The dove’s cry

Envy is perhaps the least recognized and most operationally subtle of the seven deadly sins. (There are actually nine deadly sins, fear and deceit having been left off the list. The Sufis see them and include them. The West, in its profound state of denial and ignorance about itself, cannot admit what its drivers are.) Envy is the state of continually comparing oneself to others. It happens so continuously that the envious person is usually not conscious of being envious. She (because envy afflicts women disproportionately more than men) feels inflated when she sees herself as better than the other and deflated when she sees herself as worse. Because her powers of discrimination are so great, she sees herself in negative terms most of the time. She is liquid-eyed, emotional, prone to tears. People ask, “What’s wrong? You seem sad.” This question irritates envious people, who are typically unaware of how sad they are, of not measuring up, of feeling guilty, resentful and misunderstood. Envy is a snake; you can’t see it until you’re on top of it. Those who endure this passion (from passio for ‘suffering’) will suffer most of all from an idealized and unattainable version of themselves. Hence, anorexia nervosa, a weakly developed sense of self, deep feelings of insecurity. She cannot separate beauty from pain, from how she feels. (“If I feel it, it must be true!” No, not true.) She is masochism’s tent for a night. Her signature is a lung-emptying sigh. She perks to the sound of the mourning dove.

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