Friday, March 5, 2010

The Sin of Gluttony

The word “sin” is incorrect. The true translation is “harmartia,” which comes from archery, and means to “miss the mark.” There is no sense of moral condemnation to it.

For that matter, the word “repent” is also incorrect. It really means “to change your heart and mind.” So whenever you read something along the lines of “You have sinned, so you must repent,” the correct translation is “You have missed the mark, so you must change your heart and mind.”

Having said all that, I will still use the word “sin,” since it is such a commonly used and commonly understood word.

One sin that I did not understood for a long time is that of gluttony, I am not a glutton. But I have met gluttons, and from them I understood what gluttony really means.

The gluttons I have met have been extremely extroverted people, and I have found they think all good things come from the outside of them, which I believe is typical of extroverts. They tend to be emotionally shallow, and operate on sensation and pleasure, which to them always comes from the outside, from the environment and most especially from other people.

They are the kind of people who are obsessed with sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ rock. All sensation, all from the outside. The problem with such a life, as has been noticed as far back as the ancient Greeks, is those who devote their lives to pleasure become degraded people.

The problem with pleasure is that it doesn’t reach a plateau and stay there. It goers up and down. That is its nature, and it cannot be changed. This is what the Buddha noticed as one of the marks of existence: things change, and we try to cling to things that change. If things didn’t change, we’d be a lot happier.

Even Freud noticed that pleasure was an up-and-down thing. If he noticed it on his own, or got it from Buddhism, I have no idea.

Another problem with operating on sensation and pleasure is that you become jaded pretty quickly, and so you need larger and larger doses, just as in drug addiction. Which, in a sense, is what operating on pleasure and sensation is.

Since sensation and pleasure goes up and down, so does the moods of the gluttons addicted to them. They have mood swings, and if they get bad enough, there you have manic-depression – bipolar disorder. This is why I think extreme extroverts, lacking in deep feelings and operating on pleasure and sensation, are the most prone to being bipolar.

My experience has also been that these hedonists, since they believe their “happiness” comes from the outside, tend to get bored very easily. That’s what an up-and-down life of pleasure and sensation leads: pleasure to boredom to pleasure to boredom.

A life devoted to nothing but collecting sensations and pleasure is, ultimately, an empty life, because that boredom is unavoidable. They end up wracked with emptiness, loneliness, nostalgia…trapped in a romantic fantasy world of what was lost and what might have been.

Because these people are so obsessed with sucking up all the pleasure they can, misperceiving it as happiness, they become manipulative and insensitive to others. They lack empathy, since they are so often trying to manipulate others to give them the sensations they need. And greed and manipulation are the exact opposite of empathy.

They may seem people-oriented, or even people-pleasing, but they are actually experience and pleasure-oriented, and people exist to be manipulated to give them pleasure and sensation. They can’t even appreciated what they have, and do not understand the saying, “Enough is as good as a feast.”

I have found on some level these people know they have a problem, and try to fix it by having a stable relationship with someone, They often come across as desperate, once they reach a certain age and are still alone.

This what happens when appetites get the best of gluttons, when they can’t cope with their inner environment and so flee into a ultimately empty world of sensation and pleasure. A life of dissipation isn’t much of a life at all.

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