Roger Housden, Seven Sins for a Life Worth Living (New York: Harmony Books, 2005), 205pp.
Chalk one up for the marketing department. When I saw this catchy title at our public library, I took the bait. Not that I'm sorry I read the book, but I was hoping for something more substantial given the promising table of contents. The seven sins worth living for are the pleasures of enjoying the beauty of the five senses, being foolish, not knowing, not being perfect, doing nothing useful, being ordinary, and of coming home. The good news, says Housden, is that no upgrades are needed to live this way, that if we can learn to be present in the moment and to each other, "life is already enhanced enough as it is." His stated purpose reminds me of a friend's joke: "Lighten up, you'll be dead a long time."
Our readiness to follow our culture's cues leads us astray. We pride ourselves on being important, busy, and driven, developing personas that, deep down, we intuit are at best superficial and perhaps even phony. If you asked most anyone, they would agree that a new car, an in-box stuffed with hundreds of emails, or a better address do not, ultimately, provide a deep sense of satisfaction, but that's not how we live. Religion, too, comes in for heavy criticisms in Housden's view; it generates guilt and all sorts of inhibitions. In selected portions of the book Housden shares from his own life how he has developed a more centered self that honors the inner journey as much or more as the outer journey. Throughout the book he sprinkles trenchant aphorisms regarding life lived more joyfully, more playfully, more fully. "When you die," goes one piece of advice, "God and the angels will hold you accountable for all the pleasures you were allowed in life that you denied yourself." Learning to be at home in the world and with yourself is no easy task; Housden gets you started.