There seems to be one accepted list of “deadly” sins, but several lists of virtues seem to be available, some containing ridiculous ones such as chastity or religious faith. If we take the so-called list of seven “capital” virtues, which lacks faith but contains chastity, and reduce it to six by eliminating the latter, how do I stand (recall that I would fear damnation according to the sin list)?

Temperance. Voluntary self-restraint. A middle ground between self-indulgence and self-denial. I probably drink too much. I may average two beers a night, but those are good, strong, Oregon-style craft beers, but I don’t drink every night, so the nights I drink I have more than two! I’ve been bringing this down lately (see “Gluttony”, from last week). Score: -½.

Charity. We don’t “give until it hurts”, not wanting to have to end up on the receiving end of charity, but we do give money and food-items to various causes, and we donate functional used goods rather than try to eke out a few pennies from them online. When I say “we”, I mean Mrs. Dean. I’m totally in favor of this but if it were up to me (see “Sloth”, from last week) it just wouldn’t get done. If I were less uncertain about the future I’d be OK with being more generous. Score: -½.

Diligence. Here I am half-and-half. When on a roll and not under pressure, I am obsessively diligent at least with work that motivates me. Unfortunately, when I am diligent, I am slow. I have certain gifts, but they do not extend to writing beautiful elegant code or prose quickly, and when there are deadlines, something has to give. If the work is bullshit, I am diligent only in the moment, while actually belatedly performing the minimum required effort. For me, but obviously not others, bullshit work often has to do with “keeping up appearances”. I am hygenic but not dapper. My yard is a jungle of weeds, but somewhat tamed. Score: -½.

Patience. Again, half-and-half. I am impatient at certain moments, such as when there is a slipping schedule. Here I must seem to criticize Mrs. Dean, in whose natal culture arriving on time is Just Not Done. However, in the long term I am very patient, perhaps too patient. Knowing my own faults in terms of diligence, I tend to cut people slack when they don’t deliver on time for example. I know this sets me up to be taken advantage of, betrayed, and manipulated. Some of this is adjacent to my dislike for doing project management. Score: 0.

Kindness. I’m not outwardly kind, at least not in a way that would require me to be gregarious. However, when circumstances require me to interact with strangers, or when I am interacting with people I’ve known for a while and like, I would say my kindness level is relatively high. I’m not often proactively kind. When I think of it and the situation is synchronized (e.g. I am in a libation palace and I happen to remember that our impending houseguest likes Founder’s Porter, I will buy some for them). I love cooking for guests and spare nothing when I do so, hoping they will welcome the leftovers we foist on them at the end of the evening. Score: +1.

Humility. I know a lot more than most people in many subject areas, and I love to show it and be seen showing it. In my chosen field, most folks actually know more than I (I am a dilettante and an amateur), but because grants only come to those who subscribe to the hype of the week, I get to be one of those ethical contrarians who say things like “that not only violates the second law of thermodynamics, it violates the first!” (I’ve never actually said that; see “Kindness”). Score: -1.

Final score: -½ – ½ – ½ + 0 +1 -1 = -1½. Looks like I have some work to do here, too.


So-called “western” culture contains the notion of “sin”, for example the list of Seven Deadly Sins. I’m not religious, so I don’t fear offending magical beings, but I am aware that some peoples’ behavior sucks because it harms others, while other peoples’ behavior shines because it helps others. If I had to come up with simple hallmarks, “sin” would be taking a positive-sum game and rendering it zero- or negative-sum, whereas virtue would be taking whatever game is underway and improving its return. How do I fancy my status as a “Seven Deadly” sinner?

Pride. Some people are proud to be of their nationality, or to support some athletic team. I don’t understand this, although I understand being happy to belong to a certain culture or group. To me, pride derives from accomplishment. I am proud to have a Ph.D. and to have Walked Around Mount Rainer in Nine Days, among other things. I am happy I grew up in the Willamette Valley, and that my excellent wife chose me. Score: +0.

Greed. Beyond having what might be called a vaguely middle-class lifestyle, I don’t aspire to more money or possessions. Additional consumption causes a corresponding increase in carbon footprint, which is currently unethical insofar as it involves burning fossil fuel. Compared to most people with more excessive lifestyles, I am thus more virtuous, and I am proud of that. Score: -1.

Lust. Evolution has provided males with an ongoing “shouldn’t I be trying to get my sperm into that thing?” feature, which I suppress due to receiving various forms of training and negative feedback, and a desire to not be creepy and manipulative. Still, non-objectification of other persons requires attention. I love sitting in a congenial beverage establishment, sipping a favorite and doodling. I invariably become lost in thought, but sometimes snap out of my reverie to note that I have inadvertently been male-gazing some shapely person. Embarrassed, I swiftly pretend to return to my doodling, needing several moments to recover before starting to return to my groove. In never act on this and sometimes apologize. Score: +½.

Envy. I fleetingly have wishful thoughts about being more gregarious or less phone-phobic (like others more successful at things I strive to be more successful at), or about having a nicer house or yard or car (like most people I know), or the erotic attentions of Mensa supermodels (even more desirable or intelligent than Mrs. Dean). These thoughts “just happen”, and detract from my humanitarian efforts, and I generally roll my eyes at myself for them. Score: -1.

Gluttony. I am overweight, not obese. Though finicky, I am a gourmand and a gourmet. I enjoy Oregon-style craft beers, rib-eye steaks, peanut butter pie. Eating enough vegetables gives me the emotion that a few gravy-drowned schnitzels are just fine. I try to control myself and sometimes succeed. Score: +½.

Wrath. I have to actively avoid certain conversations, websites, comment sections, news items, etc. Deliberate ignorance and stupidity, cults of personality, surrender to mystical bullshit, and a host of other crass populist wankings infuriate me. Littering, fire-lightin’ dog-bringers, spurious car-honking, filling out the same information multiple times on pages of medical forms. I attempt to conceal it, but I am full of wrath. This probably affects my blood pressure. Score: +2.

Sloth. I sleep in too much. I take too many naps. I don’t mow the lawn on schedule. I delay or even defer anything requiring human interaction. However, I obsess about my writing (code or humanish). Score: 0.

My overall sin score is 0 – 1 + ½ – 1 + ½ + 2 – 0 = 1. If there were a hell, I’d be worried.