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Writer's Block: Seven

Which of the seven deadly sins—sloth, greed, lust, gluttony, anger, envy, and pride—are you most likely to commit?


Every single one of them. These are not Sins. These are emotions. Feelings. I have and have the right to a full range of human emotion. When people blame themselves for their feelings, several bad things happen.

They don't stop to control their behavior on account of "might as well be hung for a sheep" having already blamed themselves for the desire to do something unethical. Aw they're just sinners anyway. They shouldn't feel that way in the first place.

Out in reality the feelings that affect other people are the ones that are acted on in unreasonable ways. In my journal or my head or my heart, honesty with my own feelings is a good balance to stay sane and not wind up with their erupting out in other directions -- like the sanctimonious viciousness of those who howl about sins and put down anyone else all the time while thinking of themselves as so much nobler because they only let themselves feel cruel emotions when it's justified by the rules.

Every one of these feelings can inspire good or evil actions.

Sloth -- laziness is the mother of invention. Engineers know all about sloth and designing ways to do what you want to accomplish more efficiently. Sloth is also the time for rumination and creativity.

Greed -- I think of greed as a hoarding instinct something like a squirrel's. It's not always about money. It can be about having all the baseball cards or any other collectible. It is often harmless when it's directed at something harmless -- and the harm in it comes in using unethical ways to get what you want, not in wanting something that isn't about bare survival. The desire for luxury, toys and pleasure is fine when you don't step on people to get your luxuries. The pleasure of acquiring them is just one of the pleasures in life.

Lust -- without that, there are no more people and there is no bonding between mates. Nothing wrong with sexual desire. Here I break with all the iterations of Puritanism that filter into so many things and are rooted in pagan Rome and its antecedents. There's nothing wrong with desire or with consensual, responsible merry sex.

Gluttony -- can be unhealthy if taken to extremes. Or just a personal hobby if instead of quantity the gourmet goes for quality and occupies much time and energy finessing the way food's prepared. Gluttony is a health problem, nothing more. The desire for food and for food treats is just a desire, it's letting desires go out of balance that's wrong. Ultimately only to the person who's doing it anyway. Keep in mind that most of the fat people I've ever known are not gluttons but are dealing with some serious health problems including, often, "poverty fat" caused by overprocessed cheap low-nutrition foods.

Anger -- without that anyone will wind up being a doormat to the first bully that comes into their life. Hello, without anger any injustice will flourish unchecked. Anger is energy. How to express anger and when/how to act on it is the area of ethical concern, not whether you feel it. Anger denied becomes really nasty passive-aggressiveness, miserable to the poor sod who's punishing himself constantly and to everyone around him in his sulky resentful interference with everything in life.

Envy -- this can be a motive for viciousness or a motive to get up and do something for yourself. I envy my friend Bill's collection of art supplies. Lo, I am motivated to work harder at building my site, become self supporting again and prosperous enough to afford all those oil sticks and the giant set of Holbeins and the etching press he's got. Ethics come in how you behave when you envy something or someone. I let it go if it turns out that it would be impossible to do anything about it, like envying people who run for fun, otherwise I would be driven nuts by envying every undisabled person on the planet.

Pride -- again, it's an emotion and a human reality. Real pride and real humility are both reality-based self-honesty. The flaw comes in being obnoxious and putting down other people when appreciating your achievements. If you're honest about them and don't turn down compliments, don't fall into false humility, then it's easier to have real humility and a delight in meeting people who are better than you at whatever it is. I think pride is often lacking in people, the healthy kind of pride.

These "sins" are an idea that has created massive insecurity in the majority of people. Feel the wrong thing and you are evil. It's like saying, don't feel the cold or don't feel the heat. It's there. You can behave well while miserable or not. You can behave well in the throes of unrequited lust or desire of any kind. Or not.

Ethics for me boils down to what people do, including what they say to others. Feelings are a human right, feelings are what's inside your skin and only you own what's inside your skin. Don't blame yourself for having feelings no matter what they are. Change what you think of something and they may change over time. Anger can evaporate if you discover it was a misunderstanding. But that is more social, that is something between you and others.

With yourself, just be real and accept feelings as what they are. I decide what to do on a combination of emotions and ideas.
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