Wednesday, October 20, 2021

The Seventh Deadly Sin

As my daughter often reminds me, few stories are so boring as airport mishaps. They are at the top of the “you just had to be there “ list, always with the inevitable punch line, “And you’re so lucky you weren’t!”


And yet, don’t we feel the need to tell them, to follow that universal human compulsion to share one’s misery, whether to elicit some compassion, amuse our fellow diners or simply get it off our chest? Yes, we do. But my job, dear reader, is to make it a bit more interesting than simply what happened. And that brings me to the Seven Deadly Sins. (Were you expecting that?)


I’m no Christian scholar, but thanks to my Wiki sources, these were first enumerated by Pope Gregory the Ist (who I believe may have been the same Pope Gregory who codified the plainchants being sung in the church and thus, later renamed Gregorian Chant). Some seven centuries later (one sin per century!), St. Thomas Aquinas elaborated on them and though the order varies in the different sites I looked on, they go more or less like this:


1. Greed

2. Lust

3. Envy

4. Gluttony

5. Wrath

6. Sloth

7. Pride


(Oh dear reader, how tempting to take a sharp left turn and enumerate the accomplishments of our former Toddler-In-Chief who scored seven out of seven! I can think of at least five examples from each deadly sin and I imagine you could too! But back to the main road.)


So I ask myself,  “How do I measure up?” and at first glance, pretty well. I’ve never cared that much about money and though I like having a comfortable safety net in the bank, I’m certainly not greedy to take more than my share. Lust is no more or no less than what Nature gave to me to help propagate the species and though to be honest, it still accompanies me on my walks passing lovely women, it’s a mere passing fancy in the mind and a shadowy remembrance in this aging body. Yes, I’ve envied the pianists at the SF Jazz Center for the clarity of their improvisational ideas and command of technique, but only enough to kick my butt and get practicing a little more. And I like my life enough that it would be a hard sell to get me to trade for another’s. Gluttony? Well, yes, sometimes I get seconds of a delicious meal when one serving would have sufficed. This word in the list is also associated with drunkenness, which weirdly, I have never been and stick with my half-a-beer a day ration. Sloth? I don’t think so. I don’t see myself as an addicted workaholic, but I am always busy working on something and as the last Blogpost indicated, often many things at once. 


And that brings us to pride. One entry labels this as an “excessive view of oneself without regard for others” and testimonies from my students from the young to the old affirm my sense that while I can certainly tip a bit too far toward self-absorption, I’m also capable of seeing them and knowing them and caring about them and praising them and blessing them. I do regard them and mostly favorably.


But you may have caught a faint odor of excessive pride in my last entry, feeling impressed by myself that I could juggle so many balls in the air without dropping them (or take care of all the farm chores, the metaphor I used). And that sense of self-congratulation continued as I packed my suitcase so neatly and efficiently, making sure that everything I needed could fit economically into one carry-on suitcase. The next morning, I awoke before the 6:00 am alarm, packed a lunch, set off with my wife in the car to drop myself off at the airport and was thrilled with the good traffic, still riding on my pride-high. And then it happened. 


One minute before stopping at the gate, I had a sickening feeling in my stomach and asked, “Is my backpack back there?” The one with the computer and books and other paraphernalia pretty important to have in the five days to come? And you can guess the answer. “No, it is not.”


“8!@(#*#$(%*@#)$*$#)^*#@)$*#)$^*@)#*($@)(^!!!!!!!!!!!” I shouted, looked at the clock and started high-tailing it back home. If the traffic allowed for yet another 20-minute each way drive on the freeway, I might have just barely made it. But of course, we’re talking about San Francisco traffic. So on my wife’s speaker phone, I yelled at the United machine “Agent! Agent!” until it finally relented, listened to Gershwin for 10 minutes and finally talked to a helpful person who was able to get me on another flight 40 minutes later. For an additional $93. 


I took it, got home, grabbed the backpack, drove to the BART Station to take the train this time to the airport (much to my wife’s relief) and still barely made it in time. But lines were unusually short and I got into my middle seat and off we went. First calling the person assigned to pick me up in Oklahoma City to make sure she could still drive me the 3 hours to the workshop retreat site. Still awake here?


Got off the plane in Houston, sat down to check e-mail thinking I had two hours before the connecting flight, walked leisurely to the gate and oops! Somehow this million-mile-club member forgot to notice the time change. My plane had left. “8!@(#*#$(%*@#)$*$#)^*#@*($@)(^!!!!!!!!!!!


Found Customer Service and “No problem. There's another one in two hours. " Called my ride and she was still on to pick me up. I’m writing this waiting for that next flight and who knows if I’ll have it together to get on it? And so the Deadly Sin of Pride is like the serpent who bit me to remind me of the old saying:


Pride goes before the fall. Which is further defined:


“If you are too confident in your abilities, something bad will happen that shows that you are not as good as you think you are.”


Yep! A needed lesson from the Universe? Don’t write blog posts with any hint of self-praise? A reminder to pay closer attention? First signs of dementia? All of the above?


Time will tell. 


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