Three Universal Deadly Sins Essay, Research Paper
Three Universal Deadly SinsThroughout history, mankind has looked back to the past, to seek the truth about morals, religion, and how they both impact and define civilization. Stories and myths from ancient Greece show overbearing resemblance to our own Bible as both shun the many temptations of our soul either by teaching the value of a characteristic or warning of the “ill fruits reaped”. Dante Alighieri revealed in his Divine Comedy that “Pride, Envy, and Avarice are the three sparks, [the three universal deadly sins] that have set these hearts on fire” (Bartlett 80). This statement is quite true for these three enticements have existed evidently in belief systems and moral codes since the creation of fire.One of the most obvious portrayals of avarice or greed in Greek mythology is the tragic story of King Midas and his golden touch (Coolidge 90). Midas longed to be the wealthiest man in the world and asked the most foolish request of Dionysus — to have the golden touch. Too late Midas realized his folly, for as he dined, the food and ale in his mouth quickly turned to hard metal. Midas shocked at the fate he had bestowed upon himself left the great hall in search of Dionysus, the god of festival, but came across his daughter. Unfortunately before heeding his warning, she gave her father a loving embrace and immediately turned to the yellowish element (MacPherson 49-50). Midas survived but paid the eternal price. Through this toil, he learned that no matter how precious gold is, once down to bare essentials it can not buy back love or life lost or even sustain life. The Christian Bible incorporates this myth s moral interpretation as well. One of the most notorious even!ts that teaches Christians of today the dangers and repercussions of greed is the story of Jacob and Esau. Because of the birth order, Esau was entitled to the inheritance in its entirety, leaving Jacob, once his father died, virtually destitute. Defying his brother, father, and family for the sake of avarice, Jacob used trickery to deceive his father and steal the inheritance (Genesis 25:13). In this instance, Jacob s theft and departure results in a family torn to pieces. This lesson of greed turned disaster is a valued one that today s society must incorporate in order to reach a higher level of being. Unfortunately, pleasant epithets such as “acquisitiveness” and “determined” that are viewed in the business world as favorable mask this foul character trait in our present culture. Today, there are no gods and goddesses to openly and immediately prosecute the cupidity and so this character trait spreads like wild fire from one cut-throat to the next. Instead, the greed!y realize their blunder only at death when they fall from the glorious gates of Heaven to fiery depths of Hell, where they can covet only fire from their neighbor. Mythological and biblical text most often target arrogance of all moral lessons. The Bible clearly warns, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18). One of the many myths in Grecian time that cautions the vile effects of hubris is the folk-tale of Arachne (Switzer 25). Arachne was so skilled in the art of weaving that observers came from miles around to watch her enchanting motions on the spinner produce such magnificent tapestries. Over time, the girl s head began to swell with the influx of compliments. Soon she began to openly boast about her work being superior to that of any god or goddess (de Loverdo 149). One day when Arachne claimed “to be equal to the immortal gods themselves” in her exceptional talent to a crowd of commoners, an old woman stood up and advised her to “ask pardon of Athena for your words” (Coolidge 24). After Arachne scoffed at this advice, the old woman dropped her robe and revealed her true identity t!o be Athena. The overconfident Arachne “led the goddess to one of the great looms and set herself before the other”(Coolidge 25). The two immediately began. While Athena wove a tapestry depicting the gods and goddesses in all their splendor, Arachne wove one illustrating their deceptive romances: Zeus disguise as a bull, as a swan, as the husband of Alcmena and as shower of gold; as well as ruses by Apollo and Poseidon (MacPherson 46-47). Furious over the perfection and arrogance of the girl’s work, Athena tore the tapestry to shreds. She then turned the excess threads into a cobweb and declared to Arachne, “live on wicked girl and spin, both you and your descendants” (Coolidge 26). Immediately after, Arachne was transformed into a spider. Similarly, many valuable tales in the Bible teach of the dangers of being overly-proud. No other compares to the tribulations of King Nebuchadnezzar. This Babylonian King s success was evident with his besieging of Jerusalem.! As a result of his many conquests, King Nebuchadnezzar turned into a boastful leader. The Lord aware of his overbearing egoism warned him of his disastrous future through his dreams, but it did little good. Twelve months later while looking over his thriving city, Nebuchadnezzar asked, “Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty…” (Daniel 4:30). With the words fresh from his lips, an angel descended from heaven to describe his fate. His own people would dethrone and banish him. The Lord sentenced him to “live with the wild animals” and “eat grass like cattle” (Daniel 4:32). Like Arachne, a god punished King Nebuchadnezzar for his hubris. Both of these tales demonstrate the tragic effects of arrogance. People everyday in our modern world suffer from this habit, a sickness that can only be altered by a life shattering event. Sadly though, life requires these events for humans to see the immor!
al error in their ways and bleak outlook in their after-life. Hopefully, each infected sufferer can turn each personal occurrence into a stepping stone for a cleaner, happier life. Envy like pride and avarice strikes the weak and plagues the mind. Philip Bailey stated it best in his A Country Town when he remarked, “Envy s a coal comes hissing hot from hell” (Bartlett 55). In mythological text, Hera is the epitome of envy. Although Zeus proved to be an unfaithful mate by courting Europe, Dana , the virtuous Alcmena, Leda, and Io, Hera s persecutions of his concubines and illegitimate offspring exudes with fiery envy. Hercules received a great deal of Hera s torment. This half-god bastard although destined to be praised and honored was the principal suspect of Hera s vengeance (de Loverdo 128). This wrathful goddess cast down a fit of madness into the head of Hercules that caused him against his will to savagely murder his wife and children (Macpherson 59). An additional instance involved the lovely maiden Io. After being transformed into a cow, Hera ordered a beast with 100 eyes to guard her. Zeus aided her escape from the sentinel. But befor!e he could transform the youth back to normal, Hera unleashed a maddening fly to antagonize her for the majority of her life time (Guthrie 159). When the young maiden, Callisto, “lied down” with Zeus, this envious wife turned Zeus paramour into a bear. Many years later, Hera lured Arcas, Callisto s son, while hunting into Callisto s bear cave. Unaware of his relationship with the beast, Arcas fitted an arrow to his bow and prepared to fire, but Zeus emerged, seized his beastly mistress, and ascended back to the heavens where she shines as the Great Bear. Hera still angered ordered Poseidon to refuse her admittance into his waters. As a result, this constellation never dips below the horizon (Switzer 23). From these accounts, the Greeks feared Hera and her extreme acts of random torment. In the same way, the tale of Cain and Abel demonstrates the evil unleashed by an envious character-trait. Cain killed his brother because of his uncontrollable envy. Both brothers mad!e offerings to the Lord, but Abel offered valuable “fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock,” while Cain offered “some of the fruits from the soil” (Genesis 4:3-4). The Lord looked with favor at Abel s sacrifice but dissatisfaction at Cain s. Because of this dishonor, Cain escorted his brother into the desert and slew him. When he returned to Eden, the Lord, knowing what had transpired, informed Cain that because of his envious action he was cursed to restlessly wander the earth (Genesis 4:6). These two scenarios illustrate the dangers of harboring such an immoral quality. Both Hera and Cain were looked down upon for the evil character trait he/she stood for. It is important though to understand the underlying lessons that express the evils of envy.Humanity has existed for over two thousand years, and yet the same human traits of lies, deceits, and immoral acts remain within each soul today. The Book of Common Prayer pleads in The Littany “from all blindness of heart, from pride, vainglory, and hypocrisy; from envy, hatred, and malice, and all uncharitableness, Good Lord, deliver us” (Bartlett 54). Mythological and biblical texts are quite interesting to review for throughout the centuries times have changed; yet people s nature and inclination towards these three vices remain inherent. Once we achieve a higher understanding of the warnings of pride, envy, and avarice, only then can humanity as a whole stand up to the problems and questions that plague our future. Once the deeper meanings of these parables from history are understood, the common moral code becomes evident where only a stone wall stood before. After the enriching meaning of the literature produced by the authors of past or present is interpreted, the! fact is acknowledged that morality is universal.
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