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Be Like This Painting: My 2023 Holiday Message

This strange painting from 600 years ago might contain the cure to all of today’s ills.



One of my favorite art subjects in history is assuredly The Temptation of Saint Anthony. For nearly a thousand years, this theme inspired countless works of art, each providing a unique interpretation of a story that is both timeless and universal. Although Saint Anthony is mostly known in Orthodox and Catholic churches, his story is relatable to every single human on earth. And it revolves around one theme: Resisting temptation.

Saint Anthony the Great (not to be confused with other Saint Anthonys such as Anthony of Padua) was born in the year 251. He lived most of his life in Egypt until the venerable age of 105 years.

Anthony is mostly known for enduring supernatural temptation during his sojourn in the Eastern Desert of Egypt. According to Athanasius, the devil fought Anthony by afflicting him with boredom, laziness, and the phantoms of women, which he overcame through the power of prayer. There are also tales of him being attacked by demons who appeared to him in the shape of wild beasts.

These accounts of beasts, dreams, visions, demons, and earthly temptations inspired some of the most bizarre, surreal, and imaginative paintings in art history. In every case, Saint Anthony resists temptation while remaining faithful and unphased.

Here are some examples.

Saint Anthony Beaten by the Devils (1430-32) by Stefano di Giovanni. Identified by his Tau cross, the saint is beaten by fallen angels (identified by wings and horns). Despite being savagely beaten with clubs, the saint directly looks at us, completely stoic, as if saying: “This is nothing”.

In Michaelangelo’s The Torment of Saint Anthony (1488), the saint is held aloft and is beaten by ten or so devils. Once again, his face says: “Whatever”.

The Temptation of Saint Anthony (1550) by Pieter Coecke van Aelst. In this chaotic painting, the saint faces a nude woman who tempts him with alcohol in a golden cup. Behind the nude woman is her procuress (old-world pimp) who is hoping to corrupt him. Meanwhile, Saint Anthony flashes the “stay away from me, harlot” hand sign.

While I could post dozens of other paintings, there’s a specific one that has always spoken to me on a profound level.

The Temptation of Saint Anthony (1525) by Hieronymus Bosch (or one of his followers).

While, in most paintings, Saint Anthony is surrounded by complete chaos and destruction, everything is more peaceful here. Demons are still tempting him with alcohol (left) and they’re still trying to attack and torment him. However, they’re reduced to small, nearly harmless goblins. Like in other paintings, we see creatures “invading” buildings in the background (representing demons wanting to destroy his legacy) but they aren’t causing any damage. In other words, Saint Anthony is winning … just by not giving in.

Be (More) Like Him

Nearly every spiritual current in history describes resisting temptation as the main trait that distinguishes a good person from a bad person, high spiritual value compared to animalistic mediocrity. It is a struggle that every single human must deal with and, ultimately, it is what ends up defining a person – on Earth and beyond.

While this struggle is as old as time, we are living in a time of “weaponized” temptation, scientifically crafted to make us weak, unhealthy, unstable, and demoralized.

Some are constantly tempted by garbage processed foods that are purposely addictive yet destructive to their health. Others cannot help but ogle girls on social media and porn sites, to the point that they’ve become debilitated. Others are obsessed with social media likes, comments, and online validation and cannot help but constantly check on them. Others spend enormous amounts of time winning video games while losing in life. Others need to consume opioids, cocaine, and other narcotics just to make life bearable.

All of these temptations have one thing in common: They were purposely engineered to activate the reward center of the brain and to release “feel good” hormones such as dopamine. Over and over again.

None of these things are natural and all of them trick our brains into thinking we are doing something good while it’s the exact opposite. Instead of achieving great objectives through hard work, sacrifice, and delayed gratification, society trains us to seek quick and easy dopamine hits that provide temporary pleasure … followed by a nasty down … followed by the urge to seek more dopamine.This nefarious cycle is turning us into weak individuals. And that’s what they want.

Faced with these manufactured temptations, we need to be like:

Don’t give in.

Resisting temptations coming from our own brains is at the core of human existence. After fasting in the desert for forty days and forty nights, Jesus was tempted by Satan with bread. While there is nothing simpler than bread, a starving Jesus had to use every ounce of willpower to resist it.

When Jesus resisted this earthly temptation, Satan took things to a spiritual level: He offered him all of the kingdoms of the world … if he only bowed down to him.

And that’s exactly what is happening to us, right now. We are being “tempted” to bow down to evil in every way possible. Two of the biggest musical hits of this year were Sam Smith’s Unholy and Doja Cat’s Paint the Town Red. These two extremely catchy songs were all about bowing down to evil. And both of these songs were aggressively drilled into young people’s minds through elite-owned platforms such as TikTok.

The state of pop culture in 2023.

The good news is that a growing number of people are recognizing this evil mess and are actively rejecting it.

With that being said, rejecting this satanic garbage is not enough. Evil does not always present itself with horns. Let’s ponder on the following questions:

Is society pushing us towards lust, adultery, and deviant sexuality? It is pushing us towards gluttony and overindulgence? Is it pushing us towards greed and materialism? Is it pushing us towards sloth, boredom, rancor, apathy, and passivity? Is it pushing us towards wrath, anger, rage, and hatred? Is it pushing us towards envy and the desire to bring down others? Is it pushing us towards pride aka the “anti-God state” (Pride Month)?

The answer to all of these questions is a resounding “yes”. Coincidentally enough, these happen to be the Seven Deadly Sins. While the concept of deadly sins originates from Christian teachings, they do apply to every human being on the planet. When we give in to them, we become weak-willed and corrupt individuals who are subject to manipulation. And this is what they want us to be.

Faced with these temptations, we need to be like:

Don’t give in.

The best way of fixing the world is to fix ourselves. This is the first step to becoming a true Vigilant Citizen. If we don’t give in to their numerous temptations, nearly all of their power vanishes. Not only that, we become stronger physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

In 2024, we all need to be more like this painting. It’s time to take back control of our minds, bodies, and our souls. Then, we’ll be set to take back control of the world.

On this ambitious note, I’d like to thank everyone who visited and supported The Vigilant Citizen this year. I wish you a Merry Christmas, a Happy New Year and I’ll see you in 2024!




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