intellect. But all of this is the splitting of hairs- our sins are all those of the passionate bent. We find that this extends into both the social and legal milieu- we have crimes of passion, we accuse others of getting heated or riled up, and we mean it pejoratively. While we may describe a speaker as passionate, we also apply it as a derogatory adjective- the passions of "Latin women"- a euphamism to affectionately describe the same attitudes one might find in an angry, toy-throwing toddler.

When is passion forgivable? As a culture, existing in the Western-European tradition of the Song of Roland, the Matter of Britain, Gallic romantics and Mediterranean Lotharios, we raise these passionate people up while at the same time we condemn their passions as our sins. We go so far as to lock ourselves into a catch twenty-two. While we decry those who fall victim to their passions, that killjoy Pope Gregory I felt the need to add Sloth to our little list and thus condemn those one might think we would consider our greatest compatriots- those who have handily rid themselves of any passion whatsoever. Perhaps it's an offshoot of the Catholic guilt that St. Peter bequeathed to Europe, that masochistic glee of the constantly guilty. We let ourselves be passionate, write our stories and then we prostate ourselves in the confessional, overwhelmed by guilt. Then with God's love and our penance we're off again to unleash our passions on the world. For many of us that embodiment of all the sins, Henry Tudor, managed to deprive us of even confession, leaving only heavily mounting guilt as our passions rise and fall and we sin and sin again. The joy of our modern world is that we're free to confess our sins in any number of ways, from psychologist to blog post, but we've utterly eliminated culturally approved redemption and penance, save for the few lucky celebrities who get time in rehab clinics for the very wealthy. You've sinned, shame on you, feel guilty. And then that's it.

If modern culture is going to continue on it's way- so vocally, so at odds with our own conservative morality, than we require a new set of sins. My personal set of even would be Boorishness, Lack of Charity, Overuse of Buzzwords or Academic Jargon, Poor Hygiene, Crudeness, Violence Towards One's Fellow Man and Not Understanding That One Can't Carry A Tune And Yet Singing Anyways.

Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me your thoughts. Write in what you feel should be the new sins of our modern world. I'll make it a contest. The one with the best sins will be allowed forgiveness with only three Hail Mary's and a single act of contrition.

...Ideo firmiter propono, adiuvante gratia Tua, de cetero me non peccaturum peccandique occasiones proximas fugiturum par publius Karaoke.... 

1 comment:

Jerry Prager said...

Perhaps you have both inherited and surpassed your mother's abilities with pop cultural classicism.