Devil’s Food Cake
People salivate for Descartes. Every introductory philosophy course incorporates his Meditations*. Pseudo-intellectuals quote his “I think; therefore, I am;” (some douchebags even regurgitate the Latin “Cognito ergo sum.”)** We like this. It sounds good. It makes us feel comfy in ourselves, and this is especially important if you venerate reason over god. You need something to validate your existence.
We like Descartes for all his intellectual food for thought, but we love him for his being a human. One of us. A human said that— damn, we’re smart! It’s a sort of patriotism of species. It’s quite easy (and, therefore, common) to gobble up his glory and eat around the actual substance to his claim. We serve up knowledge of Descartes’s knowledge (or any intellectual concept) to feed our vanity. We devour it. When others devour it, too, this feedback feeds us, and it goes straight to our egos.
I’m proud to say I’ve never murdered anyone. I’ve also never committed adulatory. I’ve never been married, so I’ve never really had the chance to, but I’m pretty sure if I ever was married, I wouldn’t. I have stolen, but nothing, like, serious, and I’ve repented for that, kind of.
Other than that, I’ve completely shattered the other tablet.
In case you forgot, like I did, here are the first six commandments:
I am the LORD thy God.
No other gods before me.
No graven images or likenesses.
Not take the LORD's name in vain.
Remember the sabbath day.
Honour thy father and thy mother.
(While I don’t consciously believe in the LORD, as a rational being it is my duty to weigh the evidence and counter evidence to every possibility.)
Upon reflection, I feel kind of like a brute for only remembering the last four commandments. Those are kind of the easiest to avoid as long as you’ve evolved past caveman and have a vivid enough imagination to realize what a mess it would be if you ever decapitated someone and/or coveted their neighbor's donkey. These sins, though, are just collateral to the most fundamental vice: idolatry.
False idols are delicious. Alexander the Great. Einstein the Genius. Theresa the Saint **. The Fancy Degree. The Corner Office. The Tight Body. Brand names, brand posts, brand lives. Yum, yum, yum, brand me, baby.
One pre-teen day, before the alchemy of adolescence hijacked the Puritan in me, I was exploring the edges of gravity alone in my bedroom; specifically, I was experimenting with how far off the edge of my chair I could scoot my butt before I fell off. Just, you know, being a scientist, in the way kids are. Then, eureka! I fell. “God damn it!” I exclaimed, trying out the tongue of a sinner. Immediately, I imploded with remorse. I ran to the bathroom and washed my own mouth with Irish Spring. It was awful.
Vanity is defined as, “excessive pride in one's appearance, qualities, abilities, achievements, etc.” and in vain is defined as “without effect or avail; to no purpose.” Is “God damn it!” in vain if you mean it as an earnest request?
Or is profanity essentially due to vanity? To use the Lord’s name “in vain” is to use it for empty reasons that strip it of its divine nutrients, to process the Patris, to flash fry the Filii, to sugarcoat the Spiritus Sancti.
Our hyper speed lives force us to eat ego on the go, and like fast food, this leaves many of us malnourished. We scavenge for substance to make us finally feel full. We eat so much, we forget to taste. We hear so much, we forget to listen. We think so much, we forget to be. Sugary shots of vanity— of affluence and accolade— cause spikes and drops in our soul insulin; we can no longer regulate our inner selves. We are spiritually diabetic, and we are addicted to the devil’s food cake.