2002 Pulitzer nominee Life Lessons

Go and Sin Some More: You’ll Be A Better Person For It

Where’s the Sin in Synonyms?

Loose Leaves column, 1st run Sunday 25 March 2001 in The Morning News of Northwest Arkansas

By Ben S. Pollock
Copyright 2001 Donrey Media Group

There may be seven deadly sins, but we don’t hear much about most of them. The reason is that they have important uses, if not different names.

If that’s not the case, then maybe the others just aren’t as sexy.

The seven sins, and seven virtues as well, comprise a Christian concept. They’re not uniform, either. Do fortitude and bravery mean the same thing? How about pride and arrogance? Greed, avarice and covetousness? It may be just differing translations and interpretations but then again. …

You don’t have to look for long to find seven sins on the Internet. At least.

From and, you’ll find pride, envy, gluttony, lust, anger, greed and sloth. In the interest of equal time, they list the seven virtues, which generally include prudence, temperance, courage, justice, love, hope and faith. Fortitude, however, comes in for courage on some lists. Charity replaces love in other versions.

Sometimes I get charity at home, myself, often as not a charitable glance. If you can wangle a receipt, it’s deductible.

Lust of course gets good press and lots of prime-time television. Lust for sex films well, but lust for power or control is more common and can be televised earlier in the evening, sometimes during the news.

Greed makes for family programs, but where is the melodrama in gluttony? It’s not Julia Child’s gourmet cooking shows. Gluttony may be found in the latest incarnations of “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” on the E! channel or Home & Garden Television.

HGTV shows materialism in all forms, beginning with the raw materials of land and lumber.

The E! series “Wild On …” shows ideal vacations for the younger crowd. Viewers should be lusting after the babes and hunks, but all that is visible is gluttony: “Gee, they’re drunk.”

Gluttony does not necessarily arouse envy, either.

Oh, sloth. Fishing shows show guys sitting on a dock or a boat or a rock each holding a long stick. Sometimes they wiggle the sticks.

The stars are not as nearly slothful as we, for watching them.

We all need sloth periodically. It is recuperative.

Sloth, though, is written out of traditional manuals. The Sabbath, as more traditional Jews practice it, is fully devoted to prayer and study of holy books. As a complete change of pace from the workaday life, even if it’s just as intensive, this is genuinely rejuvenating.

But so is contemplation of the week’s Bible readings on Saturday morning and later taking a beer to the porch for some afternoon sun.

These few days of near-spring weather addle my brain.

Anger — wrath — can at best just be minimized, but the emotion, rather, sin, has much to speak for it.

During my 20s I learned that while simmering or buried anger turns into depression, which should be a sin, anger can be seen as unfocused energy. Focus that energy into positive action, and you’ll find yourself learning watercolor or dancing or free-writing in a journal daily. Personal growth would be a virtue but for the irritating new-age terminology.

Pride seems interchangeable with arrogance.

Everybody needs pride, though. Let’s call arrogance the sin. Specifically, the arrogance of laziness angers me. I focus my anger into getting a column out by deadline.

Mediocrity was reported recently in “Loose Leaves” as a pet peeve. This is when someone routinely does a B-level job, especially aggravating when A-level involves little more effort or thought.

Weeks of evolving fuming have led to the conclusion that mediocrity is a specific laziness borne out of a presumption someone else will take care of it, whatever it is, if it matters in the first place.

Laziness with presumption becomes arrogance.

It is not becoming.

Meanwhile, pride has to be a virtue. Sure, folks do foolish things out of pride, but pride — vanity — keeps good people thriving and productive.

Michael J. Fox, the actor, quit series TV work because of early Parkinson’s disease. He can no longer hide his tremors for very long. But there he is acting on commercials. He can’t need the money. He works out of what amounts to pride.

Christopher Reeve, quadriplegic from a horse fall, plans to walk again. Reeve is a handsome actor, full of life, and pride might as well be the root of his efforts to move. Bully for him.

You could call it lust for life, but there it’s lust.

A dear neighbor died of cancer last week. Quiet and industrious, she fought to stay productive and helpful and kind to the end.

A close friend suffered a mild stroke last week. He insists on feeding himself and walking a little. Pride will speed his recovery.

Meanwhile, I’m proud — full of pride — that I could work “arouse,” “addle,” “wangle” and “evolving” into a column praising sin.


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