January 12, 2012

Tower of Babel by Pieter Bruegel the Elder

Tower of Babel by Pieter Bruegel the Elder

GSTAAD—By the time you read this it will be mid-January and all your New Year’s resolutions will have gone the way of good manners. At least I hope so. Resolutions can be dangerous to one’s health and a hazard to one’s happiness. Here in snow-covered Gstaad—we’ve had more snow than there’s cocaine in South America—the green monster of envy has reared its hideous face. Of the seven deadly sins, I only recognize envy and avarice as mortal. I am proud to be guilty of lust, gluttony, pride, wrath, and sloth, especially the first and last.

My late low-life colleague Jeff Bernard, whom I never imagined would be surpassed by his successor, chronically complained about his “acute lexicographitis,” which he defined as an overwhelming desire to cover blank pages with words. I only wish I suffered from it—but to the contrary, I am only happy when lying about with absolutely nothing to do. I deliver ten columns a month to publications in Greece, Britain, and America. That’s a column every three days—more than enough to keep me miserable and complaining nonstop about having joined the vulgar working classes. Jeff knocked off his columns at an alarmingly easy rate, mostly between drinks. I suspect that his successor Jeremy Clarke works quite hard on his, although one never knows. If it looks easy, it most likely was tough as hell, and vice versa.

“They say that death and taxes are life’s only two certainties. With inheritance taxes, you get both.”

St. Augustine wrote that all sin springs from ingratitude toward God. I ain’t so sure. God has better things to worry about than my compulsion to lie back and drink Ch”teau Lafite until I pass out. Now that the Spectator’s deputy editor is married, God is not troubled to know that I daily lust after Rebecca Hall, hoping to trap her at some igloo near here and keep her there for the duration. (Rebecca’s physical imperfections are driving me mad with desire.) The mother of my children calls me sick, but I’m healthy as a young horse and almost as randy.

The real sin is to abstain from things which give us pleasure. I love eating red meat with French fries and drinking a lot of red wine. I smoke. I chase women, however unsuccessfully of late. What’s a poor man supposed to do, anyway? Live like a monk, eat greens all day, and never go on one’s yacht? To hell with that. One should take as much pride in one’s sins as he does in one’s virtues, but more so.

In my experience, people who spend their lives in the innocent pursuit of pleasure—such as filling up their lungs with smoke, eating and drinking to excess, chasing the fairer sex, and betting on the Queen of Diamonds—do not oppress others nor try to make life miserable for them. They are peacefully engaged in ruining their own lives, and what could be nicer?


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