July 02, 2003

The deadliest sin of them all

Joseph Epstein (a personal fave of mine) has a new essay out on envy.

I cannot recommend it highly enough. You should read the whole thing, it's fascinating, and he is also a terrific writer.

Here are some choice quotes;

"Apart from Socrates, Jesus, Marcus Aurelius, Saint Francis, Mother Teresa, and only a few others, at one time or another, we have all felt flashes of envy, even if in varying intensities, from its minor pricks to its deep, soul-destroying, lacerating stabs. So widespread is it--a word for envy, I have read, exists in all known languages--that one is ready to believe it is the sin for which the best argument can be made that it is part of human nature."

"Most of us could still sleep decently if accused of any of the other six deadly sins; but to be accused of envy would be seriously distressing, so clearly does such an accusation go directly to character. The other deadly sins, though all have the disapproval of religion, do not so thoroughly, so deeply demean, diminish, and disqualify a person. Not the least of its stigmata is the pettiness implicit in envy."

Ouch! So true! Envy, for me, has always gone hand in hand with terrible shame.

And one more quote to whet your whistle:

"On the international scene, many if not most wars have been fought because of one nation's envy of another's territory and all they derive from it, or out of jealously guarded riches that a nation feels are endangered by those less rich who are likely to be envious of their superior position. In this connection, it is difficult not to feel that, at least in part, much of the anti-American feeling that arose after September 11, 2001, had envy, some of it fairly rancorous, at its heart. In the magazine Granta, the Indian writer Ramachandra Guha wrote that "historically, anti-Americanism in India was shaped by an aesthetic distaste for America's greatest gift--the making of money." But can "aesthetic distaste" here be any more than a not-very-well-disguised code word for envy?"

Posted by sheila | TrackBack

Science is organised knowledge.

Posted by: poker online at September 2, 2004 02:20 PM