March 27, 2007

Book Review: Envy

Believe it or not, I'm still working through the Seven Deadly Sins. Joseph Epstein's Envy is a short and light treatment in a style that combines literary history and autobiographical reflection. It lacks some of the philosophical history and theological exploration that I enjoyed in some of the other volumes, but is a pleasant book nonetheless. The final paragraph is particularly good:
If theological thinking is unavailable to you, if the very notion of "sin," original or unoriginal, as damning simply makes no sense to you, I would invite you instead to consider envy less as a sin than as very poor mental hygiene. It blocks out clarity, both about oneself and the people one envies, and it ends by giving one a poor opinion of oneself. No one can see clearly anything that he or she envies. Envy clouds thought, clobbers generosity, precludes any hope of serenity, and ends in shriveling the heart--reasons enough to fight free of it with all one's natural strength.

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