Buddhists have their “three poisons”; Christians have their “seven deadly sins.” Lust makes both lists, along with anger. But lust is the one that furrows men’s brows and crosses their legs. Our culture assumes that lust is all about the genitals. Yes, lust does involve a preoccupation with sexual pleasure, but it actually infests the entire being, as all sins do. The 16th century author of “The Cloud of Unknowing” writes that lust-driven men have been “seduced by an inordinate love of giving or receiving flattery and by a deep-seated need to be liked.”
Tag Archives: Sufis
Snakes in the grass
We are encouraged to follow our passion, but this betrays a misunderstanding of what passions are. The word derives from the Latin for suffer. A Sufi teaching says there are nine of them, each one disguised as a virtue.
Sufis tell us to die before we die, to live like we’re already dead.
Wouldn’t it be nice if there were somewhere we could go to learn how to live? But there isn’t.
Hurricane in the head
Forget hurricane Michael. A more devastating cyclonic catastrophe wreaks havoc every day. It is the voice in the head that never shuts up, that foments rebuttals and resentments, that shouts, shatters and blames.
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.