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Guilt

05 Nov

Before class today I took my usual morning pit stop at the restroom and found something out of the ordinary lying next to the sink: an iPhone. Now it wasn’t strange in the sense that its existence confounded me greatly – in fact it’s something that nowadays is almost frighteningly ordinary – but it’s not everyday that one finds a phone lying next to the sink in some public restroom, let alone the iPhone that people seem to covet and guard so desperately. Of course my first instinct is to pick it up – I mean who wouldn’t grab what looked like a brand spanking new iPhone if it was left so temptingly unattended in a public place? I looked around to make sure that the owner wasn’t still around, and when I realized that no one was in the room, the first thought that popped into my head was this: Take it, it’s yours now. In the seconds that followed, all of the amazing possibilities of getting a free iPhone were flying through my head at lightning speed. A free iPhone? I could sell it and make money. Though if I had an iPhone for myself I could do enjoy all the stuff that people with smart phones love: convenient internet, games, apps… My joy was increasing exponentially.

But it all came to an abrupt halt as I was suddenly hit by an overwhelming feeling of guilt. Were these really my first thoughts? How many times have I heard my friends complain about having lost their phones and the trouble they went through afterwards? Was I really like that stranger that took my friend’s phone all the way to Baltimore (located through a rather neat app), never to be heard from again? It was very well within my power to find the owner of this phone, yet my first instincts were to satisfy my own desires? I feel that I try my hardest to live up to the principles that I espouse, yet in a fleeting moment I came to see that I wasn’t as principled as I would have liked to imagine, and I was left feeling so terribly ashamed of myself. I got into contact with the owner’s mother and I plan on meeting up with the guy at some point today or tomorrow, but in the meantime I’m left with a little piece of guilt tumbling around inside my pocket. Is this what human nature is really like? Those moments of intense greed, as short lived as they were, are those what lies at the heart of our supposed “humanity”?

The devil really lives somewhere inside all of us, that much is certain. And in a first-world society, he rarely declares his presence, for fear that he might bring harm to his vessel. But I think that there’s a danger to that. We spend so long suppressing our inner devils out of fear of consequence that we sometimes forget that he’s there and that he will always be there. And in those moments when it becomes really easy to be bad, when the consequences have all but disappeared, what is left to reign over him and his desires, so tempered and amplified in the shadows, but our own atrophied willpower? The rules of first-world life, as good as they are in regulating our behavior in the grand scheme, make us weak. What happens when the rules aren’t there anymore, or when we enter territory where the rules aren’t certain? What happens when little stands in the way between our starved devils, now rendered voracious, and the rest of the world? I used to think that the better part of our humanity would have survived, but now I’m not so sure.

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