The Insidious Nature of Envy

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Hamza Yusuf

Channel: Hamza Yusuf

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I think Dorothy Sayers rightly says that we shouldn't call them the seven deadly sins, because they're really the roots of the sins themselves. And so it's misleading. So she actually, she says, a better term would be the capital sins, the heads of all sin, you know, the Muslims borrowed from Aristotle, the four cardinal virtues, and then the intellectual virtues, they added their moral virtues, there are seven, destructive acts that are mentioned by the Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him, and some of them are acts that result from these deadly sins. But I've thought a lot about it. And I think it's such a exceptional model for understanding human problems. And I wanted to start by

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just asking you, I was thinking the other day about the two foundational texts of our tradition in the West,

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arguably, obviously, I mean, there probably be dissent on this, but arguably, our The Iliad, and, and, and, and the Bible, and the Iliad begins, it's really about anger.

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And it's about one man's incredible response

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to,

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to what he sees as a slight against his honor. And then the Bible is begins with basically the expulsion from the garden, which is rooted in the wrath of God. But if you actually look at it, you know, and I know you've written about this, that wrath and envy, there's, there's a real correlation. And arguably AGMA Agamemnon envies Achilles. And so really, at the source, it begins with an act of envy of taking, you know, his, his concubine from him. And then and then the other is the devil's envy of Adam and Eve and their position. So really, more than anger, it's, it actually begins with envy. Yeah, and I think in, in the tradition that I work out of, and in Aquinas, you

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know, there's a, that at the root of envy is also a kind of pride, right? So. So you have a you have, and that's the, that's said to be in the, in the Christian tradition, with the, the reflection on the devil that the devil sin is one of pride. Right. And, and, and pride breeds envy, which then breeds wrath, the free great, the three great spiritual sins. You know, I thought for some time, there's a lot of work that, you know, there's been a great revival in the last, say, since the early 70s, and 80s, with McIntyre's work on virtue, it's been a great revival of the talk about the virtues. And there are all these debates about the unity of the virtues right? Can you

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can you have any if you don't have all of them? But you know, what a more interesting topic in some ways is the unity of the vices, right? And and I think particularly with those three, as they're called spiritual vices, pride, envy and wrath, that there's a deep interconnection between them. And And Aquinas and Dante both lay out pretty clearly the the way in which envy naturally leads to wrath. And so I think that's, it's not surprising that in these foundational texts, you would find that connection. And you would find the sort of archetypal reflection in the Iliad, as you mentioned, and in, in Genesis of the roots of our disobedience, the roots of our disorder, the roots

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of our self, destructiveness and our destructiveness of our communities, that there would be a deep connection between envy and and wrath. Right. And, you know, if our culture does focus on the sins, it's always the cardinal sins, which are obviously the lesser sins than the actual spiritual

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sins which are much more demonic because they're actually they're they're really a perversions of nature. So their love perverted as you know, they would be looked at as love perverted. And I think I mean the Islamic tradition definitely sees pride. There's a debate about this but is it pride or is it is it is it envy and the majority side on on pride that pride really start it kicks it off because the devil is just

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displaying his pride in not willing to acknowledge Adams position.

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There's another very interesting aspect also about pride coming before the fall, right, and then leading to envy, because once you fall, it's, it's the one that rises that's really going to trouble you. And, and so that, you know, I don't know if they they're they're definitely all related. But I really do see that. And I think this would have been a sound understanding in the Catholic tradition, certainly, that, unlike the virtues that really are integral to moral behavior, especially the moral virtues, because you can have a morally virtuous person who's not necessarily intellectually virtuous, but with the sins, it seems to be that people tend to gravitate towards

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some rather than the others, I think you'd have to be a completely dissolute human being. You know, I mentioned to somebody the other day that, you know, my father said by 40, everybody's an expert on at least three of the seven deadly sins. And, and, and I and, you know, we're calling this reflection ones enough to kill you. Because all it takes is one, and in the idea that there are these mortal sins, but I think one of the interesting things about envy to me is the relationship between alienation. So if you look at if envy kicks it off with, with with exile, and then you see Cain and Abel, because came, in some traditions, came, gave his worst crops in and Abel gave his

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best sheep. And so he was accepted, and Cain wasn't accepted. And then the Envy emerges, which leads to wrath. And, and he kills him, but then he's exiled to the land of Nod, right East of Eden. And in the Jewish tradition is very interesting, because they say he sets up the first city and actually demarcate the first boundaries. And so that leads to show X idea, helmet choke, who wrote a book on envy, that's, I think, you may have read it, but it's towards a social theory. And one of the things that he argues is that envy is absolutely necessary for the creation of civilization, as well as the sublimation of envy. It's, it's this strange dual nature of the two working together. So I found

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that fascinating. Yeah, I think that's, that's very interesting, you know, when I was reviewing

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what Aquinas says about envy, and it's, I think we we more naturally see, the way in which envy leads to wrath. The insight that Aquinas and a number of other of the ancient and medieval thinkers had, is that envy itself is rooted in a kind of sorrow. Right? It's, it's, it's, it's sorrow over another's good. Now, what you just said about the sublimation of envy is interesting, because

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in what Aquinas lays out the various ways in which we can be sad, about another's good. The first one that he mentions is actually a virtuous one, while we can, we can be sad over the good of another. And that sorrow is rooted in a recognition that this person is better than I am.

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Where, you know, the vice comes in, when I feel like this person is stealing something in terms of honor or wealth that I ought to have. And, and I'm envious, and and I become vicious. But Aquinas thinks that that sorrow, which is rooted in a recognition of another's good can lead to virtue, if we respond to it rightly. So if I respond to the fact that I'm sad, that I recognize someone actually is better than I am. Right. And we have this experience. I mean, he's thinking mainly a moral, but we have this experience all the time, right? I'm recognizing someone smarter than I am someone's better at this than I am, someone's a better athlete. And in those areas, particularly

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where, where virtue and vice are concerned, if I recognize that I'm sad about the fact that someone is better than I am, that can prompt me if I respond rightly to it, to preserve virtue, virtue, more assiduously. And so so in, in that sense, this natural comparison that we make between ourselves and others, need not be vicious. It's just that

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because we're fault, and it's so often does lead device, right? Because the sorrow that we feel we close in upon ourselves then and think about what we don't have and other people have. And we feel a sense of injustice that's not justified. Right? And, and yet, if we were to think about it properly, and we recognize that someone is better, we might actually try to be a better person. Right. And I think that gets to the idea that vicious, the way that vicious people admire others is, is through envy. So it's, you know, I think Nietzsche would call it the hidden admiration and and admiration if it's healthy leads to emulation. So the idea that you should really be emulating a person who's

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superior to you at something, but that is acknowledging superiority. And I think one of the hallmarks of our time, is that we don't want to acknowledge the superiority of anyone. And there's this, I think, you know, for me, some of the most important philosophers of the 19th century are dealing with the issue of egalitarianism, and then also with envy. I mean, it's very interesting that Kierkegaard deals with envy. Nietzche deals with envy, Schopenhauer deals with envy. And then Marx's is, I mean, there's an argument that Marxism is deeply rooted in envy of others, because it's really directed the malice instead of directing the energies at alleviating the conditions of the

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proletariat. It's all directed at destroying the position of, of the bourgeoisie and the the industrial class. So it's the focus is really a kind of envy. And I think it's fascinating that so many politicians, I mean, this is the politics of envy is is so often brought in to politics. Yeah, this and of course, Nietzsche thinks that the entirety of morality is rooted in a kind of result a mod, resentment or envy, you know, in a, in a more mainstream way, Tocqueville takes this up, right, he takes it up right in, in his discussion of the tension between equality and liberty. Right. And we're so focused on equality in modern democracies, that we're willing to give up certain types of

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liberty, for the sake of greater equality. And of course, Tocqueville thinks that the, in a modern democracy, the prudent negotiation of that is what politics ought to be about. Whereas I think Tocqueville worried and I think we see very often in our own society, a kind of spirit of leveling, right, that that wants to resist acknowledging that there, there is better and worse. And, and so that, that kind of extreme focus upon equality of and wanting to drag down I mean, so much of our public discourse, political cultural, is about taking people who have arisen in some way or another, and then bringing them back down. Right and, and the kind of public castigation, particularly a

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public figures, we enjoy elevating them into hero status without them having really achieved anything. And then we seem to equally take delight in their fall, and the leveling that goes on there, so that, you know, that that the operation of envy in an egalitarian society, we're really, I mean, in the ancients would say, and the medievals would say that I envy most the people who are nearest to me. Right in, in, in excellence. And but in an egalitarian society, where supposedly, everyone is basically on the same level as me in every area. Envy has a much wider arena to operate. And so it's a much greater and much more pervasive danger. For us. I think you're making a really

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important point because it because this is something I've noted in reading the classical literature, Imam Al Ghazali, for instance, or even on had one of the Great North African scholars says that envy is always in the same social group. So he says, for instance, the street sweeper will envy the other street sweeper because he has a better cart than he has. But I totally agree with you. I don't think that's the case. I think they would have to reassess that understanding and today, especially given that Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous my my grandfather started one of the first Hollywood magazines Greenland magazine back in the 1920s. And so it's all online. So I

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I was reading one of the articles just out of fun. And it was it was like 1923. And it said, our movies corrupting the morals of America by by creating these lifestyles that are unattainable for the vast majority of people. So it's interesting Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous leads to this thing. Another aspect, which to me is interesting and gets to the heart of what you were just saying was, I think Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, and others would have seen it maybe nostalgically, but looked upon the heroic age, as an age that really, at the heart of that heroic age, was this acknowledgment of, of arity of excellence of what we call Xand. And so, Homer, you arguably the the Trojans are

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more honorable than the than the A ke NS Priam. And, and Hector, I mean, Paris is a kind of pathetic character. But when you look at at the way he looks at his enemy, because he's obviously a Greek,

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he gives them all these noble qualities. And so this ability to acknowledge the nobility of even one's enemy, seems to be something of a heroic age, whereas in the modern period, there's this idea that you really have to completely disparage and denigrate and, and really cancel your enemy, not acknowledge any of his worth, or goodness or merit. And we see this it's amazing, somebody can have an extraordinary career and then they do one thing wrong, and they just cancel them out. It's it's, it's that leveling effect that Kierkegaard talks about that is so prevalent in an age of envy. And, and one of the things that, you know, I taught, I used to use Melville's Billy Budd, in a in a

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freshman seminar. I read that several times, and I love that that work. But

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you know, Billy, but it's clangor. One of the things that that Melville says is that, that an arraigned prisoner will admit to a felonious crime before he'll admit to envy.

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You know, that it's, it's something really deep in human beings, that they will not acknowledge their own aberration that hidden admiration for another. And I think one of the things that Schopenhauer says Is he says that, that the hallmark of the envious person is that they will always mention the bad of a person and be silent when there's merit or good to be mentioned. You are thinking as well, I think that's right. I mean, the question, Who or what do you admire? Or whom What do you look up to? Right is a question that I think, if we don't pose it that often, and I think for young people, it's harder and harder to answer to give an answer to that. Because of this,

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this leveling. It strikes me it's also the case, I'm thinking again, of,

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of McIntyre's notion of excellence as a good that's intrinsic to a kind of practice. Right. So so there are there are goods that are intrinsic to the practice of medicine, there are goods that are intrinsic to the practice playing of basketball or another sport. And, and the the way in which we all pursue those goods, and the practice is better is by acknowledging types of excellence, and attempting to imitate them. Right? Well, what happens when we lose that appreciation? And again, even in our opponent, right, we ought to be able to, as you just mentioned, we have to be able to recognize excellence, and sometimes grudgingly, but we ought to, we ought to acknowledge it, that

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what happens when you lose that for MacIntyre, is that the the practice becomes about the goods that are external. So money, fame, honor, right? These things become more important than the excellence that's intrinsic to whatever the game or the pursuit happens to be, or the practice happens to be. And, and I think we see this all over the place in our society, we see it in the corporate world, we see it in medicine, we see where people are losing or sacrificing the pursuit of the excellence of a particular craft, for an external good for competing for honor, for money for fame, for popularity. And, and it does seem to me that that's, that's also connected. I don't know what's causing effect

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in this, but it is connected to envy, right? Because if you can't admire the Excellence in the performance of another person, what you're doing is thinking about the way in which that person is honored or rewarded

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in it

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In what you take to be an exorbitant manner, that's detrimental to you. And I think so I think there, there's a deep connection there, if we can't, as you put it, if we can't acknowledge the excellence, even in our enemy or in our opponent, then we lose the ability to pursue excellence to some extent, ourselves. And then that gets to the idea of the perverted love that that that envy is essentially a perverted love, of, of your own good, that that it's perverted in in the love of another's goods and a desire that they lose those goods because somehow that causes some type of loss in your own status and your own position. One of the fascinating things I think about the the

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pre moderns is sumptuary laws, you know, these laws that that were designed essentially to sublimate envy, and, and, and to maintain a kind of Spartan character because Luxuria that, you know, the sin of Luxuria is one of the seven deadly, you know, what was seen as something that what eventually corroded people to the point where they lose their, their ability to regenerate as a culture and, and that, and then they, they basically dissipate into kind of nothingness. And arguably, that's kind of happening now. But I was struck by the fact that sanctuary laws were were so universal, like you, you found them all over the world. And, you know, the Spartans, for instance, didn't allow

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their women to wear gold or silver, the men couldn't wear jewelry, they could only have furniture in their houses that were made with simple instruments like axes. And so they couldn't ornament them, as they do, for instance, in this fireplace behind me, which is ornamented beautifully in Germany of all places. And you also had, for instance, in England, I think, in the 14th century, one of the kings actually prohibited people from eating meat more than once a day. In our tradition, Omar bin al hubub. The second kala actually prohibited people from eating meat twice a day. And part of it was to, you know, to prevent luxury from really setting in but another aspect of it was that you

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sublimated the Envy impulse, which is very strong in people. I heard from a Saudi Arabian historian told me that one of the reasons why King AbdulAziz had a uniform. So all the Saudi men wore that white robe with the either a red or a white Ultra, was he didn't want distinction in clothes between the rich and the poor, so that the poor didn't feel

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left out. And I think a lot of the sumptuary laws related to dress we had them here in the colonies, there were some short laws in the, in the 17th century in, in New England. I mean, I'm born and raised Catholic and went to Catholic grade school in high school. And the uniforms that we had to wear, are are meant to serve the same purpose, right? They're, they're often seen today as repressive, but they were they were met, in a sense to erase the difference

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between more wealthy more affluent and and less affluent families. And so that every one there might, there, there might have been a class structure with upper class students having a different, slightly different uniform. But that was something you know, were you expected, the expectation was that you would have greater leadership, you would get there. And that's what you were aiming for in the lower grades. That's a kind of it's weird, right? Because that's a kind of leveling, that is intended to combat envy, rather than rather than in a leveling that is the result of envy, inner city schools, right, where they've tried to, they've had principals who've tried to implement these

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dress codes, because kids get into fights over tennis shoes, they get into fight, people are killed over these things, you know, and it's, it's quite tragic. And so, and there's been a lot of resistance to that, because it's very odd. On the one hand, there's this immense egalitarian impulse in the dominant culture and yet on the other hand, there's absolute resistance to two aspects that would actually mitigate these these problems of of class distinctions and things like that. So it's, it's, there's an irony here that I think is lost on a lot of people.

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You know, we we have such an individualistic culture. I mean, one of the things that that I, I noted when I lived in in North Africa is

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People tended, they look the same outwardly. And yet inwardly they were, they were quite extraordinarily different, based on just their tastes in, in poetry and in literature and what they had studied. There was just a lot of depth to the personalities, what I find in our culture, it's quite the opposite outwardly, there's all these differences. Everybody's displaying their individuality through these outward differences. And yet, inwardly, it's often

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what one finds is this vacuousness A lack of culture, a lack of

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a real of, of anything that would distinguish them

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other than a kind of popular and you've written, I think, quite cogently on on the nihilistic popular culture that we have. I mean, your book, I think, is really important book that you wrote on. It must have been painful doing the research for that, but and I know you're a little self deprecating on that. But

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it's interesting, because a lot of, of what you see in popular culture actually promotes envy. And, and really, I think the advertising industry is entirely driven by the Envy impulse. There's an a new book out by Matt Feeney called Little platoons. Yeah, a little clutter from Edmund Burke, right, a defense of the family and a competitive age. And what you said about advertising

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prompted me to think about that book, because

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he's recognizing that in a middle class to upper middle class families and and especially in wealthy families, the, from the time their children are young, until they get accepted into the elite college of their choice. They are on this, this course, where everything is measured in terms of one step of success after another, that will lead to acceptance to an elite college. And so he's worried about the hollowing out of the family. Right? I mean, Burke's notion of the little platoons is that these are these local communities, where virtue and excellence and happiness and, and a sense of belonging, the city areas, right, right are all emphasized and, and encouraged and, and fostered.

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And, and yet everything seems to be hollowed out by parents who are in constant competition with one another with their children as instruments of this in a sense, right. Because their children success in this or that arena. And it it, you multiply the arenas, but all leading to the chance of success of getting into an elite college, that that the whole of family life seems to be in a way hollowed out. And of course, this is there is a kind of advertising campaign that universities and people are engaged in to, to get students to do what they need to do in order to be successful at this higher level. You know, it's it's remarkable. I was working on a piece a couple years ago about the decline

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of high school students and college student involvement in the workforce, right, because this at least when when we were young, getting your driver's license and getting your first job, were the two great avenues of independence and of developing yourself to some extent independently of your parents. And you're right. And now students don't they, their parents are still driving them around in carpools. And they the participation in the workforce has declined enormously. And it's not that these young people are slackers, right? They're there. They're taking AP courses. They're involved in year long sports, but they're being constantly monitored by adults, and measured in accord with

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success that will lead to what to acceptance of an elite college. And so it's not that young people are it's actually what what we as adults have done to young people, they're not slackers, they don't lack generosity, they don't lack energy. It's that we we have taken away the kind of independence that they need, and the freedom that they need to develop a healthy sense of individuality. And of course, when they're when they're tracked along the same track with everyone else, to go back to our topic of today, the occasions for envy in families, from students in classes in sports and in clubs. The occasions for envy are just multiplied and the prod to be envious is multiplied Allan bloom in

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his writing on we're so and you know,

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Russo's notion that,

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that civilized artificial culture leads me to live a life in the imagination of others. Right? So and Bloom says this is the sort of existence where when I think of myself, I think only of others. And when I think of others, I think only of myself, right? So when I'm thinking of myself, I'm thinking about other people's opinion, or impression of me. And when I think about others, I'm thinking about what I can get from them. And this is the this, this is the culture, it struck me what you said about Nvidia as being a type of disordered or seeing a scans, right, or seeing cross-eyed, I think, Tony esslyn has a note about that in his addition of the Divine Comedy, so that

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Dante symbolizes that by them having their eyes shut, they're also in a way moving in a way that they have to move together as a kind of chain. Right, so so that the correction is something to the eyesight, and also a recognition in the Purgatory of my dependence on others. Right, that and, and that's not, that's not a dependence of what can I instrumentalize others to get out of them, but of a dependence in humanity, right, that I deeply depend upon others. So that, you know, authentic friendship would be, for example, one of the great counters to envy and and in a society, where you see, as we do declines in authentic friendship, and spikes in loneliness, you would expect that that

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sorrow that wells up is it's partly just a sorrow from being isolated. But it's also a sorrow that wells up as I look at images of apparently happy people who are not me, that that breeds a kind of sad, envy that, that I really, I really wish I had what these people have, and I don't, that can lead to anger, but it can also just lead to greater and greater depression. And, and alienation, as you mentioned earlier, so I think that, that that notion of how I see others and how I think others see me, right, I mean, that the construction, the the line from Prufrock that Elliott uses a time to prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet. Right? That's what that's what Facebook is

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constantly about. Our Instagram now was much more it's only old people like us on Facebook now. It's Instagram and, and and elsewhere. But tick tock, yeah, but this this construction of images for others, and then the looking at others and seeing their images. So that yeah, it's a, it is a, as you mentioned, already, it's a great breeding ground, another great breeding ground for envy. People really are bothered by other people's excellence by other people's success. The great story that Plutarch tells about Eris dieties and I think Kierkegaard mentions that also, when he deals with envy, where, you know, he was ostracized from Athens as a as a punishment. And, and he happened to

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see a farmer writing on the shard his name to ostracize him to, to exile him, right. And he asked him, Oh, what was he didn't know it was aracite is and so Aristophanes asked him, what was his crime? And he said, I, I don't know, but I just hate hearing the fact that this guy's the only just man in Athens. So so he uses that as his kind of, you know, reason for ostracizing him and, and so there just seems to be this real problem that a lot of people have with the success of others. But one of the things that Epstein points out about the Jewish community in Vienna, he says, Consider these rough statistics from the Vienna of 1936, a city that was 90% Catholic 9% Jewish Jews

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accounted for 60% of the city's lawyers, more than half of its physicians, more than 90% of its advertising executives, and 123 of its 174 newspaper editors. And this is not to mention the prominent places Jews held in banking, retailing and intellectual artistic life. The numbers four or five years earlier for Berlin are said to have been roughly similar. So when the rise of the Nazis what they did, and one of the reasons that they

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the the ruling class promoted Hitler, they saw him as a lesser of two evils because he was directing the resentment of the poor. In Germany, as you know, the Marxists were on the rise in Germany. So he was directing their their resentment, their envy, their deep envy to this Jewish community. And Thomas Solo was asked

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by a rabbi, what what what, what would you recommend to the Jews to mitigate the anti semitism in this country and he said, failure

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So it's very interesting that there's just a lot of people that are so trouble. And this is where shark says that a civilization will flourish to the degree with which it sublimates, that NP impulse because one of the, the traditional Christian treatments for envy is in Philippians, where it says rejoice when when others rejoice and mourn when they mourn. Yeah, that's, that's beautiful. It makes me think of,

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of the way in which Aquinas, although he doesn't draw an explicit parallel between them, but the difference between

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envy and mercy for for Thomas Aquinas, right? They're both rooted in sorrow over another. Right? So envy is rooted in sorrow over another's good fortune that you that you despise, and mercy is rooted in sorrow over another's misfortune. Right. And it's important for Aquinas, it's tough to get this, it's tough to get the translation of Misericordia. Right, because it's not exactly what we mean by pity. But it's also clear for Aquinas, that it's not just a feeling, right, so that it's a feeling that leads to action. It when and where it's appropriate for you to respond. Right. So I, you know, I, I think about, you know, we might call something like CNN pity, right, where you're, where you

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flipping around the channel, and you see some horrible event that's going on in another country, or right down the street. And you say all that's awful, and you flip away from it. Right? For Aquinas, that's not, that's not mercy. That's not pity, in the sense that he's using it, we have to actually want to respond and help where and when we can. But but that that's the corrective, in a way to envy, right? Is this, this sorrow over the ability to feel sorrow, not at another's good fortune, where I'm thinking more about myself, and how this makes me look bad, but to feel sorrow at those who are less fortunate than I am. And to realize that I have been put in a position where I ought to

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respond to alleviate that misery, to in whatever way is appropriate for me, there's no absolute rule there, as to what the requirement is for me and in a certain circumstance, but that I think, is an important corrective where I'm, I'm pulled out of myself into a love and service of others through mercy. Right. And, and Aquinas, actually, here, they I think you can see a bit of a, of a criticism of, of even the pagan philosophers here, right, because they're aiming for a certain kind of self sufficiency for virtue in the pagan philosophers. Right, a happiness that can't be taken away from me. Aquinas says at one point about mercy that it is the proud and the self sufficient, who deem

00:38:17--> 00:39:03

others to justly suffer their miseries. Yeah, right. So this this judgment that I make, I mean, I can look at people who are doing better than I am and think they don't deserve that I can look at people who are worse than I am and think they do deserve that. Right? Right. So so this, this, this harsh, self righteous sense of justice, or of suffering, injustice of myself, goes in one direction with those who are doing better, and in another way with those who are doing worse, whereas for as we've already talked about, the appropriate response to someone who's better than I am is to say, How can I be more like that person? And the appropriate response to someone who is suffering

00:39:04--> 00:39:51

misfortune that's unjustified is for me to recognize that that could well be me. Right is to recognize that, again, that sense of my dependence, Alistair McIntyre, his book dependent rational animals, spends a lot of time at the end of the book on this notion of Missouri accordion, which he calls just generosity, right. It's a generosity that's actually required of me as a matter of justice, that I recognize in those who are less fortunate than I am a shared human condition. And I don't feel proud at the fact that I am not suffering the same misfortune. I in fact, feel mercy for those who have suffered what I may well have, or may suffer at some point in the future. And I'm

00:39:51--> 00:40:00

moved by our common humanity and my sense of dependence upon God's mercy, especially to exercise mercy toward

00:40:00--> 00:40:51

others, you know, I read this book by de Mora called egalitarian envy. I don't know if you've seen that it's very interesting book. But he makes an argument that so much of the modern political discourse in the last 100 years is is really rooted in envy. But at the same time, I think there's a more liberal critique of that, that that's also a way of not dealing with the real social problems, that that engender that envy, that, you know, that 19th century, labor laws were horrific. And and we did a great deal to mitigate them, and which is probably one of the reasons why Marx's prediction of the revolution just did not come about in the places that he said that they would come about, and

00:40:51--> 00:41:45

certainly Americas was one of those places, whereas now you see America really sliding into almost 19th century type of condition. You know, where you have just large numbers of homeless, we've got Hoover bills all over the place, California, they come to California. And so you're getting at the corporal acts of mercy. You know, this idea that this is one of the ways that we we mitigate this Animas that is engendered by the utter neglect of those really suffering because they are suffering and not using as an excuse for they're suffering, the warmness of that suffering that somehow they deserve it. Because, you know, the undeserving poor was a 19th century term. Right. And Shaw has

00:41:45--> 00:42:27

great fun with that in in Pygmalion, but I mean, this is a real problem that, I think the wealthy the rich are just in some ways, they end up in these bubbles, you know, believe it or not, I actually went to Davos for several years, to the World Economic Forum. They it's a very interesting place where they have, they bring in people who are religious leaders, intellectual leaders, and then celebrities that hobnob with these incredibly successful industrialists and heads of corporations and heads of state and all these things. But one of the things that really struck me was

00:42:29--> 00:42:47

the bubbles that they live in, I don't know if you read Amy Shula, she became famous for the tiger mom, I think, the homage to the tiger mom, but she actually wrote a book that political tribes, which I found fascinating, and she wrote another book, which really floored me, which was called,

00:42:49--> 00:43:11

it was called the triple package. And she basically looked at all the successful minorities, which are going to be the people that are most susceptible to the envy of the dominant community. And she found that they had three qualities, that one of them was a sense of superiority.

00:43:12--> 00:43:17

And the second was a feeling of inferiority.

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

And the third was delayed gratification. And, and, and this triple package enabled them to be incredibly successful. So an example of superiority, she says, is like the Cuban community, who don't see themselves as Latinos, they see themselves as CO urbanos. Like they're distinct, and they really are, but at the same time, they feel like they have something to prove

00:43:43--> 00:44:33

that that gives them that drive. And, and so you'll have the, like Marco Rubio, if you look at somebody like that, whose parents sacrifice for him to be in the place he's in, when I used to go to Washington, DC, I have these Ethiopian cab drivers. And they would, you know, I'd start a conversation, they would tell me about their daughter, who was studying medicine at Harvard, or Yale, or their son who was at law school, and they had driven a cab so that their children could get out of those type of jobs. So I think the American Dream is has become an immigrant immigrants dream. Whereas for Americans that are born here, it's become an American nightmare. And so the, the

00:44:33--> 00:44:59

possibility for resentments and envy towards this community is really great. And I think one of the things that for me, the most important thing, and, and I would argue in all of these sins, is that if we don't have some type of restoration, and I know you and I concur on this issue, but if we don't have some type of restoration of spiritual practices that enable people to

00:45:00--> 00:45:15

to really fight these deep dark impulses that are human, and, and, and, and that's why these ideas are so universal. The Buddhists talk about the six poisons. And, and,

00:45:16--> 00:45:30

and, and we have the seven deadly sins, that if we don't restore these, these extraordinary traditions that we have, that are both spiritual, but they're also profoundly

00:45:33--> 00:46:19

rooted in a type of deep psychology that even a secular person could appreciate if they actually knew about them. But there's, there's always this, this kind of arrogant CS Lewis talks a lot about this, this, this arrogance of the new, you know, this idea that we somehow know, things that nobody has ever known before. You know, Twain's famous remark is that the ancients stole all their best ideas from us, you know, if we don't go back to these extraordinary traditions that we have to deal with these problems. I just I, it looks pretty bleak to me without that, yeah, I think that's right. And I think one of the, you know, one of the problems with our, our culture right now is that we've

00:46:19--> 00:47:10

we've politicized everything, at the moment when our political discourse is about as low as it could possibly be. And, and, and where it's, it's, it's infected with a kind of deep animosity toward those who disagree with us. And I think one of the things we politicized in lots of ways is religion. So that if, if religion certainly has political implications, but what you're stressing right now are these traditions of spiritual practice, and individual and communal transformation. If if our focus is not first on those things, and if our focus shifts over toward the politicization of religion, then we're going to end up losing in our religious traditions, precisely the things that

00:47:10--> 00:47:21

we need in the long run, to to be remedies to the crises that we find ourselves in. You know, it struck me a while back, you mentioned

00:47:22--> 00:48:21

this kind of restlessness of the envious, and it's interesting that in Aquinas, just before he discusses envy, he discusses sloth, or Acadia, right, which is a kind of sorrow over the divine good. Right, it's again, rooted in a kind of sorrow. And but it leads to, we tend to think of sloth as laziness. But for Aquinas, it can just as much lead to a kind of restless busyness, as it can to lethargy, and and so the, the, that that lack of being able to rest in the Divine Presence, the inability to sense are belonging to God, and to a people of God, that leads to envy and to other kinds of restlessness. I think that's absolutely true. The Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him. He

00:48:21--> 00:48:28

said that, that envy will eat good deeds, like fire eats dry Kindle, would,

00:48:29--> 00:48:32

that it's a very corrosive and destructive

00:48:34--> 00:49:12

vise, I think Socrates called it an ulcer on the soul, that it eats away at the at the, at the soul. And I think in many ways, it's eating away at the heart of our culture right now, one of the I think that the the great virus of capitalism is greed, the deadly sin of greed, but the vise of socialism and Marxism is, is envy. And and so if we don't I, you know, I think you're absolutely right, that that too often, we politicize spirituality, whereas we really need to spiritualize politics.

00:49:13--> 00:49:59

And and, and that's, that's a very difficult equation, because it's so easy to see how spiritualizing politics can be corrupted into politicizing spirituality, or even just just focusing upon the extra political, at least in its foundation, and in its initial moments, the formative experiences of spiritual transformation, which are, which are not primarily political, right. And they do have political implications, but part of a political implication is what we were saying earlier about the recognition of the need for mercy, the recognition of the need for outreach to those who are less fortunate and have need of resources

00:50:00--> 00:50:56

that we may have in the recognition of that common humanity and the common dependence and, and contingency of the goods that we all possess. Yes. In thinking about the things that counteract envy. I mean, certainly mercy is one of those generosity or liberality as the ancients call it but, but I would think even more gratitude, right, Joe Joseph, people who write so wonderfully about the virtues out of out of the tradition of Aquinas, here says Who, The just person who recognizes he his existence as a gift will be more inclined to give, where there is no clear obligation to give, right because that person will recognize in his or her soul, that everything that we have is a gift. And

00:50:56--> 00:51:01

so that that recognition, and the gratitude that springs from that recognition

00:51:03--> 00:51:56

is the antithesis of resentment, and envy. It's it's the, it's the deepest way of cleansing the soul from resentment and envy is to experience one's entire being as a gift. Right, and that experience of one's being one's existence, and all of the things that one has achieved as gifts, should be the thing that frees us from that's the spiritual formation, right? The spiritual practice of gratitude that frees us from envy, and frees us from resentment, and allows us to gladly give to others even where there's no clear cut obligation. Right. You know, it's interesting, I think that gets to the root of one of the definitions of envy, which is, is the the disaster of counting other people's

00:51:56--> 00:52:36

blessings, you know, that that gratitude is counting your blessings, but envy is a result of counting other people's blessings. And, and I think gratitude, and also Caritas, right, I think that was traditionally seen as the as the primary corresponding virtue to the vise of envy, because it's really about love of neighbor, it's a perversion. And it's very interesting. I think that out of the 10 commandments, four of them deal with envy, really, which is quite extraordinary when you when you think about it, because murder, the first murder was out of envy. And then you have, you know,

00:52:38--> 00:53:21

like false witnessing, I mean, that's clogher tests, you know, his false testimony for Billy but and then coveting, of course, and then coveting your, your neighbor's spouse, to use a more politically correct iteration. And, and, and coveting your neighbor's goods. There's a I mean, obviously, a lot of this is this could be go on for a great deal of time. And obviously, both of us have thought a lot about this. This problem. I think, one of the most interesting things in in, in the Islamic tradition to me is is they say, I'll have sued layer sued, and fears never get into positions of

00:53:23--> 00:54:14

power or authority, or responsibility, that it really obviates that possibility. And there's a lot of envy. In many places that are not successful as countries like you really see it. There's, there's places I know, a friend of mine who lived in one of the Muslim countries said that at night, people would sneak in new furniture because they were so worried about what the Spanish called mal Hall, you know, the evil eye. Aquinas talks about the evil eye and tries to give it a rational explanation through the humors. But the evil eye is it's everywhere. In all these global cultures, you will find your Japanese to find Shea a lot of it is to remove the evil eye and then we forget

00:54:14--> 00:54:22

that the demons envious I mean, they're really envious at the root of the demonic assault on our species is envy.

00:54:23--> 00:54:35

In India, in northern India, they have these beautiful trucks that They adorn, that they drive on these roads, and on and on the on the back of the truck, you know, it's got this boat he knows.

00:54:37--> 00:54:59

While a Terra Mukalla you know, like something like that. I'm probably probably mangling the pronunciation but it's, you know, if you give me the evil eye, may your face turn black because people see that trucks and they and they desire the trucks. And so again, you know, religion gives us an awareness of

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

This sin that our our civilization seems really loathe to even discuss.

00:55:07--> 00:55:38

I mean, Shakespeare has a fellow. I think Ben Stiller did a film called envy. But it's it's really not really addressed in popular culture to the degree with which with with which it should be. And so this conversation I hope is, is a way of, you know, for those who hopefully will see this just a way to get people to think about these problems because they are real problems, their social problems. Now this was great. Thank you.