Acedia


Acedia, Would I put that on my fridge.

Seldom heard of, this is actually one of the 7 Deadly Sins.  The irony of this is that of it’s actual meaning and the level of importance that we ascribe to it, is a reflection of its actual existence in us.  Acedia is the term first brought about by a monk in 1670.  It is often heard by the current name of Sloth.  The trouble is that the current version of that term is not the one used in times of old.  Current use of the term sloth would be like the animal that bears its name, that is that it is the slovenly and unmotivated person.  In the list of the 7 Deadly Sins they all seem to count as behaviors.  Wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony.  Lust and pride, of course are internal and their fulfillment is found in the actions they produce, but that can also be said of them all.  But to read them you simply gloss over the word sloth and perhaps think “indolent” or unfocused on their task.  You would be mistaken.

Acedia is a different form of malaise and is at times described as “depression”.  While there is a parallel track of common behaviors and symptoms, their actual being and their root causes are different.  Acedia can be found in today’s parlance as “whatever”.  It shows up in conversation as the flippant “but of course” attitude that is applied to things that are base and low, but also that are to be un-moving and not significant anymore.  So it is with the things like the perfidy of the church elders or the secretary or the behaviors of those in power that abuse their office.  It is the malaise of the student that has given up on their future and the business man that decides that the affairs of his offices are less fun than the affairs on his trips.  It is not the affair that I speak of, it is the “whatever” that allows it.

The idea I am looking at is found in this question: “What is it that will not move me?”  Pick a topic, and place a number there.  It is your threshold of the scar that prevents notice.  I hesitated over the word, as I was going to say pain, but it doesn’t need to get to that point, simply to get your attention.  Here is a list to begin with; books, food, movies, sermons, clothes, hotel rooms, parades, your child’s drawings.  Maybe it could be said this way, “Would I put that on my fridge?”  Why will I not care?  Perhaps you never did, and perhaps your trust has been violated now.  “America used to be…” or “The church used to do…” might be versions of acedia in someone, but perhaps there is more.

So set aside a moment and reflect about what is in your acedia folder and then you can begin to see a pattern of how things get put there.  And then perhaps too, you can see that your cynicism has that same path and perhaps they are related.  Then too, perhaps you will see that they are eating your joy and your soul is being sucked through the black hole as well.  Then you are left with the what to do questions… There is only one thing to do, of course.  Repent.  It is the only thing that will work, since acedia is one of the 7 Deadly Sins, repentance is the only solution that can work.  Lists and activity and forced smiles are all ok for a while, but will consume you in the end, and you know it in your “knower” anyway.

So what does repentance look like?  To change your mind.  Not to repair something, although the guilt ridden will want to.  Not to proclaim it to the group, although they might rejoice with you.  The way of repentance is to find Wonder, once again.  To see why that thing needs to be put on the fridge, and then to do it.  Wonder once more, as with childlike faith.  Do it for yourself, and do it for your friends.

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