Monday, March 19, 2007

The Devil's Dictionary

Years ago I came across Ambrose Bierce's masterpiece of cynical thought, aptly titled "The Devil's Dictionary." If you have not had the pleasure of reading it, please follow the link or check it out of your local library. It is a wonderfully cynical look at life at the turn of the 20th Century.

Here are a few of my favorite definitions.

PAIN, n. An uncomfortable frame of mind that may have a physical
basis in something that is being done to the body, or may be purely
mental, caused by the good fortune of another.

INSURANCE, n. An ingenious modern game of chance in which the player
is permitted to enjoy the comfortable conviction that he is beating
the man who keeps the table.

JUSTICE, n. A commodity which is a more or less adulterated condition
the State sells to the citizen as a reward for his allegiance, taxes
and personal service.

About 20 years ago Chuck Moss wrote some additional, more modern definitions in the Detroit News. To the best of my memory, they were something like this

Greens, n. Ex Reds

Anti-Woman, adj. Anything any feminist dislikes

Special Interest, adj. Your Group

Public Interest, adj. My Group

I'd like to spend some time working on some modern definitions in the mold of Bierce.

For starters:

Darwinism, n. The only approved religion in science, characterized by a fervent belief in the unseen "missing links" and a fundamentalist denunciation of all who disagree with its tenets.

Obesity, n

1. A medical condition caused by excess weight, generally in excess of 20 percent more than the ideal weight for an individual as determined by medical experts.

2. The only permissible sin in the church. Characteristic of all classes of Christians, particularly preachers prone to expounding on the evils of vices other than gluttony.

There is a good thread here discussing this.

Let me hear what you have and we can add to it.

This will be fun.


Yankee in Quebec said...

Interesting definition of Darwinism. One of the most intelligent people I ever knew said that it was Darwinism, and his theories on evolution and survival of the fittest, that made him belive in God. Yes, it's true. He said that only a Supreme Being would have the intelligence, forethought and love for his creation to build in such a mechanism as evolution. To give us such a gift so that we could adapt and survive to whatever our surroundings. Couldn't it be possible that God created us with the ability to adapt an evolve? Something to think about. Why is it that we are supposed to take some parts of the Bible literally, and some parts figuratively?

Roy said...

I have read that Darwin was a Christian and did not view the two as being mutually exclusive. It is the adaptation of his theory that has created this rift. And both sides are to blame.

As to your second question, some parts of the Bible are poetry, some are hyperbole, some are history, and some are instruction. The problem comes when we try to use them in ways they were never intended. That is another discussion topic in itself. Seminary is really hitting that issue hard for me right now.

bishopman said...

If you haven't done so yet, this should be a thread on TheOOZE.

As to Darwinism. Adaptation: yes. Evolution: no. When a fly adapts it is still a fly. It doesn't become a bee. Humans adapt, but they are still human.

I would love to come up with a definition, but my creative juice are more sludge right now.

Roy said...

I tried to resurrect an old thread in the Spiritual Formation board. Feel free to chime in there as well.