I grew up with a lot of shibboleths and thou shalt nots. Thou shalt not make a mess, thou shalt not make a peep, thou shalt not reach for another cookie, thou shalt not say “love” when talking about food, thou shalt not question the conventional wisdom or upset the status quo.
Thou shalt not was a tune with infinite variations. In church, where we were washed in the blood of the lamb, which turned out to be propaganda, they preached the Seven Deadly Sins and my life ambition turned out to be turning sin into mindful practice.
They say suppression invites subversion. I fancied myself a subversive and got arrested a few times. Call me arrested mother, grandmother and great grandmother. I’m still getting busted.
My husband and I wrote anarchist songs, Brown Bag Blues, and toured a show called Jabber Disease. We brought on “Thou shalt!” in poem and song, paeans to seven beautiful virtues.
Pride is a goodie. Watch any kitty when she catches herself in the mirror, a window. Yikes. Is that me or a more formidable she? Babies smile in the mirror and that is before they hear they are too smart or not smart enough, too ugly or too beautiful. I love you, we say. Keep smiling. Draw yourself over and over. Paint yourself proud. Colour your world.
Greed is gathering. We make picture after picture of images we love. We gather friends when we play in the park near our house, say “Hello friend!” to every new face. We gather berries to cook and shells to paint. We gather music. Every last thing makes a sound and we listen, greedy for birdsong and, ocean wailing, footsteps drumming sidewalks, all notes for our scores. Soundwalks are great. Is this greed? If so, bring it on.
Wrath is war on bullies. Whoever said righteous indignation is bad? When is a wrong not a wrong? Get mad at the window that smacked the sparrow. Get mad at the thug smacking a smaller kid. There are bad guys and good guys. Fairy tales tell us that, and kids need to know how to deal with oppression. Read the stories that tell us to love ourselves, be bigger, set an example. Get mad and use our words. Rage at the bad stories on TV and man and woman up for warriordom. Fight for clean air and clean water, for peace.
Lust is hunger for knowledge. Aren’t we hungry all the time, for truth and beauty. Lust drives us to smell the flowers, collect leaves, read books, climb trees so we can see forever. Some kids like small collections that fit in their pockets. Sometimes we go for walks and gather. What is this pebble, this egg, this caterpillar (be gentle) this moss, this bug? Every last thing has a story, a life. We gather people too. Safe strangers are fun. Sometimes they tell you their stories and sometimes it’s fun to guess.
Envy is admiration. We listen to music and copy the sounds. We look at art and aspire to paint. We dance to the rhythms in poetry. We envy the sunset for its’ beautiful regret and sunrise for its’ promise. We want to be the light. That is the meaning of genius, joining the envious “I” to the “Us” so we are one, all moving parts in the great circle of life. Look at this, look at that, we say. Choose the best parts, the ones that fit with our mandate to be the best us.
Gluttony. Do cookies ever taste as good as batter? We take, then bake, our bellies filled before we load the oven: bread dough, whole bowls of berries, spoonfuls of honey. Food is for pleasure and for life. Who said we shouldn’t love it? Be greedy, little ones, and take enough to share, all our fingers in the same pie, because everyone deserves a taste. We decorate brown paper bags, ride the bus downtown and give happy lunches, all our pleasures combined in one joyful afternoon.
And most important of all is sloth, the pure joy of rest, doing nothing but breathe and dream. First, we find a soft bed of grass or moss, clover if we’re lucky, then we lie down to experience the luxury of rainbows or starry nights. We look up and watch the shapes of our ancestors playing hide and go seek with future kids through clouds as fleecy as the sheep we count on our way to sleep.
Of all the deadly sins, sloth is the most pleasant because S is for satiation when we fill ourselves with sunshine and story.
Sin away kids. Thou shalt! We’re a big club. Everyone welcome. Grammalinda’s got your back.