Guarding Against the Snare of Sloth

Hamza Yusuf


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You read the Evelyn wha essay right? Yeah, that little book is a very interesting book, which I found it was reprinted It was initially printed in the 60s by the London Times, and I think it was the writer for James Bond, Ian Fleming was the one that suggested it. But in the introduction, I thought this was very interesting. He said, since the Middle Ages, and especially during the past 100 years, there has been a continuous change in ethical values. As the Catholic Encyclopedia puts it, quote, evolution has revolutionized moralities sin is no more. The rationalist has replaced the notion of sin, which is an offense against God, by the notion of wrong, which is an offence against

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one's neighbor or oneself. The effects of this change are apparent even among Orthodox believers in sin. slave owning, for instance, although not in itself, a sin would certainly be discouraged by moral theologians and cruelty to animals, again, not sinful in the Catholic tradition. In the Islamic tradition, it's actually as sinful is thought wrong by Christians at any rate in the northern countries. So then he, so that's how he introduces it that, but he goes on to say that,

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that he thinks the modern world could actually benefit from revisiting, maybe some of the things that the

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the medievals were so concerned about? I don't believe that you have. Okay, well, let's why. And these are generalizations, which there is no way to pin down

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to some degree where he says, you know, that we've lost notion of the sense of sin of that pathology takes the place of Sydney Don't say that. But I think he'd agree to that, right. It's true. But there are lots of people who have a very strong sense of sinfulness. In fact, with young students, that's often a real disability, their subprime more deeply ashamed of something. One has to deal with that. So it seems to me these historical generalizations have some truth to them. But nothing you can rely on? Certainly not. That seems to me in a real conversation about something. What

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do you think he's right, you know, I think I totally agree with you, I think that the vast majority of people still have a sense of, of sinfulness. But I do think that there is, especially in the social sciences, a desire to remove religious language from the discussion, and make it solely sociological and circumstantial, that that people, there's almost a sense that sinfulness is you're really a victim of, of something that's beyond your control. And like addiction, for instance, is no longer seen as a moral failing, but rather simply, perhaps even a genetic disposition. Yeah, I agree that in the social sciences, that point of view is rife. It's actually wider. One might say that it

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comes from the intellectuals in general. But thank God, most of us aren't intellectuals.

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So that we share that sentiment.

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So it seems to me that, look, I think the best way is to consult your own. So I think I know what Original Sin is, although I have no theological belief in it. But the sense of being in some way, Apple originally, and hopelessly wrong.

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I think that's very, that's universal practically. And people who don't have it aren't quite trustworthy. You know, one of the things that anthropologists tend to divide cultures into shame and guilt cultures.

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And, and guilt I think is from a German word isn't should short. Yeah. So yeah, yeah. Which, which also has financial implications, a sense of debt sense. Yes. Yeah. And that's what's interesting to me is that the in the Islamic tradition, it also has a sense of debt that you owe a debt to God but that's the statement German. Yeah. Yeah. In fact, the the word in Arabic for the day of

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judgment really means the day the debts fall due? And what is the debt that you incur?

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That is, if I owe someone money, I know what I have to give them. Right? Well, I think the idea in our tradition is that everything is on loan to you, it's been gifted to you.

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And and with it comes these immense responsibilities. And if you don't use them for what they were intended for, then then you've wronged yourself. And the Quran quite often says, God did not wrong them, but they wronged themselves. And and so it's interesting because I think what with these, these so called Deadly sins, or the capital sins, they they really are wrongs both against the self and against others. And and the Quran actually says,

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in the mobile who come along who's come, you're a present to others is oppression to yourself. Make sense?

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Look, I've been,

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I don't know if I've ever told you this. But I'm convinced now I do my thinking in the bathtub. So

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I think Benjamin Franklin did that also, Oh, really? Well,

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good presidents.

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And so yesterday, I spent several hours in a warm bath, and sought out the kind of thing that I found interesting about sin.

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He's first question that came to me, what's the difference between sin? And vise?

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You have thoughts about that? Yeah, I do. Vice would be, you know, my understanding of it is vices, the habitus, it would be the the, the, the state, and then sin would actually so it's more like the universal and the particular sin is the actual action that emanates from the habitus, the negative habitus advice. So these, you're saying that the different modes, there? Yeah, one one is more of a state of being, or, or, or, or literally, if you look at Evagrius, where we got these thoughts from, because he first identified the eight, although I think Horace has something, a similar taxonomy. But But Evagrius, he identifies these eight thoughts, and, and he has a process, the first one was a

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kind of triggering event. And then the triggering lead to what he called coupling was like an internal dialogue. And then and then that led to an ascent like you assent to the the thought. And then there there was what he called a captivity. And then he said, depending on whether you struggled with it, and overcame it

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would depend on whether you actually acted on it. And so the Act would be the sin, whereas the device would be the process that led you to it. That's a very different answer from the one I expected. I thought that it might have something to do, but I'm not sure. With the relation to theology, by which I mean that a sin is fundamentally a rebellion against God. And a vise is a propensity for wrongdoing.

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Well, I mean, that's a perfectly good definition. I think of both the words. No, that leads me to another question. I thought up. Are you alright with my ask? Absolutely. Your I like I said, You're the master. I'm the apprentice here. Oh, yeah. Sure. I'm not saying that. In any false modesty. Trust me. I'm not quite accepting it. But it's the you, you you've been, you've been. I mean, you're acknowledged by your peers and, and by those who have gone also I think for for that. I wanted to ask whether if of

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whether a vice is

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or or sinfulness.

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It's better to ask in terms of sin, could it be that the seven sins that we read off

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are not really

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something evil, but simply human propensities? Absolutely. Let's the chief one. It's the first and the most exciting one as we are told.

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By even more and

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He have for his Dorothy Sayers Africa, I think both of them would agree on that in anything is.

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Is it simply a natural propensity that we all possess, and therefore, to agonize about it as a sin is really to make too much to engage in a kind of spiritual pride? I mean,

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we've got these tendencies, one might say, so what? Well, I would, I would say, probably that,

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from from, from a tradition that I'm coming from, and I think also from a tradition that I do know something about,

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which you're thinking of the Islamic tradition. And I think the Catholic as well, I mean, I grew up in it, and I spent enough time in it. But I think

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the idea of sin is rooted in the in the actual Hebrew, Arabic and the Greek terms for sin, which are all archery terms. So I'm out of here in the New Testament, and hupy, missing, missing the mark, missing the mark. And so I think it gets back to the Nicomachean Ethics of Aristotle's idea of real goods and apparent goods that were always after a good, but but, and that's why that these these capital sins, if you want to call them that, they're not really sins, they're propensities. And, and I think the point each one of them has a positive aspect and it's there for a reason. So like envy, the positive aspect of it is admiration and envy has been identified as hidden admiration by many.

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And, and and lust is is for the so that our species continues Gluttony is so that our bodies are maintained. But But these become perverted loves and I think that's where the Florentine I think

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his explanation becomes very useful of seeing them as perversions of love either love perverted as in the the the pride,

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anger, envy and anger and then love deficient which is the one that we're hopefully going to talk some about, which is a CDR Rustici our slaw, I mean, they're different words used for it, and then love excessive. So you have, you have the, the excessive love of, of money, which in in the in the New Testament is actually called filaria. Right, which is love of silver. And then and then the excessive love of food and then the excessive love of flesh. So it's mineral, vegetable and an animal. That's that's neat, but it seems to be hamster but you're saying that

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there is this kind of super vise or super sin, which is excessiveness. Well that or deficient in the case of sloth it's deficient, too little or too much but both in excess information, right. And this is Aristotle, it's moderation, right? Finding that that middle because the missing the mark is either going too far or too short. That means that moderation is the super virtue. I think, I think absolutely and I and that's why I know that the Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him. And I think the Buddha also called his way the middle way there's, there's a really interesting story of the Buddha. He had been an ascetic and and had been this Anchorite that wasted his body weight as you know, I

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mean, I'm not telling you anything you don't know. But you know, he saw this. He saw a musician teaching somebody how to tune a sitar. And he said you don't want to tune it too tight because it'll break but you don't want to tune it too low because you won't get the tone. So you want to find that middle spot. And, and that that was his the beginning of his understanding of finding what Americans call the sweet spot the sweet spot tuning the soul Yeah, right.

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That means the, all the sins, the collection of sins, really stand under one sun, which is not mentioned among them, which would be what? Well, of moderation. Right excessiveness or deficiency. So

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why do you think that is? And they look, that's a question that goes with that. I asked myself whether the

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kind of wrong headedness that I think of myself as being prone to is mentioned among the seven sins. And I didn't find it there, which would be really well, selfishness. Yeah. Well, I know I think selfishness is definitely understood to be embedded in in all of them particularly acedia. Well, that's why how I came under because I don't know if I came. I think I was astrogeology to choose my favorite sin. So I wasn't personally prepared to talk about slot. Yeah. And and what's what's intriguing me, I think about you as one I would absolutely.

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I would completely

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condemn anyone that would accuse you of sloth, because you've had such an incredibly productive life. Although we all feel slothful in our own ways, I think because human beings are incredibly efficient time wasters. But this is what seems to be interesting about sort of

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aspects of how do I get at its nature. And it seemed to me, the best way to get its nature is to find its opposite. That is to say, what is the virtue or the blessing that is opposite to slaw. And the first thing I came on is busyness. But busyness is not a virtue. I think traditionally, they would say industrial industry, but

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industry insofar as it is a way of being busy. In other words,

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if I'm slothful, I'm slow. Incidentally, the first thing I did when I heard that sloth was to be my vice was to look up, the animal called the sloth is one of my favorites here. And he hangs upside down from a tree by by his claws, by his nails, and he can hardly walk. And he moves slowly and presumably has a very strong metabolism.

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Why isn't why couldn't want argue that the opposite of which is busyness?

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Not in the good sense industry. Because the

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industry has its flaws clearly. But in it could be interpreted as having a bad sense, namely being busy. Why isn't

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sloths of virtue? You know, it's it's interesting because I think Evelyn wha one of the things he points out in the essay we both read was that a lot of the world's problems would be solved if people were less busy that that busyness has created a lot of problems. Yeah, if people stop and, and that's not only doing mistakes, and bad things that's being

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being virtuous. But this gets to the point where I think sloth is one of the most misunderstood of the deadly sins. Because

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a CDN acedia Arcadia, which was the Greek for like, without care, not caring, like like, like the teacher who asked the student what's the difference between ignorance and apathy? And the student responded? Don't know don't care. Yeah, that's exactly right. Yeah. That that's what it is the negative. And so the idea if you look, there's a there's a very interesting, I don't know if you've ever read the anti radicals. Do you know that work? No. It was a work that Evagrius wrote. He was a very interesting character, unknown to me. Yeah. He was an incredible orator, and he was very charismatic. And he was somewhat of a ladies man, I think. And when he was in Constantinople, he

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fell in love with a married woman. But he was a Christian. So he fled to Jerusalem and he met this very interesting Spanish Saint named Melania. The same name as the former first lady. And so Melania meaning the Blackboard Yeah, she was she was a Yeah, dark and she she told him you need to go to the to the desert to purify yourself. But he anyway he wrote this book called The anti radicals which is like fighting talking back. Right. And and so when that went when a person is assaulted with these thoughts, and one of them was the the acedia so he gave verses I have the book it's very interesting book but he gave verses to kind of combat the thoughts and the

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And the verses he gave the verses that he gave for a CEDIA,

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the most important one was was the Shema from from Deuteronomy here, O Israel, the LORD your God is one Lord. And then to, you know, to worship God with all of your heart and all of your soul. So, so that was that was really the idea of acedia, that it was, it was spiritual laziness. And I think they always understood that, that you could be very busy in the world and yet not have worked on your soul. I mean, there's a very interesting, you know, it seems to me that Socrates in all of the dialogues, he's constantly saying, we need to get to work, you know, there's work that needs to be done. And, and, and if we don't do that work, he actually finally resorts with Thrasymachus that

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it's in the afterlife, you know, we're all going to be naked, and it's virtue that will determine I have another one justice, good, which is Aristotle's and narrow gear as the chief term, which means being at work. Right. Right, exactly. And so I think that's really what they were talking about. And I think, the idea of being busy work, you know, there's a lot of people that are very busy, but they're actually not doing anything. And and, you know, we have this idea of idle, which is a very interesting word, and almost a homonym with idle. But we, you know, we talk about the idle, rich, and are we talking about a car idling? You know, like, a car's not going anywhere. It's just idling.

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And so I think, you know, it, I think that's really what it's about. It's a kind of emptiness and meaninglessness. Yep. Which goes, which goes with either doing nothing, but equally goes with being busy. I mean, being busy, has similar consequences, and sometimes more harmful. I think that's true. I think we we would be certainly there's a lot of

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people that wanted to take over the world, that were very busy people and caused a great deal of, of terror and, and human suffering, because of their busyness. Yeah, and, generally speaking, especially Americans agree to the notion that you've got to grow and expand, or you learn to decline. I've never understood the rationale. Why isn't stability of possibility? I think that's more of a spiritual growth. It's it's like the poet said, he who's not busy being born as busy dying, he's

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he's gonna die in any case, so well, it but is it death into a new rebirth? And and I know that's a that's a question that

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I think distinguishes people that, that believe in an afterlife, and people that either are agnostic about it, or have rejected and entirely, I asked myself, What is the truly opposed virtue? Or remember, what's the opposite? were true sin sinlessness isn't good enough. I think innocence and purity, purity. Okay, so what? What is the true opposite of the sin? I was assigned sloths? And it seems to me that the answer is interest.

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And I've often thought and talked to my friends about it, the lack of interest is the most dangerous

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vise, there is that generations that can't find something that interests them,

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make more that the cause of war is absence of interest.

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I take interest to be

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etymologically by its root meaning.

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That should be taking that away, caring about something that it's means in the middle of things into so to be in the middle of things. And if you're not in the middle of things, you're apt to begin to

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want to want stimulation. And if you want stimulation, violence first comes to mind, and before long, whole generations long to go to war. For instance, my father, who fought on the German side, oddly enough in World War One comes from a generation, the literature, pre war literature shows they were bored to tears and they were anxious for something really exciting. Real

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stimulating to happen. And war was exactly what they thought was the cure for the fields. So it seems to me, that lack of

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being of interest, being among things, of having an interest is probably the most dangerous thing there is. I that's a very, I think it's a really profound

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explanation. And there's a very interesting poet and within emerald pious is one of the great Arab poets. But he said whenever war shows up, it attracts every young ignoramus like it's an exciting, exciting, yes, young men particularly are prone to it.

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There's, there's a great poem by Robert Frost.

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About I hear the world reciting mistakes of ancient men the brutality and fighting they will never have again, heartbroken and disabled in body and in mind, they renew talk of the fabled Federation of mankind, but they're blessed with the acumen to suspect the human trait was not the basest human that made them militate. They'll tell you more, as soon as you tell them what to do with their ever breaking newness and their courage to be new. And I think that, you know, he got to the heart that that because that there's so many virtues associated with war, like courage and, and defending and honor that it was something that would be really difficult to eliminate. But I'll tell you a funny

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another poem that I found on sloth. They they had a

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they had this essay contest, or poet contest to write poems praising the seven deadly sins, and the one that one for slaw said death and his scythe will mow us all. So why waste precious time on toiling? Instead, try to cultivate Sloss higher form.

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If sin is lounging by the pool side, let's begin. Tell those who question what your idling is for no slothful person ever started war? That's, that's perfect. Who whose fault was this? Did you say? I don't I don't recall the poet. That's very good. Yeah, yeah. But he,

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this is a mystery to me, and I shouldn't have taught at my college for 6464 years, that every year, but I've been there for 64 years. Every year, there are students who came here, their parents pay oodles of money to send them here, they want to be here that is here at the college studying.

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And they're not interested. I don't understand it.

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I don't understand what it is. Partly, it's belongs to adolescents, to be seized by boredom and not to be able to get out of it. But what

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the reason that not understanding it bothers me is books. I've never known how to get kids out of it. Not all in every, every seminar of ours, where you get to know we get to know as you do. Our students very well. They're always one or two or three of the apparently brightest. We're simply not interested. They reading the most interesting books. They're capable of the most interesting observations they have on hold the most interesting teachers.

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But they are interested, what is it in human being that makes them lack

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the desire to be among things into so I think that's a CDL. You know, I've read a couple of modern books. One was called the noonday devil, and the other was a CD, which was, you know, I think, a modern crisis or something like that. But, but both of them talked about how really onwy Is this, this kind of, I think they call it a TDM V tie. Yeah. TDM VJ, that, that that, in essence was

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you know, that that that was kind of the the problem of our time, and I think Aristotle actually in book 10, he actually talks about the people that that do not cultivate the intellectual virtues always have recourse to sensual delights, and I think that's why our culture seems to be you know, lost becomes a replacement. It's certainly it's a general experience, that various the central pleasures have a limit. And then after a while, you just don't want anymore no matter what it is.

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That's not true of the intellectual. Exactly. They, you may have to go to sleep

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You know, we could your energies, but you don't come to limit of desire. So it's what one wishes students would have that interest. But see, what is that feels them? They could be a It's not

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richness, richness of poverty.

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That's the isn't what makes the difference. It's not an intellect.

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It's I don't know what it is. It's a mystery to me. I think partly it's, it's I the way I look at it is we have awakenings in life. And, and, and, you know, the first awakenings are obviously the infant awakens to, to, to the sensory area and, and then you have the emotional awakening, certainly the first pangs of experiencing emotional attachment. And I think there is an intellectual awakening that just is differed in a lot of people. And and I think there's also a spiritual awakening

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that that is related to me to the intellectual because I really feel

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you know, I'm very much in agreement with the Scholastic's, that that intellect is a spiritual mode of you know, that it's it really is a spiritual

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phenomenon. But what is meant by spiritual here, well immaterial that it's immaterial that it's not of the material world is the intellect, always spiritual? I think if I'm in certainly, if you believe in the agent, intellect, this idea that we're actually participating, well, if you believe in the intellect as a godhead,

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then it's going to be spiritual. I mean, I think the brain the brain seems to me to be a type of hardware, but it doesn't explain where the software comes from. It doesn't explain how we're having thoughts and the fact that thoughts might have some kind of neural activity. But I don't I don't see it in the same way as you have the cloud. And then you have your, your your your, your, your computer in front of you, and you pull these things down from the cloud. But where's the cloud? Yeah, it doesn't explain the merchants, which is the term that people use to get over the question. You know, they say that, that the intellect emerges from the brain, or the spirit emerges from these

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two pounds of pound and a half of wet flesh. That doesn't explain anything. It's a term. So that seems to be

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for while you're engaged for a while in what turned out to be sort of fruitless stuff of reading a lot about neurophysiology, and

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there's no answer to these questions. And no, I've never, never read an article by a neuro scientists that said, we may never know, till we say, we aren't there yet. Right? Well, I think scientists, I mean, that's, they have, they have their own faith. And, and I think theologians say we're going to find out in the afterlife, scientists say we're going to find out in the future. So it's, you know, pre priests share a lot of things in common, I think that's one of them. I'm still thinking about inter essay, you know, it's such an interesting idea among

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because it seems to me that a lot of what

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spiritual work is is about getting to the essence. Get it getting to our own essence, one of the things that to me, acedia, in some ways, is a loss of self through obsession with the self. And, and I think I know you're, you're not as much a fan of Kierkegaard as I am. But one of the things that Kierkegaard said, which really impressed me was he said that one of the most dangerous things in the world is to lose yourself. And he said that, that people can lose their wife or their spouse, they can lose an arm, they can even lose $5 And they'll notice it, but they can lose themselves without even noticing it. And I and I think a CDs seems to me to be

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it's, it's related to that in a sense that people really lose themselves in this kind of meaningless,

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meaninglessness, and that's why one of the daughters of a CD is despair, which comes first. I think that

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The lack of concern comes first. And then despair sets in. I mean, I, you know, if you look at somebody like Macbeth, you know Macbeth didn't was not doing any spiritual work. In fact, he was listening to the demons. I mean, the Weird Sisters, were definitely some kind of demonic

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and his ambition, worldly ambition, took him over. And then he ends up in a state of utter disarray tomorrow, and tomorrow, tomorrow creeps in this petty pace, he's in a, you know that this is just a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. And I think that's where they end up. Whereas if you look at a character like Duke's in your in, in As You Like It, he ends up like his,

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his losing his position becomes an opportunity for spiritual pursuit. And so he's in the, in the, in the the forest, saying that I hear tongs and trees and books in running Brooks and sermons in stones and good in everything. And these are very different responses to the world. One is seeking the worldly things, and ends up in utter despair. And the other is loses all the worldly things and ends up in a spiritual state. Yeah, look, I have a Can I change? A little bit? Absolutely. Um, it really goes back to

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what we're talking about before the nature of the intellect

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is the intellect always guiltless in,

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in the sort of

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of have faith and the kind of dismal

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lack of hope that we were this despair that we were talking about?

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Or better way to put it this are the moods of the intellect that invites that kind of thing, namely, the mode called rationality

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that let us surely say what I mean by rationality? Absolutely, rationality is what we usually call the new thinking, going from here to there in articulable steps.

00:37:29--> 00:37:30


00:37:31--> 00:37:33

showing your

00:37:37--> 00:37:43

the dogmas you begin with ending up with a conclusion, showing what the inferences are in between,

00:37:44--> 00:37:48

whereas the intellect is not so method bound.

00:37:49--> 00:38:04

And it seems to me that Rational Method or rationality has an aspect to it, which is really dangerous. People who are devoted to lose or forget their humanity.

00:38:05--> 00:38:10

They make a kind of God out of reason. And

00:38:11--> 00:39:04

that seems to me can lead to real disasters, the reign of terror. Yeah. I mean, they reason was everything. They they made it a god Reign of Terror often depend on being on rationality, the Germans had their all their rationality, it was all reasoned out in their minds. And as Stalin, Mao, the systems, and the people that run themselves spare systems, this gets to something really interesting of the virtue of slaw, because part of the problem with these busy people is, is I think the people have caused the most problems on this planet are people that actually want to change it change what? The world or change the world? Yeah, yeah. Because it's, it's so horrible. And this is

00:39:04--> 00:39:12

all and they end up killing millions of people in pursuit of this. You know, I was I had a conversation the other day with somebody, and they were talking about

00:39:14--> 00:40:00

just how it's all this evil capitalism, and that before capitalism, everybody was living in harmony. It was kind of this Rousseau in view of the world. And I was I was trying to convince him just that there is a human nature. And it seems to me, it's pretty consistent. Even even in Aboriginal peoples, you're going to find greed and the notion of the general will is as close to a kind of fascism. I totally agree with you, what's in Dorothy Sayers. And even when we're wrote on the, on the seven sins are the people who are experts on soon. I think Dorsey Dorothy Sayers, I think they both were, yeah, I think, Evelyn Wah. There's a very interesting story that his son tells him about

00:40:00--> 00:40:03

Telles wrote about I think maybe after his father died, but

00:40:05--> 00:40:52

you know, he was he was a corpulent man Evelyn was, you know, I was mentioned I'm a skinny? No, no, he was quite corpulent. And he he had a large family was Catholic had a large family. And apparently, in during the war, there were no bananas. And, and so the socialist government when it got into power, they issued for the number of children you had, they would give one banana to each child. And so the, the bananas came. And the son, I think his name was Auburn WA. He's who was a writer also, but he said that his father had the the mother put all three bananas for the three children into a bowl and then poured cream, which was also rationed at the time onto it. And they

00:40:52--> 00:40:58

had to watch their father eat all three bananas. And he said, I could never take seriously any moral

00:40:59--> 00:41:26

statements My father made after that he would be an expert in gluttony thereafter. Yeah. But that builds on my question, can you be an A theoretical expert, and soon, let us help everyone send so that they can write about it in a convincing way. I've said this before my dad said by 40, everybody's an expert on at least three of the seven.

00:41:28--> 00:41:29

I see.

00:41:30--> 00:41:34

Well, thinking quickly, but I'm not gonna tell.

00:41:35--> 00:41:36

Neither will I.

00:41:37--> 00:42:37

Well, I told about one but I think that's enough. I don't think I you know, I think envy I think pride is a is a big one. And arguably, they actually differentiate between suburbia and Vana. GLORIA So so they saw suburbia, as at least in Aquinas as schematic, suburbia was really the root cause of all sinfulness. Whereas Ivana Gloria was the one of the seven it was it was one of the seven superberry is set in one of the essays to to be the Latin counterpart of hubris, right? Hubris. Yeah. Why is that the root? Say, I've heard that the root virtue is courage. And that makes sense to me. The moral the Yeah, the moral virtue is apps. Yeah, this current hubris or suburbia be the

00:42:37--> 00:43:18

roots. And well, Aquinas said that the the actual roots in was aborist Shia, but all sin begins with suburbia. In other words, it's it's only a prideful man that can actually it's somebody that that sees himself in a certain position that a humble man will be thwarted from sin by his humility because of a kind of closeness to God and to acknowledging his place in the world. So that hubris means that prior hubris is really a kind of

00:43:19--> 00:44:00

suit. So superiority to God. Yeah, it's a self delusion. And I think I mean, I, you know, the Greeks better than I do. But the I think that's certainly that was the great, tragic flaw, wasn't it in all that all their characters was? Was this overweening pride? That's what the books say. But I don't think it's what the place actually, they, they're very, I mean, one reason one reads the Greek places because they're real characters, and they will, yeah, they are real characters. Yeah. And that gets back to rationality and, and, and a kind of intuitive knowledge that the playwrights would have had. He was another bathtub question.

00:44:03--> 00:44:41

Do we have some sort of what you might call a completeness proof of the seven? In other words, Dorothy says, begins by mentioning a whole oodles of them, other than the seven cardinal sins? Is there some reason to think that those seven are really the cardinal sins, that's the deadly sins? I think the way that they would look at it is that they're Cardinal in that the others hinge on them in the same way you have the the moral virtues, it's hard to think of,

00:44:42--> 00:45:00

of virtues that can't be subsumed under one of the four moral virtues. And, and and the same is true for the intellectual virtues. The same is true, I think, for the theological virtues. So in the same way that if I'm

00:45:00--> 00:45:05

Part Part of why I thought about doing this was I wrote a book called purification of the heart.

00:45:06--> 00:45:31

But then I did an exercise because there there's almost 30 diseases that are mentioned in the book, and human physical and mental diseases, no, no spiritual diseases. But what I found was they all went under one of the seven, they really could be categorized as coming out of one of the seven. And that's why I think it's a it's a, I think it's a pretty profound

00:45:33--> 00:46:05

I think it's a pretty profound taxonomy for for the sources of a lot of our problems. I was when when I mentioned the sin that I'm willing to acknowledge, namely selfishness. It's not among the seven. That's it seems to me. Fundamental. Yeah, that I think you're you're right. But I do think that they would all they would say, and this is where you would need an Aquinas to deal with this, because he had these beautiful objections. And that would be an objection, I think the way that he would,

00:46:06--> 00:46:09

to deal with it is, is that

00:46:10--> 00:46:51

that's not really it's not a sin, it's actually a virtue to be selfish. The the Quran says, Save yourselves. You know, it's like when you're on an airplane, it says, First, put the oxygen on yourself, so that you can help the other person don't don't begin with the other person. And a lot of the world's problems are from people being concerned with everybody else, and not really concerning themselves with themselves. So there's a verse in the Quran that says, Take care of your own souls, and you will not be harmed by other people that go astray, cancelled. So it's a little sophistical in others, that

00:46:52--> 00:47:08

the true cases of selfishness are often cases of taking care of yourself so that you may then take care of others. That's not what I mean. I know. But again, it becomes a perversion. Like, what the selfishness that you're talking about, I wasn't I wasn't.

00:47:09--> 00:47:11

I wasn't in any way.

00:47:12--> 00:47:15

Deflecting from what you were saying. I was saying that.

00:47:17--> 00:48:08

Like these things, the origin of them are positive things. And I think the origin of selfishness is self preservation is very important. And it's been put in us for that reason. And then we do these extraordinary acts of selflessness. But I think that comes from really something deep within the self. It doesn't come from, you know, why people do these extraordinary things. And very often they don't know why they did it. They just responded there. And that's, I think, where it's a habitus it's it's it's a virtuous nature that does those things. So I think the all of them show a type of selfishness. I mean, envy is your you're desiring for yourself goods that belong to another

00:48:09--> 00:48:11

wrath is your

00:48:12--> 00:48:19

you're desiring revenge, when when you should be desiring justice. That brings up a question we

00:48:20--> 00:48:23

certainly have avoided before but I want to ask it now.

00:48:24--> 00:48:56

We said then, and that made sense to me that the sins are all excesses. What's the connection between excess and perversion? Well, the three lower sins, pride, envy and wrath are our perverted love. And then sloth is deficient love, and then the three hot that the more natural sins of, of,

00:48:58--> 00:48:58


00:49:00--> 00:49:13

desire acquisitiveness, average Shia Gula and, and Luxuria those sins are sins of excessive love. So, so out of the seven, you have perverted, and then you have

00:49:14--> 00:49:57

I mean, I know you know, all that means that the generalization we made before, which seems to be seem to be somehow satisfactory, isn't quite right. Isn't that excess? Defines or is fundamental to all the sins? No, it's not. It's it's it can be deficient or, like with an air with a target, you can be that off to the right off to the left. I mean, one of my favorite quotes is from Michael Jordan, the basketball player and they asked him What do you think when you miss a shot? And he said, Too far too short, too much to the left too much to the right. And that's a perfect definition of how we should ethically live.

00:49:58--> 00:49:59

But no

00:50:00--> 00:50:02

Let's see that's

00:50:03--> 00:50:08

that. What is that? sinfulness? Is

00:50:10--> 00:50:13

that that is defined

00:50:14--> 00:50:33

that define sinfulness as a group. What we've we've, we've now we've taken back the notion that excess belongs to all of them, because you say, belongs to four. And the others are our perversions. But is this something?

00:50:34--> 00:50:41

Well, let me ask a more, more accessible question. Maybe we can come back to this one later. But

00:50:42--> 00:50:49

I had a conversation with a friend a couple of days ago. And the phone

00:50:50--> 00:50:54

issue came up. Did we know any truly evil people,

00:50:55--> 00:51:01

both of us, he's in a 70s. I'm in my 90s. We've lived through

00:51:02--> 00:51:07

historical periods where real Eve really evil

00:51:09--> 00:51:12

leaders of countries where

00:51:13--> 00:51:19

me just, I was born. Overall, I live for nine years of my life under Hitler.

00:51:21--> 00:51:22

People have been

00:51:23--> 00:51:27

in the Soviet Union dealt with Stalin, this evil there.

00:51:30--> 00:51:34

I've never met anyone evil, have you? I have.

00:51:35--> 00:51:37

I've, I've met.

00:51:38--> 00:51:50

I've met several. And, and this took time to discover or this was written on their faces. A few of them, I could feel it just being in their presence. And

00:51:52--> 00:52:13

if I told you, you would know some of them, but I'll just keep it to myself. Yeah. I've met some people that I was disturbed for days after it. This is different from people who've done bad things. Yeah, no, I think they did bad things, because they were evil. I'll tell you a story, which is not exactly illuminating. But

00:52:15--> 00:52:32

I remembered we had a long, long ago, conversation or seminar forgotten. And the question arose, have you ever known and you want us to truly evil and madness 50s. I think it was a summer seminar in Santa Fe.

00:52:33--> 00:52:36

This year, my mother in law.

00:52:40--> 00:52:41

That seemed to be a fairy tale.

00:52:42--> 00:52:58

I think it's, it's I think there's people that have so succumbed to the dark side of their souls that, you know, we have a tradition that says that there's a, there's a black spot, the Prophet said a lot is that there was a black spot on the heart

00:52:59--> 00:53:34

that everybody's born with, and that as you do bad, it grows until it takes over the entire heart. And, you know, I once asked my father, do you think people sign on a dotted line with the devil? And he said, No, it's a long series of negotiations. Yeah, that's, I believe that. But what you said is, it seems to me is really just a mix of distinct a few said, it was not knowledge of they're doing bad things often. And

00:53:35--> 00:53:48

regular, even regularly, you said it was something like an exudation. Yeah, it was definitely, you know, I I've had the great blessing of being with some profoundly

00:53:49--> 00:54:38

what I would call holy people, you know, like one of them in West Africa, who was probably the most devotional human being I've ever been around. I mean, he really was he was a teacher, but he was in a state of constant devotion. And when you were with them, there were times when you could literally you just go into a state of complete tranquility from just being in his presence. And, and I felt that with a few different people. I think the opposite is true. I think they're very powerful. You know, the pendulum, apparently, when a pendulum swings, if you have a large pendulum is amongst a whole bunch of smaller ones. They eventually the small ones will entrain with them. And I think just

00:54:38--> 00:54:59

like you have magnanimous souls of good which we would call saints. I think you also have magnanimous souls of evil. And and people fall into their into they, they they enter into a state of entrainment with them. And I think they can move people in terrible ways. You think there are many of them? I hope not.

00:55:00--> 00:55:06

I mean, I, like I said, I've traveled in some pretty strange circles just because i.

00:55:08--> 00:55:12

So, I met a lot of very interesting people.

00:55:13--> 00:55:33

But, you know, I also, you know, it meant meeting some people that I really felt were just very dark people. Yeah, I've never met anyone like that. So I asked myself, whether they exist. I know they exist, verse because, as I say, I live through the, through the world big made so.

00:55:35--> 00:55:37

So I have to believe they exist. But

00:55:38--> 00:56:22

well, I think you've read enough literature to to know that great literature is never melodramatic. I mean, it's, you know, that, that the evil people aren't like 100%, pure evil, but they're still evil. You know, the most interesting person who meets that description that I know of, is in that four novel sequence called the rock quartet by Paul Scott. Yeah, I've never heard that. To me. This is the great novel of the last century. Wow. Yeah, I really, I think I could defend that. And in there is a police inspector called Merrick. And it's clearly intended to be a kind of perversion of the word merit.

00:56:23--> 00:56:45

And the whole book is written with this very close attention to names, to settings. And he has that complexity, which makes him capable of great deeds of generosity. But he has exactly this exhortation of evil.

00:56:46--> 00:56:48

The hero of the book,

00:56:49--> 00:57:09

is put up in a guest house in a room that was previously occupied by Merrick. And he, he smelled. Yeah, he can feel it. Yeah. It's such an honor to be with you. And I never want to really talk when I'm with you. Because I mean, even though Yeah, yes, a lot of questions. But

00:57:11--> 00:58:02

I really I, you know, I've read enough of your, your works. I just it, it's amazing to me that somebody like you could be in our midst and not be much more known. You've written some really interesting. I mean, the topics that you've grappled with, to me seem to be very neglected topics. And, and I really appreciate that the topic of negation is a fascinating one. And I think, in some ways, acedia was seen as a negation of joy, you know, that you were negating the the Joie de re, that, that God really created us to experience that set me off in asking, particularly about the sin, I was assigned sloth, but but the other sense, what the negations of those sins were. And

00:58:05--> 00:58:13

the the problem there was that some of the negations were worse than the sin. For instance, what's the negation of lust?

00:58:15--> 00:58:15


00:58:16--> 00:58:19

that's strike you as desirable.

00:58:21--> 00:58:29

If the world without laughs, again, again, it I think, you know, love is so important in, in,

00:58:30--> 00:58:44

in intimacy, and if, if it's absent then that it just becomes a beast deal. But there's got to be some aspect of less than love, or it's sort of, like

00:58:45--> 00:58:58

2% milk? No, I That's a good point. I mean, God has obviously put these things in us to attract us to one another so that the species continues. I mean, that's, I think how it would be be viewed

00:59:00--> 00:59:01

and pride.

00:59:02--> 00:59:03


00:59:05--> 00:59:07

I know that humility is a Christian virtue.

00:59:09--> 00:59:10

I don't like it.

00:59:11--> 00:59:59

Well, nature would nature would agree with you on that one. I think the ancient Greeks would do. They didn't really, they saw the magnanimous was the great sold one. Mega low. What do they call it psycho? Megillah. What Mecca looks to hear here, yeah. Megalo. So here, we have a great teacher of an outsider who said, If you see your humility, you're not humble. And so when people say in my humble opinion, it's like an engagement. That's worse than that with me. I think the very notion of being close to the ground, you know, which is what humility, I think implies. The the homeless, yeah, homeless, right. There's something about that a human being shouldn't have to agree to murder

01:00:00--> 01:00:21

History is a great virtue. But humility seems to me exactly. To have sort of access that turns virtue into a vise. Well, it's related to humiliation as well. I mean, I think yeah. And and obsequiousness certainly as a perversion of it the great character that Dickens created, you know, Uriah Heep.

01:00:23--> 01:00:25

I'm so very humble. Yes.

01:00:27--> 01:00:47

That really seems to me sort of the residual wisdom and looking at the, in thinking about the sins, which is that the opposites are not necessarily virtues. They could be vices, and that it's more,

01:00:48--> 01:00:57

there's a complexity there. But speaking of vices, and virtues and sins and purity doesn't quite catch

01:00:59--> 01:01:00


01:01:02--> 01:01:07

that has to do with the fact that the negations of those

01:01:09--> 01:01:12

of those virtues and vices are not necessarily

01:01:13--> 01:01:20

real, we're so better than the, than whichever one we start with. That's the theme.

01:01:22--> 01:01:36

I think. Yeah, absolutely. And I think, for me, you know, if we go back to the ancients, they clearly saw that the, that a virtuous man or woman would be I mean, if they, if they,

01:01:38--> 01:01:41

they entertain that thought, but a virtuous man

01:01:42--> 01:01:56

was it was was a good man and and therefore a happy man. Whereas the vise, they, it would lead to a kind of unhappiness, it was inevitable in their in their understanding, and one wonders.

01:01:57--> 01:02:25

It seems to be if you interpret happiness as it is today, a lot of people feel that happiness is in the vices that, you know, in that case, it seems to me there is a straightforward, our solution to that mistake, which is that they're mistaking pleasure for happiness. But the really interesting question seems to me to be whether it's actually true, that

01:02:26--> 01:02:29

vicious person that is a person

01:02:30--> 01:02:33

a vise is unhappy.

01:02:34--> 01:02:36

Doesn't I don't know if it's true.

01:02:37--> 01:02:40

Could couldn't want to be joyfully

01:02:42--> 01:02:58

perhaps I think there's a plenty of revenge films that would indicate that Yeah. And and I think that there is a kind of shotgun Freida that that one cathartically experiences with a revenge

01:03:00--> 01:03:02

novel or film or something?

01:03:04--> 01:03:09

It's, it's still, I mean, there's Guilty Pleasures undeniably. But I think

01:03:10--> 01:03:45

if we look at the idea, like in our tradition, sad, is really an otherworldly state. So happiness is you can be a miserable per person in this world and be happy in the next world. And And the opposite is true. In fact, the Prophet Muhammad said towards the latter days, the happiest people, he said, as I do Ness, the happiest people would be the lowest people. You know, not having any virtues. Right. Yeah, there's a Christian tradition that the poor are going to be get an extra reward in the next world.

01:03:46--> 01:03:47

One would hope.

01:03:50--> 01:04:00

I don't know. at my expense, I wouldn't want if there's enough to go around. No, no wouldn't be at your expense. Certainly. Yeah.

01:04:02--> 01:04:11

Anyway, I you know, it's it's an interesting I think about acedia. It's, it's, it's fascinated me for a long time.

01:04:13--> 01:04:39

And, and I've given a lot of thought, and one of the things that you said, Actually troubled me a little bit was that you found it difficult to awaken that in in your students. And it seems to me I always thought that it was a great teacher and I know you are a great teacher and but I always thought that it was a great teacher that could that had a better chance at doing that. I thought that too and it taught me something.

01:04:41--> 01:04:42

And but

01:04:43--> 01:04:59

they are they may be colleagues who can do it. Often. It involves finding the right book and getting the student to read it. That sometimes doesn't you know, someone discovers the book of their life.

01:05:00--> 01:05:03

And suddenly the world becomes intelligible.

01:05:04--> 01:05:07

Sometimes they do it for the love of the teacher.

01:05:09--> 01:05:29

Sometimes they just, they just get over adolescence and, and suddenly find their feet. And the world becomes interesting to know. Sometimes it's a love affair that goes, right. So can be all kinds of things. But

01:05:31--> 01:05:34

preaching doesn't do it actually our

01:05:35--> 01:05:36

human sin

01:05:37--> 01:05:55

INNOPOLIS it's built in very interesting way. It's got church circle, tangent to State Circle, it's supposed to express something. And church circle is, has our Episcopalian Church on it, which is the founding church. And I heard very interesting.

01:05:57--> 01:06:10

But interesting sermon, but was theologically knowledgeable. So one learn something, but being preached at, I don't know, in one year or the other.

01:06:12--> 01:06:18

Yeah, and again, I think the Prophet Muhammad said the best sermons are the shortest.

01:06:20--> 01:06:55

That yeah, that that they're, they're not meant to be, you know, to be long, they should be very short. And, and I think, unfortunately, you know, they say don't give a teenager telephone and don't give a preacher a microphone, or for that matter of Popa chits, yeah. So I think that I think there's a lot of truth that I have to say, I've been guilty of a long sermon in my day. So, you know, it seems to me that there actually is a relation of what we've now been talking about, which is length of speechmaking,

01:06:57--> 01:06:57


01:06:59--> 01:07:07

the question of sin, there's something to my mind, something sinful, about abusing

01:07:08--> 01:07:11

speech by copiousness.

01:07:12--> 01:07:12


01:07:15--> 01:07:19

language wants to be

01:07:21--> 01:07:35

language demands brevity, brevity. And that a much length Enos is the result of the fact that you don't know what you're doing. And so you don't know when you're finished.

01:07:36--> 01:07:40

Let us when people give long speeches, it's very often because they have no,

01:07:41--> 01:07:57

they have to be kidding, is no way they don't have a middle and therefore they don't know how to find the end. Well, there's a famous story of Winston Churchill was asked how much he charged for us speech. And he said, How long? And he said,

01:07:59--> 01:08:04

an hour and a half? No, he said, 20 minutes, and he said,

01:08:06--> 01:08:21

100 pounds, and he said, how much you charge for an hour? And he said, 10 pounds. And the man said, I don't understand. He said, I could do an hour speech right now. He said, 20 minutes would take me a long time to prepare for us.

01:08:22--> 01:08:30

So that there is a real relation between sin and copiousness of a certain kind.

01:08:31--> 01:08:39

It's, it's a sin against language to talk endlessly. Yeah, which I think

01:08:41--> 01:09:12

brings us to our conclusion. That's a good note. Good, good place to stop. It was lovely to talk to you. Now. It's always such a pleasure. Dr. Eva, you you really are genuinely one of my favorite people. And, and we're so blessed to have you, among us. And I hope I hope people you know, just the people that see this, get exposed to you and thank you so much for inviting me too. And for letting me talk. Think about slots that turned out to be interesting.

01:09:13--> 01:09:21

Well, they ask great questions, and you always stimulate me to think about things at a deeper level. God bless you. Thank you