In a Word ... Sin

People used talk of little else

Sin? Who ever hears about it any more? (Please, DON’T ask ‘them’ up the page. They’ll persecute us with explanations!). ‘God is dead. Marx is dead. And I don’t feel so well myself,’ said playwright Eugene Ionesco. Now he too is dead, since 1994. Where will it end?

Ionescou is described as father of the theatre of the absurd. I remember a play of that genre, ‘After Magritte’, from UCG Drama Society days when the already great actress Marie Mullen was reduced to wrestling with a tuba on a kitchen table. The things people must do for their art. Absurd.

But, back to sin. When I was younger people talked of little else. It was everywhere. There were even those who lived there. It sounded so mysterious and exotic, with a hint of the dark, that very early on I decided I too would live in sin when I grew up.

It was clear no children lived there. Indeed, and briefly, I toyed with the idea of being the first child ever to live in sin — I’ve always tended to over-reach myself — but no one would tell me where it was.

By then I was familiar with venial and mortal sins. But they were bad and very bad things you did, not a place where only adults lived. It seemed very unfair to me then that so many of the good things in life were reserved for adults only; like drinking, going to some films, or staying up at night.

I, of course, was also aware of the cardinal sins — by reputation, not experience! I refer to the seven deadly sins of pride, covetousness, lust, anger, gluttony, envy, and sloth. I cannot deny each had an attraction, even if no one then would tell me what ‘lust’ was. Still, I held fast to virtue.

But if sin was a place, it was also a person. There was Cardinal Sin from Manila. The idea that a real person could be called Cardinal Sin tickled my childish fancy. How absurd! Now, like God, Marx, and Ionescu, he too is dead. Since 2005. RIP.

So it seems we have no sinners any more, apart from that young Italian tennis player Jannik Sinner beaten by Novak Djokovic at Wimbledon last month. We can only wish him luck.

Sin, from Old English synn, for ‘moral wrongdoing.’

inaword@irishtimes.com

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is Religious Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times