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August 27, 2010

You’ve probably heard of the so-called “seven deadly sins,” and if you’re very catholic or saw the 1995 thriller Se7en, you might even know what they are.  For your reference, wikipedia lists them as:

  1. wrath
  2. greed
  3. sloth
  4. pride
  5. lust
  6. envy
  7. gluttony

One of my many part-time jobs in college was as a library assistant.  I’d spent 15 hours a week or so sorting and shelving books, checking them in and out, taking inventory of them.  Around final exam time, things would get interesting as students became desperate for the scarcer resources, typically journals that could not be taken from the building.  Then we’d have bursts of excitement involving attempted thefts or copy-machine turf wars.  Once, some student(s) managed to elude our pre-closing walkthrough, hiding somewhere in the stacks, or perhaps behind a couch, until under cover of night they carefully rearranged every stick of furniture in the three-story high main reading room, stacking it into a formidable pyramid reaching at least half way to the sky(light).  Probably a final project for Egyptology.

In the slower moments, I’d chat with Rikki the librarian.  She was a spinster in the finest sense of the word, a loving old witch who treated all the student assistants not as if we were vermin (as was the custom with most of the staffers), but as if she were our maiden auntie.  Possibly our collective moms’ favorite little sister.  Rikki had a special liking for me.  Me with the frumpy clothes and the bad bottle dye job, my freshman 15 (40) that clung to my once-slender frame until I found vegetarianism the summer after sophomore year.  She may have seen a potential I didn’t.  Maybe she liked that I was sarcastic and took no crap from the clientele, even the rich or beautiful ones.  Or maybe it was just that I shelved my books quickly and accurately and didn’t drag my feet in the stacks wasting my shift.  Perhaps it was our shared German efficiency that forged our bond.

At any rate, when life appeared to be getting me down, Rikki would throw a mysterious form of pep talk my way.  In one such instance, she told me decisively, “You don’t give yourself enough chances to screw up.  You need to practice one deadly sin every day – that’s why there are seven of them!  You should start tomorrow.  Start with sloth.”

I loved Rikki, and while I will concede the negative side of each of the above listed vices, like most things in this life, they still appear to me primarily in shades of gray.

A couple of years ago, before a lot of complicated interpersonal incidents not befitting a woman of my then-31 years, I used to spend every Monday night sharing a bottle or two of wine with a fun and spontaneous group of people to, as we put it, “celebrate the end of the beginning of the week.”  I was one of the few with a steady day job, so I’m actually not sure what the others were celebrating, but that’s beside the point.  One evening, I told these friends the story of Rikki.  They agreed unanimously that the current list cannot possibly represent the seven worst traits for a person, either for their own well-being or that of the people around them.  And we quickly set about resolving history’s mistake by defining what we felt were the actual worst seven traits for a person to espouse:

  1. Anxiety
  2. Loneliness
  3. Closed-mindedness
  4. Douchebaggery
  5. Energy-sucking
  6. Stupidity
  7. Glad-handing

And there they are.  Seven traits that will make you suck to be around, that will make you hate yourself and hate others and will make other people hate you right back.  So chill out, make a friend, give a new idea a chance, stop being a dick or a sap, get your head out of your ass, and stopping kissing others’.

You’ll be glad you did.

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