Monthly Archives: April 2015

A Dialogue with Mephistopheles IV

A Dialogue with Mephistopheles IV

Hello again!

You’re back.

More sins/more sinners. Keeps me busy. Are you free?

I’m actually walking the dog, who I refer to as “That Black-Haired Beauty.”

So not a good time?

Actually, an excellent tine. This is when I do a good bit of my thinking. Pets have a way of bringing you down to earth and away from all those complications we discussed last time. This is a time for me to ponder.

Unfortunately, I don’t get any pets down here. I guess they don’t sin.

I think many pet owners seriously believe their companions have souls and should go to heaven. I know that alot of what Arwen does is instinctual, but there just seem to be too many things she does, especially in the “caring” department, that suggest that there is more to her than “a pattern of behavior that is characteristic of a species and is often a response to specific environmental stimuli.” (Free Dictionary)

It’s nice spending time with a creature whose worse sin is trying to sneak away so she can dig a new hole in the garden or grab a half-eaten muffin by the sidewalk while you’re not looking.

Animals do kill each other. However, I suppose that is not only instinctual, but survival based.

They don’t kill each other just because they are pissed off, or at least it doesn’t seem so, though some creatures are more aggressive than others. We can’t really talk with them, so it is hard to know their motivation; most human’s you can ask.

So what have you been pondering.

Lying, dishonesty, dissimulation… There are many types and human’s have made it an art form.

I guess that’s partially covered under, “Thou shalt not bear false witness…”

Yes, and lying is closely tied to cheating. I also feel it goes right to the heart of dishonor. One dishonors him/herself when they lie.

And the other person, I would imagine.

Bingo! Lying isn’t just not telling the truth about something. I, personally, think lies of omission are as bad or worse than other forms. And you can even lie by telling the truth, but acting like its a lie, so the other person doesn’t believe you.

Omission, as in not telling someone something?

Exactly. More harm/injury can come from such an approach than merely telling an untruth. People want to know the truth, bad as it might be. Rarely does a lie help the person being lied to, whatever form it takes.

You sound adamant about this “:sin.”

I guess I am. I’ve had too many people lie to me — too many people who supposedly cared for me, but were stabbing me in the back while I was the trusting fool that I am.

So it seems that “honor” is something you believe strongly in.

I do. And I think it is one reason the world has gotten into such a mess — too many people seem to think that a few “little white lies” are no big deal. Too many people have thrown honor and truth and conscience out the window.

“Little white lie?” That seems to suggest there are degrees of lying.

Are there? I don’t know. I was brought up in a religion where we were taught there were mortal and venial sins. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that:

Sins are rightly evaluated according to their gravity… Mortal sin destroys charity   in the heart of man by a grave violation of God’s law; it turns man away from           God…

            Venial sin allows charity to subsist, even though it offends and wounds it.

This is out of context, of course, but if I think of “charity” as “love” it makes a bit more sense to me. However, I’m not sure that setting up lying in different categories of “badness” is helpful. It’s kind of like calling killing: Murder I, Second degree murder, Manslaughter, etc.

We’re back to circumstances playing a role in what constitutes “sinning.” Are there any times where “lying” is not a sin? Not bad or wrong?

I guess I would have to say “Yes, there are.” There are circumstances where a lie might save a person a great deal of pain and anguish and it won’t make a difference otherwise if they know the truth. But I think these situations are far fewer than most people would allow today, at least if you look at their actions. “Lying” seems like too easy a cop-out for people. Say a few prayers, kowtow a bit, shout they name of God and you will be forgiven.

It doesn’t work that way.

It doesn’t? Well, there are several billion people out there who seem to think it does.

Do they?

Sunday businessmen — I can do anything I want during the week as long as I ask for forgiveness on the Sabbath? That’s one example.

If it worked that way, I would be far less busy than I am. The truth is, people HOPE that it works that way.

Now you are confusing me. Even I pray sometimes. You saying it doesn’t work?

Not at all. Prayer can be very helpful, but that’s another long discussion and we’re not there yet. You were suggesting that people can have all their sins forgiven by going through the motions on the Sabbath, whatever day that is for them. THAT doesn’t work that way. Like I said, if it did, I probably wouldn’t even have a job.

You’ve lost me.

Well, you may have to stay lost for a bit longer. We still have a bit more to get through relative to sin before we move on. For now, let me just say this, “forgiveness” is personal. It has to come from deep within a person relative to their own “sins.” Anything else, as you were disparaging a bit, really doesn’t work. Forgiveness is tough, and I didn’t make it that way.

God did?

We’ll see. Patience. It all has to do with what is in your heart, deep down within. The interesting thing is we arrived at this juncture talking about “lying.” Forgiveness doesn’t work if you are lying to yourself.

Wow! That’s heavy. I might have to ask God about this revelation.

Please do. He likes honest inquiries.

Can I make another point about lying, though? While we’re still on the topic?

By all means. I’m a bit wiped from all this so far today, anyway.

Lying creeps into many of the other “sin” areas. It is pretty pervasive, and it is oft the catalyst, as you mentioned, for all forms of cheating. It’s a big, big concern in the halls of heaven.

Yeah, I know. It’s depressing. I guess it is a pet peeve of mine. “Honesty” is one of my “Seven Keys for Understanding and Working with Difficult People,” which really are “Seven Keys for Understanding and Working with People,” To me, it is that important.

Good for you. I’m sure God would agree.

So, next time should we try to wrap up this focus on “sin?” If I may, being the Devil and all, here’s another quote from the Catholic Catechism. [Remember, BEWARE! I can quote scripture and the like for my own ends.] But I think it will give us a starting point for further discussion:

There are a great many kinds of sins. Scripture provides several lists of them.       The Letter to the Galatians contrasts the works of the flesh with the fruit of the            Spirit: “Now the works of the flesh are plain: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, factions,            envy, drunkenness, carousing, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before,             that those who do such things shall not inherit the Kingdom of God.”

Sins can be distinguished according to their objects, as can every human act; or             according to the virtues they oppose, by excess or defect; or according to the   commandments they violate. They can also be classed according to whether          they concern God, neighbor, or oneself; they can be divided into spiritual and    carnal sins, or again as sins in thought, word, deed, or omission. The root of sin       is in the heart of man, in his free will, according to the teaching of the Lord: “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false             witness, slander. These are what defile a man.” But in the heart also resides        charity, the source of the good and pure works, which sin wounds.

Wow! That sets some things on the line — a few we’ve talked about and around; many more we haven’t. And there are alot of other religions. I would imagine they have their own way of defining and discussing such.

They do.

We’re never going to get through all of this, are we?

The goal is more to get a feel for what sin is — then we can make sense of the bottom line.

I used to use that phrase alot; now I’m not sure there is one.

We’ll get as close as we can. The rest will be up to each person’s belief’s.

“The root of sin is in the heart of man, in his free will…”

That says a great deal, you know.

Yes, it does.


Joe Koob

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A Dialogue with Mephistopheles III

People are wondering why I am writing this. It’s a good question. I think that over the years, especially as I am aging, I have become frustrated with the state of things. Things ARE “going to hell in a hand-basket”: Terrorists, fanatics, scams, hackers, people hurting other people because of race, religion, creed, color, money, or just for the hell of it… It’s a mess out there. And if your work is “Understanding and Working with Difficult People,” you see your fair share of crap along the way.

This is, maybe, about the nature of evil. Mephistopheles (or any other devilish character that takes on the embodiment of evil) sees things, has to see things, from a different perspective. Perhaps, if we consider that, we can make a bit more sense out of “right and wrong,” and out of this mess of a world we find ourselves struggling with/in.

There IS a great deal of truth and goodness out there. I know that; and I try to emphasize such things in my life. But I also want to make a difference. Maybe this dialogue will, in a convoluted sort of way, make a difference. Take the ride with me and let’s see if we can come up with some answers. I can always say, “The Devil made me do it.”

P.S. Humor is one way we can gain another perspective on things, too. Hope you don’t mind how that seems to flit in and out of this discussion.

P.P.S. I always appreciate constructive input, ideas, thoughts, etc. If you would like to add to the current discussion — which is about “sin,” feel free to weigh in. FYI rude, nasty, ill-conceived and ill-purposed comments are not appreciated and will be erased. Let me know what you consider” sins” that perhaps humanity oft overlooks. I think it is really worth taking a look at such things in some depth, because there really seems to be a wide range of opinion about this very topic. No matter your religion, creed, or beliefs — how do you look at sin? How do you define it and how do you feel about it? Right now this discussion is centered on sin as defined as: “unjustifiable injury or harm to others.” I’m open to other perspectives and ideas as well. I imagine we can get Bub to weigh in too. Looking forward to hearing from YOU!

 A Dialogue with Mephistopheles III


Geez. You’re going to scare the hell out of me one of these days popping into my head that way. It’s a helluva way to communicate.

Get’s your attention! And you for two bad Hades puns in right off the bat.

Might as well cover the bases. I guess it’s your turn to lay a sin down.

Scary how many there are actually. Humans have taken sin to a whole new stratosphere. I’ve been busy as hell.

Cute. Okay, I deserved that one. Remember, our starting premise is that sin is “unjustifiable injury or harm to another.”

Well, we could start with the obvious, like killing.

Unjustifiable killing.


Or did God mean any kind of killing? That justifiable/unjustifiable seems to become a problem here.

We have to cross that bridge some time. Might as well do it now.

How about referring to “King James” again: I’ve seen two versions at least: “Thou shalt not kill” and “Thou shalt not murder.” “Murder” is much more specific; one would assume it refers to humans killing other humans. However, “killing” is pretty broad. I looked deeper, though, and digging a bit it seems that the Greek and Hebrew words used here refer more specifically to murder; hence, the latter version in King James is “murder.”

There’s plenty of “killing” going on, that’s for sure. And undeniably a good bit in the bible. How do you feel about this?

Well, I think it would depend on the person you asked. A vegan eschews all forms of meat and meat products. There are even people who don’t eat anything that is alive. For example, there is a scene in the movie “Notting Hill” where Hugh Grant is on a blind date and the lady says she is a fruitarian; she doesn’t eat anything that has been killed, only if it is already dead, e.g. fallen from a tree or vine, I guess:

            “We believe fruits and vegetables have feelings.”

            “So… ah… these carrots…

            “Have been murdered, yes.”

            “Poor ol’ carrots. It’s beastly.”

A little early morning humor?

People are serious about this stuff. Though, I do have to ask myself why some people avoid most meat, but eat fish. Is a fish less alive, less conscious of its own existence, so that it is okay to eat it? What about plants? Insects and worms? There’s a good bit of life out there in the real world.

So what you are saying is that there are lots of beliefs, opinions, thought on what “killing” is justifiable or not justifiable.

Look at murder itself. What is “justifiable” killing of a human being? If you go by what’s in the Bible, then wars are justifiable ways to kill. And most people believe it is okay to protect their loved ones from someone else’s violence, if not their “stuff.” “Kill or be killed,” is an oft acceptable perspective. Where do we draw the line?

Frustrating isn’t it? Now you know what I have to deal with every day — lots of conundrums in my line of work.

And you have the answer? There is a clear division line?

There is, if you believe in God, me, heaven and hell, etc.

Right and wrong?

Good and evil… Actually you just hit the nail on the head.

Right and wrong?

Yup! But that really is a long discussion. We may want to table it for the moment. Let’s get back to “sin.” We’ll get there soon enough.

So… back to wars. How would you weigh in on them as “justifiable” or not.

Depends on the reason for the war, I guess. Or, perhaps, whose side you are on. Again, it seems pretty nebulous when you start to think about it. We’re back to “right or wrong,” because evil versus good is definitely in the eyes of the beholder when it comes to war. There have been lots of religious wars… Unfortunately they seem to be more about territory, money, have and have not, and so on, rather than true beliefs. But there have been wars, seemingly, just about beliefs, as well. How do you and God view this.

It IS all about beliefs. But not necessarily religious beliefs. It’s complicated, and all of this does go back to “right and wrong.” Fundamentally, if you believe it is a sin, it is. However, let’s tackle a few more sins. The effort will pay off in a better understanding, a better foundation for further discussion. Then we can start the more in depth metaphysical dialogue.

Okay, my turn. How about taking off from “murder and killing.” What about injury, hitting, raping, cutting, shooting, maiming, any and all ways of hurting another human being. Can’t think of “justifiable” reasons for such things…

You tailed off there. I’m guessing you thought of something. Circumstances?

You got it. There always seem to be circumstances that can get in the way of absolute statements.

Any of the above where there isn’t a line?

I would have to say “rape.” Can’t think of any circumstance that would make that right.

What about a religion that condones the sacrifice of a virgin, either figuratively through rape, or in actuality, through murder?

Sorry, don’t buy that.

I’ve had followers who seem to believe such things.

Sorry, but we’re getting close to the edge for me. I would have to say they were/are wrong.

Right and wrong again. BIG issues. Patience, Joe, we’ll get there.

Well, rape is wrong! Whether you want to use the term right now or not. I would have to say that is a definite “unjustifiable” in jury to another — most often women, but it even happens to men.

I have more than a few priests and other clerics down here with me who can testify to that.

So, we have our first definitive “sin?”

I’ll say, “yes” to that, but in reality we’ve already talked about a good many “sins” based on your definition. There are other possible definitions, though. Maybe your readers can come up with a few good ones.

I would be happy to hear them. Mine was just a stab at it. Well,  guess I have to say that if you exist, you have a VERY difficult job. God, too. I feel like we’re going in circles here.

We are. But think of it more of as a spiral. We’ll get to the center eventually. It’s not as complicated as it seems right now; though people do have a great many odd ideas.

I’m not sure I would use the word, “odd.” I think I need a break at this point. Pick it up another day — maybe, start with “:right” and “wrong?”

Not quite ready for that topic yet, Joe. A bit more on sin; let’s see where that takes us. I’m afraid you really need to be spinning to get to the real foundation here. Much more to be considered.

You’re the one connecting with me; I guess I can handle it. But I’m not going to let you force me into spurious decisions just because you have ideas I don’t agree with.

Everything open. You’re free to disagree with me all you want. The Big Bopper and I argue back and forth on some of this stuff all the time. Human’s have a knack for making almost anything extremely complicated.

Tell me about it.

I will.

Best, Joe

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