The one about distractions and the Devil

Saint Wolfgang and the Devil by Michael Pacher).
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The season is finally over.  I have been home 3 days over the past 3 weeks.  I thought I had finished the travels early but then Matt asked if I would be willing to help him househunt for a new place in upstate New York.  Much to The Swede’s disaproval I went along: helping a friend, road tripping to upstate NY, camping in the Adirondacks and the possibility of catching some opening day baseball in as-yet-unvisited ballparks all made for a perfect storm of disappointment for The Swede.

In any case I am now home, and I have been trying to catch up on my shows.  Last night I watched an episode of Reaper which begged a valuable question: why does the Devil care about accumulating souls?  This statement of purpose came during a debate with the Devil about whether his goal was soul accumulation or spreading havoc and misery.  The answer was soul accumulation, which strikes me as utterly capitalist, wealth for wealth’s sake.  Most of us accumulate wealth to enhance our quality of life, but for the super rich this is not the case.  It should come as no shock that on the show the Devil always looks daper and speaks like a true blue capitalist.   It’s such a good show.

I have done some basic research for why the Devil is concerned with soul accumulation and I have only found two answers.  First, there is the claim that the Devil is insane.  I am never comfortable with this description.  Someone’s rationality is another’s comedy sketch but to say it is irrational is lazy in its lack of rigor and its far sweeping non-falsifiable power of explanation.  The second excuse is that God cares for the souls and so the Devil is just trying to fuck with God.  I am also not satisfied with this explanation.  Why would someone dedicate eternity to fuck with an unbeatable foe?  Why would God an omniscient and omnipotent being even desire?  Instead there is something else, something that imbues significance to the ‘fucking’.

If theological texts are going to paint us in the forms of God and the Devil then some of the same methods of inquiry should also translate, especially to the Devil who, while more powerful than humans, was also created by an Other and is limited in relation to that very Other.  The Devil is trying to regain God’s graces and love and has chosen soul-accumulation as the method to do so.  If the Devil accumulates enough souls, so he believes, then he will demonstrate to God his power and value and then God will need to reaccept the Devil into the fold.  Like the boy that accumulates baseballs hoping to earn the love of his father who happens to be a huge baseball fan.

That’s the theory as of now.  Why do I spend time thinking about this stuff when I do not even believe?  I am not sure, but how can believers not spend time thinking of this stuff.  It’s all the same dubious nature of desire at play in all of us, even the Devil.  My concern though is, assuming this is all true, what happens when the Devil finally learns about the futility of this mechanism, what then?  Will psychoanalysis then bear out the ‘final solution’?  The Devil in his anger then really begins to care most about sowing misery and havoc in a self-immolation reminiscient of eschatological premonitions?

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2 thoughts on “The one about distractions and the Devil

  1. tneal Post author

    Wow. So I have been thinking about how to respond for quite some time now. I feel as though you meant it to be a flippant comment, but I think it’s a brilliant interpretation. But, it ultimately comes back to my reading that the Devil is like us: look for self-affirmation and the approval of others. The mechanism is just different. Kind of like the plight of the blogger *ahem*.

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