:: Article

How to Avoid the Cardinal Sins

/a nominalistic pamphlet/

By S D Chrostowska.

Men cannot mend the Lapse of Man. It remains to us Mortals to obey the Lord, keep to the Ten Commandments, guard against Sin and avoid Sinners. I hereby propose a Method of purging Sin: a non-medicinal Nostrum and Prophylactic in one, potent until the Day of Reckoning. Though it bears not the Church’s Imprimatur, I guarantee its salubrious Effects on the Conscience. Judge yourself whether it is of any Use. If it be, promote it every which Way, by Word of Mouth and in Print.

Let it first be said that the Seven Evils have been personified too often after a flawed—nay, inverted—Causality. The Writers of Scripture formed their Notions of Man upon the base Behaviour of their Fellows. It is from them, Individuals and Types, that they inferred the Deadly Sins and drew their Conception of Vice, as the Want heaping the greatest Abominations on Body and Soul. From Model to Mould, from Substance to Essence was their Legacy. Instead of moving backward, to wit, from the Abstract to the Concrete, the Heirs of Biblical Writers not only saw offending Individuals as Demonstrations but judged of Types of Men as Embodiments of Vices, and not Vice Versa: of Vices as Vestures of Men. In Consequence, they found certain Types of Men to be apt Personifications of the Mortal Septet, exemplifying each Vice in its Turn in a human Form expedient to it. But this Order of Representation belied common Judgement, founded on the Affects of Repulsion, Apprehension or Appreciation, and not on Truths gotten in lieu of Experience. We first come to the Knowledge of Sin by the Insult dealt our Senses by wicked Human Nature, and not by an innate Ability to identify Sinners by Intuitions of Sinfulness.

Allow me then to present several Exercises to undo the Abstraction of each Sin, to restore to Concretion the human Forms that gave the Deadly Vices their Substance, not merely their fleshly Guise, and show herewith the Devastation of Lives beset by uncontrolled Desires and Passions, wherefrom spring our Conceptions of the fatal Vices. This Method is guaranteed to deter anyone from committing the Sins in Question, the Mechanism being that the less conceptual the Notion of the Sin, the more vivid the Image of the Sinner. Thus by Way of regular Visualisation and Meditation the doomful Acts appear before one’s Eyes as in Reality. The more diligently the Regimen is followed, the more powerfully are one’s Emotions bestirred, and the more is one discouraged from emulating these Wretches in their original and vile Commitments.

Having submitted the Reasons for my Method, let me assay some Sketches for every of the pernicious Evils, tracing each back to its gruesome Source.

I. Once at Court I dined with a veritable Profligate. His juvenile Misdeeds were constant Fodder for Boasts. They were enacted in every detail by scurrilous Sycophants, a Dozen or so—the Pageantry gaudy enough to burn this Beholder’s eyes. Hideously dolled up, they would dote on him as on a Supreme Being. He emerged, Miscreant that He was, flaunting his inflamed Charm after Hours at the Toilette; a bloated, powdered Phantom, malformed in Limbs—the surest Sign of Imbecility. (Pride)

II. An Ogre of a Merchant, looking Everywhere to turn a Profit; he sent three lame Daughters to a Brothel, then invested his Money in Slaughterhouses. (Avarice)

III. I knew of one Voluptuary whose Lechery was morbid in the Extreme. He went about with blistered Privates; Skin flaking and raw; his Testicles like rotten Potatoes; his Sex bestrewn with Cankers &cetera. Nearing the End of his Life, he wandered, unflagging, from Ville to Ville to fornicate with every Orifice and sodomise himself on every Post he chanced upon. Perpetual Onanism made him gaunt. His Debauchery was so excruciating he swooned—and swoon he did into his Grave. (Lust)

IV. A murderous Thief whose Envy fast got the Better of him. I espied him when, having been sentenced to a public Execution by Hanging, he was led to the Gallows. He raved and cursed the Almighty and the enthused Crowd that he should be barred from seeing himself dangle. (And what a dull Spectacle it was!) (Envy)

V. A luscious, nubile Woman, who gorged on raw Fish until her Innards exploded and spilled, the throbbing, putrid Mass defiling the Walls of her Abode. She drooled at the Sight of it even as she expired. (Gluttony)

VI. A Man so incensed with Fury he hacked himself to Death—but not before eviscerating his Wife; bashing three Babes she bore him; mutilating his own Mother; drowning his Horses along with the Groom; and strangling his Dog. (Wrath)

VII. A prodigal Vixen who came into a stupendous Fortune, whereupon she did not once stir from her Bed; which Stagnation truncated her Life within three Years. And as she lay there, she dreamt only of what could further unburden her of the weight of her Existence: an Athlete who would breathe for her, a Philosopher who could think for her, a Servant who could eat for her… Had she the Will to effect these Employs, her Bequest would be only half so useless. But her last Words, falling from Lips on which Flies had come to rest, did not portend Wealth for anyone: “I can’t even be bothered to curse you…” (Sloth)

S.D. Chrostowska is the author of two books, Permission and Literature on Trial (2012). She teaches at York University in Toronto.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Monday, December 16th, 2013.