June 27: Of "Of Envy"

One thing you can say about Francis Bacon, he is wicked organized:

we will handle, what persons are apt to envy others; what persons are most subject to be envied themselves; and what is the difference between public and private envy.
Bacon was held up as an example when they were trying to teach us essay writing, and the writing is so clear you can practically see through it to the Roman numerals, the letters, and the numbers of his outline. It didn't take with me because I am too disorderly, but I see now that one thing being wicked organized has going for it is that it keeps you from asking questions. If you get swept up in the flow (chart), you start to think, "This person must have thought of everything! But he hasn't, although noting that "bastards are naturally envious" is a nice touch.

What Bacon doesn't cover is why people should be envious, which is the interesting question to me. It's obvious enough that someone should be envious when they haven't got what to eat, but why does envy work its green-eyed magic on someone who has a reasonable amount of cars, and climate control in their house? Perhaps we could express it in an equation:

(Capricious, irrational way that life is) - (Rational way we think life should be) = envy

In other words, envy is our protest against how unfair everything is. There's a lot of envy in show business (not that there isn't in the HVAC industry, it's just that showbiz is what I know), because there is so much luck involved. When I was making a lot of money, I knew there was luck involved, and now that I'm making none, I feel the same way. But that doesn't stop me from railing against my current luck (to my wife, mostly) -- anxiety has a lot to do with it, of course, but I think part of me is just offended at the senselessness. It turns out the music of the spheres is super-discordant, when we thought it should sound hosannas for us.

And as I think about what we think we should deserve, it occurs to me that one of the advantages of Original Sin as a doctrine is that it teaches that the only thing we deserve is judgement (or Judgement) -- everything else is playing with the house's money.

Well, this is not very Baconian, and kind of gloomy besides, so I will close with my favorite part of this essay, which is Bacon, slightly, as Machiavelli:
Those that have joined with their honor great travels, cares, or perils, are less subject to envy. For men think that they earn their honors hardly, and pity them sometimes; and pity even healeth envy. Wherefore you shall observe that the more deep and sober sort of politic persons, in their greatness, are ever bemoaning themselves, what a life they lead; chanting a quanta patimur [how great things do we suffer!]. Not that they feel it so, but only to abate the edge of envy.

No comments: