Saturday, January 24, 2004

Righteous Dignation

The English language - and I may be the first to recognize this - is chock full of oddities. Take "chock," for example. I'm 34 and can't honestly say I've ever used that word without it being immediately followed by "full." Somehow "full" isn't, well, fully sufficient to describe just how odd the language is. Companies are desperate to convince their products aren't just full, they're chock full of nuts, white chocolate chips, MSG, etc. Makes me hungry just thinking about it.

Then there are the words with the mandatory prefix. For example, the weather is often "inclement" but never "clement," which in turn may affect the "indigent" of our community but likely not the "digent." This phenomenon is much easier to "explain" than to simply "plain." And while this may be an "exaggeration," I "defy" you to show me an "aggeration." (I would also "fy" you to do the same thing if I knew how.) I've certainly been indignant - see any of the Raiders' 12 defeats in 2003...okay, 13 if you count the Super Bowl, though I quit counting in that game when Tampa Bay's score eclipsed the game-time temperature in San Diego - but I can never recall being "dignant."

Speaking of indignation, I've been working on a theory - again, I'm pioneering new thought here - that our degree of outrage over a particular sin is usually in inverse proportion to how mightily we're tempted by it. It even affects the adjectives we use. Those who wrestle with homosexuality are castigated as
"flaming" but not so other struggling sinners. ("That flaming glutton ate all of my chock-full-o'-chocolate-chip cookies!") God's people lined up to banish the sitcom "Ellen" because of her "coming out" episode. (They were in line, by the way, behind those who wanted to banish it for two other reasons: 1) it was billed as a comedy, and 2) it wasn't funny.) But few queued to protest "Seinfeld," a show built around four characters' regular and sometimes epic attempts at violating each of the seven ly sins. Instead we helped make those four people rich by watching that show religiously - make that sacriligiously - and, in so doing, deluded all but the titular star into thinking they could parlay that popularity into other small screen success. Shame on us.

This happens outside Hollywood, too. Someone very dear to me is presently in the throes of a series of sins that is summarily control-alt-deleting every vestige of goodness and God-ness in this person's life. Kids, extended family, friends, God...all have proven expendable as this otherwise rational individual can't quit doing the very thing that's created the quagmire. As I was documenting this lamentation in my daily diary, I flipped through last year's journal looking for something else but finding instead a rather lurid account of my own battle with an embarrassing iniquity. (Does any sin leave you merely barrassed?)For that period of a few hours and days, I was humanly incapable of resisting that temptation...and I didn't resist it. Fortunately or unfortunately, as the case may be, this sin was private. No one picketed my property, demanding I stop.

None of this means, of course, that we shouldn't hold our loved ones accountable or call sin a sin. It's more of a realization that my own failure rarely repulses me as sharply as the shortcomings of others. I can't decide if that's more noxious or obnoxious.

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