My friend Alan and I are working together on writing a short story collection with the Seven Deadly Sins as the theme: seven sins, seven stories. For me, when considering these stories, one of the central questions from the start with each has been, “What is the chief detriment of ‘X’ sin that pops out to me? What makes it so nefarious?” I’ve begun working on “Envy,” and the more I think about it the more I feel as if this sin, when unchecked and allowed to grow to its most rampant proportions, can end up becoming a form of swallowing and consuming someone else’s identity. If envy goes on long enough, you move from simply being jealous over what someone else has or has accomplished, and you eventually want to have that thing or have tasted that accomplishment yourself. In essence, you’re saying you wish you were that person.
And so when envy leaves the mental cave and moves our hands and feet to action, it’s going to do everything it can to be that person we envy, do everything it can to transform us into him. At its root, envy has a lot of issues with self-esteem and self-confidence going on; a lot of dissatisfaction exists over who one is or sees himself as, or who God made him to be or who a man thinks God “should have” made him to be. And so envy in the physiological realization becomes basically a raping of someone’s character, but the slightly comforting thing for the victim—and the aggravating aspect for the envious oppressor—is that this can never truly happen.
You can never fully assume another person’s life, never wholly acquire that which they have or have done and make it your own. Because that individual is unique and has feats specific to him. The moment I try to replicate him, I’m trying to have two of the same person existing side by side, and this can never happen. There can only be one. If the transfer is going to take place, one of us has to die because the two can not occupy the temporal realm simultaneously. And if I’m the tormenter and my victim does pass away, even then I haven’t succeeded in fully materializing my envy, in fully satiating it. Because by that point, I will have become so attached to this person I’m envious of, I won’t know how to function without his presence around. If my attempts to become him end up killing him, I’m at a loss for what turn my life should now take. My muse has gone missing, and it can never be located again. I’ll never be able to answer the question, “Now what?” because my impetus is now dead and gone. It is impossible to satisfy envy. It’s so futile. It’s so meaningless. It is, to describe with the apt Ecclesiastical words from Solomon, a chasing after the wind.