Enough! Reflecting with Donizetti on Greed

This visual reflection accompanies Benjamin Pratt’s column on parables of Greed and Generosity (or Avarice and Charity), part of an occasional series about the deadly sins in 2017. As Ben explains here, the original idea for this spiritual reflection comes from the late, great author Phyllis Tickle.

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Donizetti painting of Greed Avarice

‘Avarice,’ a 1996 painting by Mario Donizetti

AVARICE

The late Phyllis Tickle, in her book on Greed, chose Mario Donizetti’s encaustic panel as the premier image to facilitate a soul-changing discussion of the mistress of all sins: greed.

Discussing greed as philosophy or ethics always succumbs to abstraction. But Tickle tells us that greed “almost always requires an image to serve as its vehicle if it is to be entered into human conversation.”

Or, to be more blunt, if we intend to confront our own natural tendency toward greed, we need to look into mirrors, be they paintings, stories or dramas, that reflect our personal moral status. To face greed honestly requires a soul battle, and to discuss it in community is even more demanding. A rare happening!

According to I Timothy 6:10, St. Paul says, “The love of money is the root of all evil.” Tickle agrees that “greed is actually the sin of apostasy, of desiring a life subject to human control over a life of vulnerable trust in the unseen.”

So, to initiate the conversation: What do I see when I look into Donizetti’s mirror?

I see myself stripped naked, exposed, sexless, anxious, vulnerable, scared, and drained of joy, song, laughter and generosity. I see myself hugging my money, hoping it will make me powerful and diminish my vulnerability. I see my stripped-down self sitting on my portfolio of imagined security, cautious of surrendering to my fear of not having enough. I fail to see or don’t want to see those who have paid for or been crushed by my efforts to secure my future while ignoring theirs.

Or might it be that poverty during my early life oozes out from under the sack? I don’t want to feel, smell, taste or face again my childhood poverty. I see the agony of existence—a flower closing instead of opening to life’s joy.

What do you see in the mirror?

PLEASE, we invite you to share this reflection with friends.

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