Spirituality for Today – February 2009 – Volume 13, Issue 7

The Devil's Egg

By Rev. Raymond Petrucci

A gang of local villagers take their place standing in the murky waters of a diamond mine in Sierra Leone. Hour by hour they swish a watery mud in their metal pans. Occasionally, the dirty soup yields the glitter of the gem that they seek. The miners are ignorant of the true value of the shiny objects in their possession, but they are keenly aware of the obsessive drive of their employers to obtain the mud-smeared rocks. The relentless toiling of these men provides a daily wage of only three dollars; a sum that hardly can cure the poverty of their daily lives. Yet with the dawn they come and labor and survive. It is no wonder that they call the diamond the "Devil's Egg."

One cannot escape thinking of those villagers a continent away when encountering the gems of their sweaty work now resplendent in the intense brightness of a jeweler's display case. The effects of many hands brought that soiled rock to the sparkling magnificence of an expertly cut and polished diamond. How pleasing it would be to God if humane efforts would make less grim the diamond's entrance into the market place and, thus, making more beautiful the end product. Reflecting on the purpose of this season of Lent, the journey of the diamond and the journey of the soul may invite comparison.

A tight photo of a diamond

The impact made on the lives of the people of any nation by both native and foreign corporations bears the soul of their motives. Is it reasonable that these entities can construct and maintain a code of ethics beneficial to all concerned? Isn't the work to be performed worth a living wage? Even if the economy primarily is not money based, could not a package of goods and services be created? Would it be so onerous to the stockholders if quarterly profits were just a bit lower for the sake of enacting morally responsible corporate policies? Could a way be found to put pressure on corrupt government leaders to amend their ways?

I have lived long enough and have experienced enough of human nature to appreciate the complexities of implementing such a vision; but decisions are made by people and there are people of faith, values, and perseverance that can be found in every society. Indeed, the search for such individuals may find its greatest success when self-directed. The attention paid to the God-centered nurturing of the core of one's being will be revealed in the fruitfulness of one's living. Perseverance in the pursuit of moral excellence yields benefactions reaching far beyond one's personal experiences. One must not allow the often polluted pools of human circumstance that the soul must wade through to dampen the soul's resolve. After all, isn't Lent a striving to go from a lower to a higher place?

Perseverance in the pursuit of moral excellence yields benefactions reaching far beyond one's personal experiences.

In his book In Europe – Travels through the Twentieth Century, the journalist and historian Geert Mak speaks of the deposed German emperor Kaiser Wilhelm II and the lack of remorse he exhibited over the ravages inflicted on Europe and Germany as a result of World War I: "He read everything he could about politics and psychology, and preached to his visitors, but he himself was incapable of extracting any learning from that knowledge and experience of others. He would simply change the facts to fit the world of his imagination." The world view of the Kaiser evokes a remark of Saint Augustine about achieving holiness through first undeceiving ourselves. The world is full of people possessing the ability of skillfully uncovering the sins of others while blissfully remaining unaware of their own. To a greater or lesser degree, I think we all fall under that verdict.

Inherent in this unfortunate tendency is the temptation to close the blinds on one's own conscience in favor of an overarching presumption of righteousness and to bang the gavel in condemnatory judgment on the viewpoints of those nonaligned to one's own positions. The processes of open dialogue and mutual understanding turn gangrenous. The fluent forces of constructive sharing atrophy. In Shakespaere, The Thinker by A. V Nuttall, the author draws a striking comparison to illustrate the pathological remorselessness of Richard III: "Christ loves the world – Richard loves Richard." Redemption for individuals or for nations presupposes the prior state of feeling a sincere contrition and of desiring a true reconciliation.

What is required is a willingness of people or of a governing body to examine unreservedly their souls. Whether considering the spiritual journey of Lent or the political journey of governments, casting aside self-deception for self-knowledge equips individuals or groups with the sharp tools necessary to whittle their characters into an appearance more pleasing to God and neighbor. The victory of justice and peace will face seemingly insurmountable obstacles in the King Richards of the world, but, even with them, one may hope to find a diamond in the rough.