Tuesday, April 27, 2004

I've returned from the Festival of Faith and Writing enriched for having heard one of the 20th century's most underrated novelists, Frederick Buechner, and having finally picked up his collection-glossary, Wishful Thinking: A Seeker's ABC. At the risk of making him sound like a hokey spinner of Hallmarkisms rather than a miner of the subtleties of the soul, here are the Seven Deadly Sins as defined in his book. I especially like how Buechner, as with the Beatitudes, turns them from Don't's to Do's:

Of the Seven Deadly Sins, anger is possibly the most fun. To lick your wounds, to smack your lips over grievances long past, to roll over your tongue the prospect of bitter confrontations yet to come ... in many ways it is a feast fit for a king. The chief drawback is that what you are wolfing down is yourself. The skeleton at the feast is you.

Avarice [and] greed ... are based on the mathematical truism that the more you get, the more you have. The remark of Jesus ... is based on the human truth that the more you give away in love, the more you are.

Envy is the consuming desire to have everybody else as unsuccessful as you are.

A glutton is one who raids the icebox for a cure for spiritual malnutrition.

Lust is the craving for salt of a person who is dying of thirst.

Pride: Humility is often confused with the polite self-deprecation of saying you're not much of a bridge player when you know perfectly well you are. ... True humility doesn't consist of thinking ill of yourself but of not thinking of yourself much differently from the way you'd be apt to think of anybody else. It is the capacity for being no more and no less pleased when you play your own hand well than when your opponents do.

Sloth is not to be confused with laziness. Lazy people, people who sit around and watch the grass grow, may be people at peace. ... Slothful people, on the other hand, may be very busy people. They are people who go through the motions, who fly on automatic pilot. Like somebody with a bad head cold, they have mostly lost their sense of taste and smell. ... They are letting things run their course. They are getting through their lives.

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