The coyotes are gathering. Their whines and howls echo across the hills and valleys, sounding like unruly children. It is their family interaction, the pack meeting together, reestablishing after a long night. A raven croaks, quietly, then louder, then quietly again, flying by the front of the house. Ravens tend to follow coyotes, announcing their presence at times, for reasons only they are privy to. A streak of a gone by jet streams white across the blue sky, expanding into a wispy cloud. Before I opened my eyes I heard the chatter of a squirrel awake. I do not see any about now. Only the light trill of a song bird remains. Morning for some, evening for others in this forest.

Nothing specific raised this thought, it only passed through my mind as I was transitioning, awake but not awake. A goal of the spiritual life is to overcome the vices, there being eight, and subtleties among them. We think of the pious often as being the Puritan caricature, sternly rejecting pleasure in their fight against even the hint of sin. Dark colors and austere miens come to mind. These are of course historical mistakes, the real puritans were anything but in most cases, facing the same disdain now that cultural elites still place on our own religious minded. No one wants to be reminded they are not all that matters, so they mock and bite at anyone who speaks of higher realms.

The caricature is wrong on many accounts. Those who rabidly flee from human joy in their repression of sin are no closer to real virtue than one who gets lost in the occasional vice. Avoiding vices is not virtue. It’s a negative existence. No, for the spiritual, vices are not something to be dodged or feared. They are boring. One does not engage in the various prattles of sin because they simply hold no interest anymore. The sanctified mind sees them for what they are, childish titillations of our own weak souls. Stronger souls need not pursue, seeing the sins as interesting as watching a piece of concrete. That is the mark of the advanced. Vices are boring, so of course are not temptations, because there is nothing in them anymore to seduce. The virtues, often thought of as boring themselves, are for the advanced spirituals, advanced culture, souls attuned to higher realms and able to achieve a measure of pleasure which far outweighs the intrigue of sin.

This is the work of the Spirit in us. Certainly we are to avoid sins as we can, watching our steps as we grow in wisdom. It is only when sins themselves hold no attraction, making us ask “why?” rather than “why not?”, that we’ve gone far along the road. The virtues are Shakespeare to the vices National Enquirer. Better by degrees in all forms, for those who are wise enough to understand.

As far as my own soul this morning, the point of this writing, I don’t know. This all goes together with my mood, finding temptation afoot, and realizing I’m getting bored by it. I’m not all the way along, though, for I still see the attraction of the various sins, and must fight for focus. I’m not there yet, but I’m beginning to taste of heaven. And let me tell you, it is succulent.