Rage Machines Raging Against the Machine
No idea, but we'll keep the question in mind as we proceed.
To begin with, it seems that in each case, the sense of proportion and perspective has been lost. With regard to the greedy, Dante has Virgil say that each one of them / Was so asquint, he could not see to spend / With any sort of measure or restraint. (By "asquint" he means "squint-eyed," or looking at the world through a microscope of greed instead of the teloscope of faith and magnanimity.)
The greedy have lost faith in Providence, and in effect, try to become God by exerting absolute control over Fortune. As Upton explains, both the miser and the spendthrift behave as if Dame Fortune has been -- or could be -- conquered.
Luck let a gentleman see / How nice a dame you can be / I've seen the way you've treated other guys you've been with / Luck be a lady with me.
But as the great tragedians teach us, no one is brought so low as the high and mighty who again imagine they have cheated the Law. Just when you have everything under control, the Muslim Brotherhood is asking for your head on a platter, or that shadow on the x-ray turns out to be an inoperable tumor, or your financial advisor is running a Ponzi scheme. Hey, A lady doesn't leave her escort / It isn't fair, and it's not nice!
This has an important economic dimension, because only in a free market economy does luck become a factor woven into the very system. In any socialist command economy, elites attempt to control fortune by exerting top-down authority. And as we all know, this only results in less wealth and fortune for everyone. "To cry out against Fortune while demanding Justice is a contradiction" (Upton), because it ends up eliminating both.
In order for the free market system to work, it is critical that we do not envy those upon whom Fortune has smiled or whose bones she blows -- unlike the controlling brute who who insists that A lady doesn't wander all over the room / And blow on some other guy's dice.
Interestingly, Upton notes that Fortune has a kind of cosmic function, as it is "a manifestation of the Divine impartiality," which is "stable in the higher realm, but unstable and capricious -- though only apparently so -- in the lower one." If we could control fortune, it would be equivalent to being God. We would certainly have no need to rely upon God, because we could control our destiny as easily as we control, say, electricity.
But thank God we do not have this kind of control over our lives, because, like the socialist economic planner, we simply do not have sufficient information to make rational decisions. And pretending we do immediately renders us irrational.
In other words, if Hayek's "knowledge problem" applies to markets, how much more so does it apply to the soul's terrestrial journey! As they say, more tears are shed over answered than unanswered prayers. "Thy will be done" implies "my will not be done" -- or, more to the point, my purblind willfulness not be done.
Referring back to a comment from a couple of posts ago, the alcoholic can only begin his recovery once he abandons the illusion of self control, and gives himself over to a "higher power." But the reason AA works is that it simply enunciates principles that are universal, regardless of whether one is an addict.
Please note that the Christian God is not a God of "control," but of abandoning control in the most shocking way imaginable. All pagan religions -- including paganized Christianity -- are doctrines of magical control. In contrast, Christianity recognizes the "power of powerlessness," so to speak: the meek shall inherit the earth, and so on.
To paraphrase our Unknown Friend, not only does God not control history like an Obamunist czar, but he is crucified within history, submitting to it entirely. This is a strange, strange, doctrine, far too weird and counter-intuitive for anyone to invent.
The envious left is preoccupied with certain classes of people upon whom Fortune has smiled, but never in any consistent or intellectually honest way. Productive CEOs are paid too much, but you certainly don't hear them complaining about worthless actors' salaries. Corporations are greedy, but never the state. Pharmaceutical companies that discover life-saving drugs are enemies, but parasitic trial lawyers who contribute nothing to society escape notice. And so on.
A little deeper down in the fourth circle are "the souls of the angry" who "attack each other forever" (Upton). Each of them is an enraged little OlbermanBearPig shrieking about his worst person in the world!
Upton makes the important point that, like lust and gluttony, wrath is a normal mode that is sharply exaggerated and out of balance. Its "higher archetpe" is justice, which means that the wrathful are obsessed with some perceived injustice.
But since injustice is everywhere, this means there is never any shortage of pretexts for the wrathful to vent their rage. The reason the left invented the meaningless term "social justice" was in order to legitimize their perpetual rage. Dreams of infinite terrestrial justice evoke omnipotent outrage. Which is when the real killing begins.
The question, as always, is whether the anger is divine or demonic, righteous or merely self-righteous. Proper anger "is that which allows us to take an aggressive stand, but it needs to be tempered by service to something higher than itself" (Upton).
But cut off from its higher archetype, anger becomes petty, distorted, and permanently aggrieved. And once it roosts in the psyche, it serves as an attractor that seeks out what it requires in order to go on being. It "sinks back into itself" and draws "souls into a horrible stagnation" or fevered swamp. Are there people on the right who do this, in imitation of the left? Yes, and I can't stand them.
What about the sullen? Don't you know any sullen people? They are impossible to be around, because they try to infect others with their sullenness, which is a kind of aggressive attack.
Dennis Prager makes a big point about this, and insists that happiness is a moral obligation. In other words, even if you are unhappy inside, it is not right to inflict your unhappiness upon others, and to draw them into your toxic attractor. At first blush "immoral" may seem like a strong word, but it is no different than spreading the flu, or not bathing and inflicting your beastly smell on your coworkers.
Greed, anger, sullenness. What's the connection? In each case, the person forgets all about real justice, and converts his own petty concerns into narcissistic idols that become far more important than they actually are. And "in doing so, one turns away from God's Will and toward self-will: and this is the essence of Anger" (Upton).
I do not know of a sin which is not, for the noble soul, its own punishment. --Don Colacho