There’s a reason, I think, that the idea of making a deal with the devil retains such currency, that it’s such an eternal theme. It’s a story that can be told over and over again because, no matter how many times you’ve been warned, and no matter how much your rational mind is aware that it’s a bad idea, the temptation to make a deal with the devil is always there.
Why? It’s just a question of time. When you sell your soul to get what you want — a million dollars,1 a mansion on the hill, the power to cloud men’s (or women’s) minds — you get the reward now. The bill doesn’t come due until later, and the person who has to pay it won’t be you, it will be some future version of you. The main thing is that you get what you want and get it right away; dealing with the consequences is future version’s problem.
This is one of those things in life that you just have to learn yourself. Your parents, friends, teachers, and clergyman can explain it to you a thousand damn times, but you just can’t understand until you experience it personally. Not literally selling your soul, of course, but trading away the future for the present.
The best metaphor I can think of for this is the credit card. You get yourself a credit card and you can go out and have a ball. You can travel around, buy whatever you want, stand drinks for all of your friends, or for people who will become your friends if you buy them enough drinks. True, money can’t buy you love, but it can get you a severe (if temporary) case of like. You can keep this up for thirty days, and then the bill arrives.
If you want, you can pay the minimum and party on. But then the interest starts to snowball and you end up looking at a big nasty debt. You can ignore it for a long time if you try, years even, but eventually — unless you die, disappear, or declare bankruptcy, possibilities which, for the sake of this metaphor, we will ignore — you have to bite the bullet and pay it all back. And that, my friends, is one manifestation of hell on Earth: the long, painful process of paying for pleasure you’ve already had.
Speed is like that. By borrowing against the future, you get more life now. But sooner or later it’s going to have to be paid back, with interest. Serious interest.
1. Not many people would sell their souls for a million dollars these days. Inflation has driven the cash price of a soul sky-high.