Thursday, January 31, 2008

Wrath versus envy

In commentary on Bliss, an anonymous but wise reader observed:
I am a recovering lawyer working at the law school where I took my degree (I am staff, not faculty). I couldn't help but think how one makes a law school more like Iceland and less like Moldova. At the end of the day overcoming envy is probably the biggest hurdle (intra and interschool envy — darn those USNWR rankings!) for a discipline/profession that worships at the altar of elitism.
(Emphasis added; misspelling of altar corrected.)

Ah, envy. Saint Paul said that the love of money is the root of all evil, I Timothy 6:10, but he didn't work in academia. Around here, envy claims that distinction. Odious faculty behavior, in some cases so extreme as to turn someone into the worst law professor in America, often if not invariably begins with envy.

A baker's dozen years ago, the movie Se7en delivered the definitive statement on the wages of all seven deadly sins: gluttony, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and wrath. As the theatrical trailer suggests, Se7en is the perfect cinematic expression of the ominous, foreboding atmosphere that pervades the envy-laden world of higher education. (Technical tip: if your browser can't play the media embedded in this paragraph, download the latest version of Apple QuickTime or watch a lower-resolution version on YouTube.)

Those of you who have seen Se7en know that movie's answer to envy. Deadly though it is in its own right, wrath has the virtue of being able to defeat envy. The dramatic conclusion to Se7en (spoiler alert!) shows how:

The upshot? If envy of others — at your own school or elsewhere — is consuming you, consider yourself forewarned. Don't piss us off. We'll get mad, and then we'll get even.


Blogger Jeff Harrison said...

Interesting that the recovering attorney sees the Iceland connection. After reading "Why Lawyers are Unhappy" (23 Cardozo L. Rev. 33
Cardozo Law Review November, 2001 by Martin E.P. Seligman, Paul R. Verkuil Terry H. Kang) my reaction too was that being a lawyer is the opposite of living in Iceland. But it would nice hear from a lawyer in Iceland to see what that is like.

1/31/2008 4:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Law is often a profession for the ambitious but undirected or risk-adverse ("I really want to create my own internet dog grooming business but am scared of failing so I will go to law school instead") In Iceland, following one's muse is encouraged and failure isn't tragic. As a result, I would guess Ice;and's lawyers are in the profession by choice and not default. Wonder if that helps a bit.

Anonymous bad speller and horrible typist

2/02/2008 9:08 AM  

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