Ellen of Oak Park asks,
Lin, what exactly happens when you sell your soul to the Devil?
Satan will be wearing something casual. Some pressed khaki dockers and a golf shirt from a private club that does not allow women. But he won’t tell you that. He’ll say, “Oh my golf club. Great guys. And if you can keep a secret, they don’t mind a wager.”
He’ll talk about your dreams. He’ll say, I’d love to help. If you’re desperate, he’ll say reassuringly: nothing is impossible.
And when you say, what’s your name again? He will change the subject.
He will never call it a contract. He’ll call it an agreement. Sounds less permanent. But a verbal agreement with a rep from the nether world is soulfully binding. And if you need to sign anything, he’ll have a pen. One with some heft to it. Because a man with an expensive pen is a man who needs to be trusted.
If you are a vigilant person, you may consider that any time you sign on a dotted line you can feel a bit of your soul slip away.
The devil is flexible. He’ll arrange to meet you anywhere.
Even in the middle of nowhere where two roads cross.
There are a million guitarists. You need to stand out.
Baseball fans are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice.
Have you ever wondered how many souls were collected in Chicago in November of 2016?
Hey Cub fans. If there’s a knock at the door, don’t answer it.
A formal contract with the devil. You get whatever you want. He gets something you may not even know you have. Certainly, nothing you’ve seen. He gets something that has never gotten you a raise or a compliment.
You’re a worldly person. You’ve seen who runs the most successful companies, the people who get 10 million dollar Christmas bonuses the same year they’ve decimated the work force. You’ve witnessed downsizing and cost-cutting. You’ve been told about the upside. You’ve seen the swirl of synergy suck those close to you out of reach. You’ve read memos. Sure, a sin of omission here and there, but the kings and queens of industry claim transparency. Look deep inside. What deals have they made with the most powerful? And you think maybe you don’t want transparency. You want to be able to see that there’s something still inside.
We are talking about the allure of suspended consequences. When we stub our toe in the middle of the night, the consequence of our clumsiness is immediate. When we sell our soul, nothing bad happens. In the first flush of our offering, things seem better. Over the course of time, we may even forget we made the deal.
In Conor McPherson’s play The Seafarer, the devil comes to collect the soul of a man by way of a final hand of poker. The devil knows he holds a winning hand, but somehow the presumed loser turns up his cards to find, they’ve changed to winners. How, you ask? Faith? Grace? The mercy of some unseen dealer?
I can tell you this. It’s a hell of a thing to bet on.
As for me, I work in radio so at some point I pawned my soul. Like it was a wristwatch. Someday I may get it back.
This is Lin’s Bin