Monday, August 25, 2014

Niebuhr at the Supermarket

I wish to report to y'all, gentle readers, that I've had a genuine moment of (Reinhold) Niebuhrian self transcendence to report in my own life.

This weekend, while shopping at the local Pause-'n-Pay Grocery Store(™), I deliberated briefly between two options in the dairy case: Should I buy the store-brand milk and save money or spend an extra dollar for the Local Hero option (I don't typically consider myself a hero, local or otherwise). Then it happened: In a moment of genuine self transcendence, poised between the existential polarities of my finitude and freedom, I allowed my narrow self interest to be checked by the demands of a higher, more universalizing ethical framework -- an action that would have been virtually impossible for me had I been representing a larger social aggregate, such as a nation state, wherein collective egoism -- typically masked by the machinations of ideology and hidden power plays -- thwarts any such self-sacrificing ethical behavior.

In other words, I opted for the local brand.

Alas, though, for I am undone! For now, gentle readers, my own self interest has become an (unjustified, I think y'all will agree) occasion for bragging rights and an overweening sense of my own superiority vis-a-vis the woman next to me who bought the cheaper milk (that's the "sin of pride," people).

The only solution? A countermeasure: Please excuse me while I bury my head in a vat of Cheese Flavored, Partially Hydrogenated MSG Puffs(™) (oops, that's the "sin of sensuality").


  1. What is the sin of sensuality? I never learned about that one in Catholic
    School or university.

  2. Luxuria. Usually translated as "lust."

  3. The "sin of sensuality" is particularly Niebuhrian language. Like Kierkegaard, he likes polarities, and this term is essentially the opposite of the sin of pride. It means, as I recall, the failure to realize one's God-given potential in acts of creaturely freedom. As such, then, it is probably closer to the meaning of the traditional sin of "sloth" (acedia) than it is to lust or other inordinate or misdirected physical desires.

  4. I thought the polarity of pride was scrupulosity--or maybe scrupulosity is just a transposition of pride.
    At any rate, one sure does have a great way of rationalizing the super-hydrogenated goodies! I'll remember that one...