Tempting Temptation

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On the fourth day of Christmas my true love gave to me… a new author to enjoy! Oh, yeah and a partridge in a pear tree. So… thank you, Alexandra Ivy for the Guardians of Eternity series. I'm enjoying the world and the characters Ms. Ivy has created as much as I would any thoughtful Christmas gift, even though it's always a challenge for me to contain my impatience as I read the first book in a series while the author gets to all the backstory and the rules of the world and the introduction of major themes explicated. And you wonder why I only made it to the fourth day of Christmas? Anyhoo, the payoff is often worthwhile, and I think it will be with Guardians of Eternity too. Shockingly, this is not my topic of the day. Surprise!? My topic, friends, is temptation--ya know, all the stuff you desperately want to enjoy, but understand is really bad for you? There's been a lot of gnashing of teeth as we say ‘no’ when we want desperately to say ‘yes’ during the holiday season.  My molars are now shadows of themselves. Grrr.

Ms. Ivy tackles this issue head on by making our heroine, Abby, a spiritually pure and therefore compellingly attractive figure to the undead and other dark creatures: her soul is a beacon of shining light to those who live in the shadows. But when Abby’s purity is pointed out to her, she disagrees, saying, "I'm afraid you have me confused with someone else."  But no, her vampire host, Viper, assures her, "You have known tragedy and even despair, but you remain untainted... Evil, lust, greed--the darker passions that so easily tempt mortals."  Abby protests again, explaining, "Well, I suppose everyone is tempted." "Yes," Viper agrees, "And so few resist." Grrr. 

Fascinating exchange. And so true. Why so few of us resist is a question that has plagued me for a long time. Probably since grad school when a professor asked it in an ethics class.  "And who,” he mused, “Put the snake in the Garden in the first place?"  The question stopped me cold. The snake is the symbol of all temptation, seducing us to do that which we should not--making the forbidden attractive, alluring, compelling—even irresistible. This has always struck me as grossly unfair. Why does doing bad always seem to feel so good, while doing right is so difficult, uncomfortable or unpleasant, at least by comparison? I know I'm not the only one whose inquiring mind wants to know, because there's a One Republic song, Loves Runs Out, that asks the same question. I guess temptation hasn’t changed much in a few millennia.

So, who did put the snake in the Garden of Eden to tempt poor Eve who then convinced her hapless mate to also taste the forbidden fruit, dooming all of us in the process? It was God, of course.  There is no other answer. If your beliefs run in that direction (my personal interest is more academic, but still), God made everything, and so He was the one who created temptation and also the one who determined that doing the right thing is always just a ‘touch’ harder than doing the wrong thing. Which makes sense, of course. Because, if it were easy, everyone would gosh darn do it, right?

Exactly. Which is why the right thing to do must be the hard thing to do. Because if the right thing were easy, then free will goes out the window.  And that would be bad, I'm told (by the Bible, no less). Free will means we have to stretch beyond our comfort zones to do what's good for us, our fellows and our planet. Sure, it's a lot easier to do what we want, sleep as late as we like, spend wantonly, engage in mind-numbing activities, accrete too much stuff, lust after people we shouldn't, enjoy righteous indignation—I could go on. Couldn’t we all? Yup. All of us could wallow in the seven deadly sins quite well, thank you very much--or maybe it's just me, and the rest of you are paragons of moderation? Nah, I just checked Facebook and we’re all hosed.

All of us overindulge -- and then we try to clean up the mess. Grrr. We give into temptation rather than resist, as Viper observes. And then we resolve to do better… next time. In fact, this is exactly the time of year that many of us make resolutions to become better versions of ourselves in the coming journey around the sun. But, as I've written about several times, change is hard. Changing ourselves may be the hardest thing of all. Grrr.

But many of us will resolve to do so anyway over the coming days, weeks and months—oh, who are we kidding?—minutes, hours and days, maybe.  In anticipation of the rocking New Year, someone asked me the other day, "What needs to change in order for you to realize your goals and fulfill your intentions for 2016?"   I answered, "I'm pretty sure it's my brain that needs an overhaul – or maybe I need a personality transplant."  My friend thought I was being too harsh, but I'm not so sure.  I always want to change and improve. I always want to resist temptation. And my results so far have been ambivalent, at best. Grrr.

But today begins another year, and the possibilities are endless. So I'll say,  "Bring it on!" to that snake, and see where it gets me. In the interim, the Guardians of Eternity series continues over many books, my TBR list is robust (although I'm being abstemious with it), and life is very, very good. What more do I need that temptation should have its way with me? Not much. But… stay tuned in 2016.