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From Chapter 1 of Saint Josemaría Escrivá’s book The Way: Character

#19

Will-power. A very important quality. Don’t despise little things, for by the continual practice of denying yourself again and again in such things — which are never futile or trivial — with God’s grace you will add strength and resilience to your character. In that way you will first become master of yourself, and then a guide, a chief, a leader: to compel and to urge and to inspire others, with your word, with your example, with your knowledge and with your power.

*****

Self-denial. Self-sacrifice. Two words that when spoken in polite company today may often times garner you looks of bewilderment. Why on earth, some may ask today, would one deny themselves anything in today’s world where we have access to almost anything we desire?

Pornography, once relegated to the shady back rooms of a certain class of book or video store, or kept under brown paper wrapping in a convenience store, is now a few taps of our fingertips away from us using any handheld device.

Gluttony. Do I really need to link to the myriads of stories about our ever increasing waistlines and health-related issues to a citizenry and its children that have grown so overweight?

Lust. (insert Anthony Weiner related story here)

In fact the so-called “seven deadlies” of pride, covetousness (or greed), lust, anger, gluttony, envy and sloth all involve an aversion to self-denial or sacrifice. This is probably why there are so popular and pervasive throughout society. Our so-called leaders today deny themselves nothing and hence their fall is often accelerated and messy.

All of which naturally leads me to one of my favorite childhood activities after school: watching endless reruns of Gilligan’s Island in syndication. This was before cable/satellite television and the advent of 200 channels of garbage. Instead we had three channels of garbage, but of a more palatable variety. Anyhow, I remember seeing a story once where Sherwood Schwartz, the creator of Gilligan’s Island (and The Brady Bunch!), said that he had patterned the seven stranded castaways after the seven deadly sins.

Gilligan's Island (US TV Series)

The list:

  • The Professor: Pride. He could be an annoying know-it-all at times.
  • Thurston Howell III: Greed. Do I really need to explain this one?
  • Ginger: Lust. She often underdressed, was obsessed with her looks, and used her sex appeal to her advantage a lot.
  • Mary Ann: Envy. She was jealous of Ginger’s beauty.
  • Mrs. Howell: Gluttony. I would be more likely to assign Sloth to her though. Lovey Howell ate like a bird.
  • The Skipper: Anger. He pretty much smacked Gilligan over the head with his captain’s hat every episode. It could have been made into a drinking game like “Hi Bob” was with the old Bob Newhart Show.
  • Gilligan: Sloth. Now this one I disagree with because Gilligan was pretty much the only one on the island who worked (outside of Mary Ann always baking coconut cream pies). Just because he was accident prone didn’t mean he was slothful. I’d argue he was more of a glutton as he ate practically everything. But I’m not going to argue about a 60s sitcom that was on the air for three years. I’ve even seen this list altered to argue that Gilligan was in fact satan as he was the person who put them all there by his bad seamanship and is always foiling their escape plots. And the island is named for him, after all.

I should now offer full disclosure and admit that I own the 3-volume DVD set that contains every episode of Gilligan’s Island. Bonus points if you can tell me the names of the Professor and the Skipper without using Google. Or Gilligan for that matter.

There is no payoff to all of what I’ve just written. Instead I’ll let it stand as a demonstration of just what happens when you don’t deny yourself access to a mindless television sitcom and its trivia. None of you would follow me anywhere nor did I inspire you to do anything…except perhaps shake your head at me in pity.

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