If I had a choice when it comes to vice, I’d pick any of theseven classics (指天主教的七宗罪)save the vice of envy. At least the other six have a connection to goodness, at least some of the time. Just think of the delicious indulgence of a lazy weekend or surrender to a decadent dessert; the satisfaction of a lustful fantasy or the thrill of pride. Even a passionate fight has something good to recommend it. But to my mind, envy is thedeadliest (最致命的)of the seven deadlies, and in a category all its own. Envy turns us against ourselves and others. It disturbs peace of mind, fueling shame and guilt. At its root, envy is felt to be so fundamentally bad because it highlights what is lacking and hates goodness itself.
Consciously, envy is so painful because it is based in a feeling of deprivation. We look at our neighbors and long for what they have, imagining their lives to be so much more beautiful, happy, and satisfying than our own. While an age-old phantom, Shakespeare’sgreen-eyed monster(指嫉妒) has been unleashed on steroids in our modern culture. Capitalism has cleverly engineered longing and desire, saysEve Ensler (伊芙·恩斯勒，美国剧作家，表演艺术家，女性主义者和社会活动家),tantalizing (逗引)us with offers of what we might have or who we might become in the future rather than embracing the good of what we have and are today. It is no surprise, then, that envy leaves a trail of depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, poor body image, and perfectionism.
At root, envy spoils our sense of goodness about ourselves. We feel inadequate. We feel small. We feel unworthy. For women judging ourselves by the ideals of modern society, we find ourselves longing for a better figure, a nicer house, a more appealing partner, more money, more professional success, more talented children, and the list goes on. To make matters worse,under the sway of(在……影响下) envy, we feel surrounded by those who seem to have it all and the happiness that we imagine goes with it. Faced with the pressure of such comparisons, what are we to do?
To be honest, most of us take the easy way out: We try to feel better about ourselves by spoiling the good in others. I think this is the real reason why envy is felt to be so deadly. It is one thing to long for what we do not have, but it is something far worse to attack the goodness in others. Thisdark underbelly(阴暗面)of envy is the source of gossip, pettiness, complaining, and all manner of mean-girlmaneuvers(花招). The quick and easy way out of the pain of envy is to attack what is good even if it means ruining it for everyone.
Tearing down is so much easier than building up. It takes years for a business to build a good reputation and one badYelp(美国最大的商户点评网站)review to tarnish it. Building a house takes grit, perseverance, resources and time. A single match can destroy it in a matter of minutes. The same is true for people. A rumor can ruin a career or a marriage; an unflattering photo on Facebook, someone’s good name. Negativity is very powerful, and envious attacks make swift work.
But, of course, no one wins with this way of managing envy. No one feels good; nothing constructive is accomplished, and the vicious cycle of deprivation turning tospite(伤害，怨恨)keeps going round and round. The antidote to envy can only be found in playing the long game: you must grow yourself by building on the good you already have.
Here, I share a story told about the world-famous violinist,Itzhak Perlman(伊扎克·帕尔曼，以色列著名小提琴家). Stricken with polio as a child, Perlman wears braces on both legs and walks with twocrutches(拐杖). At a concert, hetenaciously(坚持地)made his stage entrance without any assistance. The audience sat in awe and sympathy, watching him painfully enter and then cross the stage to his chair. One had the sense that the man had overcome enormous odds.
That night like all other concert nights, Perlman tucked his violin under his chin and nodded at the conductor to begin. As he got into the piece one of the strings of his violin broke. It was a snap so obvious that it couldn’t be missed. Everyone thought that, surely, themomentum (势头)of the piece would be ruined, as he would have to stop to replace the string or borrow another violin, no easy task for even an able bodied man.
After stopping the orchestra, the conductor looked over to see what Perlman wished to do. To everyone’s surprise, Perlman raised a single finger to the conductor, a sign to wait just a moment. He closed his eyes, clearly gathering his thoughts. Then he opened them, looked at the conductor, and signaled him to go on. The orchestra took the conductor’s cue, and off they went again as if they hadn’t missed a beat. Only now, Perlman was playing on three strings.
ne can imagine him working his way through the music around the missing string, compensating, adjusting, andimprovising (即兴创作). It couldn’t have been the same piece, of course. But it was brilliant, passionate, and beautiful.
A local newspaper reported that when Perlman finished playing, the audience sat in stunned silence before leaping to their feet with an extraordinary outburst of applause. It was also reported that after the audience quieted down, Perlman wiped the sweat from his brow and said, “You know, sometimes it is the artist’s task to find out how much music you can still make with what you have left.”
I don’t know whether or not this story actually happened, but I know that, in the psychological sense, it is true. The truth of the story is that Itzhak Perlman is showing us more than his attitude toward music; he is showing us his attitude toward life. He knows the undeniable truth that no matter how hard he may work, he will never have it all. There will always be something missing—whether it is a string on the violin or the ability to walk with ease. But just as there always will be something missing, there always will be something left. Perlman decided to take the attitude that what is left is good and it is enough.
Like a parable, this story can have a big impact if we have eyes to see and ears to hear. We will all face adversities in life of one kind or another, some big and some small. And we all know what it means to be lacking something, because that is the human condition. Envy tells us that someone, somewhere has it all—but it just isn’t true. It is everyone’s challenge in life to do something with whatever they have, and the best way to do that is to see the good, be thankful for it, and do something useful with it.
By Jennifer Kunst 译 / 杨瑞