Envy is perhaps the most evil of the seven deadly sins. Invasive, it can also become invidious. It robs us of The Self and places our happiness on something else, someone else. Dependency on that thing, person, place, event, experience or 'other than oneself’ becomes so bound up in our intentions that we lose ourselves, let loose our purses, forego our common sense. So for the shooter at Sandyhook Elementary; so for the perpetrator of hate crimes; so for the stealer of another's property; so for the one who wants more and more, beyond a sense of sufficiency. It steals up on us in bits and bytes, and it can overwhelm us with a sense of our own inadequacy, impoverishment, inability, or the unfairness of life by comparison to others. We envy that which we do not have.
Degrees of avarice are endemic to just about all of us. How many more books does a person want? How many more CD's? Jewelry? Ties? Cars? How many more pieces of clothing? Differentiated from Gluttony, Envy is about wanting some ‘thing’, some experience, some part of life that one does not yet have. And so we go after it. Collectors (particularly one such as me) are envious of someone else's find of that rare book or record album; we might pay an inordinate amount to procure it. We may dream on owning, holding, or having it eventually. Yes! But kill for it?
What then of that awful degree of envy that intentionally takes another's life? Our own needs are the greater? Of the seven endemic sins, Pride, Sloth, Gluttony, Anger, Lust, or Deceit, it appears that Envy, Avarice or Jealousy (synonyms all) is the sin that spurs one toward such an utter expression of selfishness. The Black Friday shopping sprees will show as much. And the awful event of killing 20 children and 7 staff at a Connecticut school, this December of 2012, reveals how far someone will go to get what he wants. What does such a person want? It might be revenge. It might be to express hate. It might be to attain notorious fame. But in each instance it is to get something he does not already have. Anger may drive the impetus, Pride may be wounded sufficient to force the issue, Deceit may be deployed until the moment actions are revealed, but it would appear that Envy is the reason one is so motivated to get what one does not have; the need to attain more. Retribution, redress, the need to satisfy the hole in oneself that wants yet more, these are the degrees by which we find ourselves 'victim' to envy. The insidious feeling wells up and drives us to expend our energies in the direction of wanting, needing to have, and feeling jealous of those who appear luckier than ourselves. And in the getting of what we want the aftermath to others can be unspeakable.
At issue is self-reliance. When is enough enough? How much does one really need? How to see, to enjoy, to appreciate, to care for without feeling the need to own, to have, to keep? Avarice and envy would have us collect, own, guard, defend, and even kill to get if necessary; history certainly proves as much. Yet lest I be mistaken, it is of course entirely natural to own, to have, to want, to need; it is at 'what cost to another' that is at issue. But must the exercise of getting what we want be cloaked in the guise of Big Company buy outs of small dealers, of our robbing the health of our environment in pursuit of fulfilling our 'needs', or of going on a killing spree to avenge some sense of our own inadequacy? How to curtail the greed, the need, the want, the ‘must have’?
Degrees of the seven cardinal sins attend almost everything we each naturally do and think and want. Envy is the debilitating feeling that unless one gets more than one has, than one ‘is’, particularly as compared to another, then one is not sufficiently complete. The real problem is that even in getting what one wants, there is always more to be had. More and more and more.