Dearest Murktooth, my poppet, my pigsnie,
I am happy to charge you with the present task for your assigned patient. I am happy, because it is a rather easy task, evidence of your still remedial aptitude for temptations, which is itself evidence of your patient’s lack of growth. Your stagnation is your success, then, as it is so often in the infernal arts.
The task before you is this: stimulate discontent in your patient. This task is easy for not a few reasons, perhaps the chief of which is that you will have so much help from the sweet cacophony of messages from the surrounding culture, urgings and invitations to your patient to “Try this” and “Experience that,” to buy one and get more along with it, to flit about from promise to empty promise, to become a dilettante of the world’s conveyor belt of delights.
One of the wonders of this onslaught of advertisement is that it doesn’t just pitch products to fulfill needs, but also pitches the needs themselves. Your work, Murktooth, is not cut out for you. It is laid out like buy-in-bulk candy for an untended baby.
Tend to your braying baby, Murktooth. Tell him that he deserves things that are designed to be indulgences. Tell him to desire things he would not have thought to desire himself, and then to see these desires as non-negotiables for his own happiness.
The clearest path to cultivating discontentment in your patient is to speak to him purely in terms of his “rights.” Of course, the Enemy’s missive speaks of right most often as an adjective—right belief, right conduct, righteousness, and the like—not a noun, but you will find your patient’s inward bent susceptible and hospitable to this concept. It should not take much pressing to plant favorably in his heart the idea that he has a right to comfort, to convenience, to material goods, to whatever his appetites and inclinations place their crosshairs on.
The Enemy promises a peace that passes comprehension. Promise your patient instead a peace that passes through consumption. And more consumption. This will seem more likely to his fallen reasoning, more empowering to his fallen confidence. In this way not only will your patient be discontent in “weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities,” but in human power, flattery, comfort, accumulation, and success as well.
This letter originally appeared in the February 2011 Tabletalk, themed Letters From the Abyss.
I explore related themes in Abide.