Dispatches | April 10, 2007
Lust: Virtue or Vice
The few times that I’ve been called lusty, I’ve happily received it as a compliment. With a smile as gap-toothed as the Wife of Bath’s, I come by it naturally.
The word lust is formed by delicately biting down on the tongue and then slowly rolling a breathy vowel and a slithery S before snapping the air off with a T. It’s almost as nicely naughty to draw out as LO-LI-TA.
For me, the word has positive connotations — vital, active, hearty, robust — that’s until my husband put me straight when he explained the Bible’s stance on it. To my surprise, it is one of the Seven Deadly. The miracle is that I got through four years at a Christian college without learning this.
Though, I suppose, my Biblical Survey instructor Courtney Furman tried to teach me a few of the rules and regulations set forth in the good book.
One late spring afternoon while I was daydreaming in class about boating at the lake with my friends and he was droning on about The Ten Commandments, he suddenly appeared in front of my desk and said, “Miss Somerville, define covetousness for us, please.”
From behind his Coke-bottle glasses, his beady eyes twinkled. He was about to have fun at my expense.
“What?” I asked, sitting up straight.
“How many sweaters do you own?”
I carefully considered his question. I’d left several at home in storage and had brought maybe twenty to school.
“Ten,” I lied, thinking that I’d sufficiently whittled down the number. “But there are five more that I want.”
“Exactly,” he said and explained to the class that I may not know the definition, but I certainly knew the practice.
The Greek word epithymia is translated in English as both “to covet” and “to lust,” so I guess he had my number.
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