December 17, 2017

Another Look: Depression and Delight

The Absinthe Drinker (detail), Degas

The Absinthe Drinker (detail), Degas

Note from CM: I’ve been in a funk for several weeks now. Functioning okay, but with little enthusiasm or joy. I needed to read this post I wrote back in 2012. I may need it again tomorrow, and the next day . . .

• • •

The opposite of depression is delight, being spontaneously surprised by the goodness and beauty of living. This is not something we can ever positively crank up and make happen in our lives. It is, as every saint and sage has told us, the by-product of something else. It is something that happens to us and which can never, on our own, make happen to us. As C. S. Lewis suggests in the title of his autobiography, Surprised by Joy, delight has to catch us unaware, at a place where we are not rationalizing that we are happy. The famous prayer of Francis of Assisi, with its insistence that it is only in giving that we receive, suggests the same thing.

This is what it would mean to not be depressed: Imagine yourself on some ordinary weekday, walking to your car, standing at a bus stop, cooking a meal, sitting at your desk, or doing anything else that is quite ordinary. Suddenly, for no tangible reason, you fill with a sense of the goodness and beauty and joy of just living. You feel your own life — your heart, your mind, your body, your sexuality, the people and things you are connected to — and you spontaneously fill with the exclamation: “God, it feels great to be alive!” That’s delight, that’s what it means not to be depressed.

• Ronald Rolheiser, The Holy Longing: The Search for a Christian Spirituality

Ron Rolheiser suggests that the default position for many of us in contemporary culture is “depression,” which he defines as the inability to access our inner energies in order to engage life. When we are depressed (not clinically depressed — that’s something else) we feel dead inside, or at least lethargic. There is a dimness or dullness of spirit that deflates us. We are right to see this as a spiritual problem — it is traditionally recognized as the deadly sin of acedia: a state of restlessness or listlessness that keeps us from our work or prayer, or at least from finding joy in them. We can’t find the energy to care.

The American approach to overcoming such spiritual problems is typically direct and technological in nature. I identify an area of sin or weakness, a habit or fault that I imagine hinders my relationship with God or others, something that displeases God or keeps me from being effective in his service. I develop strategies for conquering this problem, and then seek and make use of proper tools to win the battle. This is the (inadequate) Christian practice of “sin management” that Dallas Willard and others write about.

Life becomes a project. A self-improvement project. Or, in more Christian terms, a “sanctification” project.

I understand the attraction of this kind of methodology. It is logical and consistent with the way people approach work and many aspects of life in modern society. It is easy to understand and communicate. It is practical and satisfies our common sense realism about dealing with life and its problems.

And in the final analysis, it is all up to you and me to accomplish — with God’s help and blessing, of course.

Sulking (detail), Degas

Sulking (detail), Degas

However, Ronald Rolheiser puts his finger on something we forget. God rarely signs on to our projects. While we are diagnosing, strategizing, and implementing solutions for our lives, he’s smiling. He has something entirely different in mind.

When we first moved to Indianapolis twenty years ago, we lived in a rental house. I offered to do some painting for our landlord in exchange for rent, and he agreed. So I went to work, painting the house and garage. When I got to the back of the garage, I thought it would be fun to let my little preschool boy “help.” I poured some paint in a bucket, put a brush in his hand, and let him have at it. Oh, that was fun! Paint everywhere! Of course, I had a lot of clean up and touching up to do later, but I wouldn’t trade anything for those hours “painting” with my little boy. It was, as Rolheiser says, delightful.

I sometimes think that all my work for God, all my sin management projects, all my attempts at improving myself and overcoming things like the “depression” Ron Rolheiser speaks of are like my young son trying to paint the back of the garage. I really have no idea what I’m doing and even when I understand what God is telling me to do, I don’t have the spiritual coordination to pull it off.

What I hadn’t counted on, however, was my Father’s smile and the delight in his eyes. I never knew it could feel so good to be such an utter mess — with him. There I stand, covered in paint, having completely botched the job, yet never closer to him, never more filled with joy.

It’s not up to me after all.

Joy breaks through.

Delight descends.

Suddenly, in the middle of my ordinary day — the laughter of God.

Comments

  1. CM, I’m so sympathize with your state of emotions lately. You are not alone…

  2. A dear friend once described watching a Special Olympics basketball game and realizing that that is what we look like to God. He watches us with love, just as the parents watch their children participating as best they can, and enjoying it.

    When God seems absent, and I can’t see him, I have learned to think of Him the way a parent might stand behind a toddler, letting him try new things “on his own” but being there to catch him if he truly is in danger. As the child turns around, the parent may dart away in order to stay out of sight, rearranging things on one side or another while the child isn’t looking. Sometimes the child can pick up on clues, and occasionally even catch the parent doing this. This is what I think about to keep from feeling abandoned: I look for the clues.

  3. Sometimes I feel stabs of guilt that joy and delight come so easily to me, whereas they don’t seem to for other people. I wish I could just package up what I’ve been given and hand it out to them.

    The closest I can get is by sitting and talking with them and dragging them into my world for a little while, but then all they get is the moment when what you need is really an internal fountain.

    If you ever need that moment, though, Chap – you could call me. You know where to find me.

    • Jazziscoolithink says:

      I think it’s great that you find yourself in a stage of life in which joy comes easily for you–in which you think you have an internal fountain others don’t have. And I hope it lasts for you. But it probably won’t. That doesn’t seem to be the way God (or life) works. Attempting to drag him into their world is what Job’s friends did to no avail. Listening to and sharing the pain is better. But I guess some people can’t handle that.

      • While some of what you say is true, you could’ve worded it to be less scolding and condescending.

        And it’s also true that we are to bring some light to those in darkness, so…

        Bravo, Tokah, for your attempts to help people during their bouts of depression.

        • Adam Tauno Williams says:

          +1

          Too often, to avoid any sense of Polly Anna, the reverse happens that anyone with hope, joy, or any kind of Positive is scolded for expressing such. Bah, just wait, you’ll be miserable later…. There is a space between acknowledging despair and pain – and embracing it.

          • Jazziscoolithink says:

            It wasn’t out of a desire to avoid Pollyanna that I wrote what I did. Your simplistic compartmentalizations of people may help you make sense of the world, but know they don’t do justice to real people.

        • Jazziscoolithink says:

          True, Rick. I should have written the above comment more carefully. And I didn’t want to give the impression that bringing light to those in darkness should be avoided. It’s just that many attempts to bring light end up making the darkness even worse, exacerbating the alienation. Not everyone has experienced the added pain of a careless onslaught of legalistic “joy of the Lord” when in deep pain. My apologies for reading that into Tokah’s comment.

          • Rick Ro. says:

            I could tell it was a sensitive subject to you. Thanks for understanding the potential harm in how it was stated. Peace, jazz!

      • Wow, Jazz, I don’t know where you got that impression. Listening is exactly how you bring someone into your oasis for a while. The rest of your unspoken assumptions are so wrong I don’t know where to begin.

        Let’s just say that most people who watch me sitting with someone would assume I’m Job, not his friends.

        • Rick Ro. says:

          Yes, Tokah! Well said.

        • Jazziscoolithink says:

          The impression I got came from the words you wrote. I didn’t intend my comment to be condescending or scolding, and (apparently) you didn’t intend yours to be trite and normalizing of your experience at the expense of others’. Tone is a tricky thing to get across in text, and I haven’t figured it out.

          Sorry I read into your words my experience in which I heard almost exactly what you wrote, but in a way that made light of my depression without that person having listened to anything I was going through. I don’t know you, and I hope (and trust) you would never do something so callous. Trust me, it does far more harm than good.

          • Jazz, I actually really appreciated your comment. I take for granted sometimes the reputation I have in a very specific set of circles, and also that people on the internet don’t see me sitting in my wheelchair next to my hubby with Major Depression.

            Joy can by no means be legalistic, and it is only shared by also sharing in the grief of the person you are speaking with. If they aren’t still on your mind and reflexively in your prayers after talking to them, you probably didn’t do it right.

          • Jazziscoolithink says:

            Thanks, Tokah. I completely agree. Sorry, again, for reading you wrong.

      • Danielle says:

        Jazz, I understand your reservation — I’m sure we’ve all seen or been in situations where someone is struggling, and rather than being supported, somebody else tries dumping a script for how they should feel on them. Why are you unhappy; I’m happy! Jesus wants us to be happy!

        I have to say, though, speaking entirely personally … which admittedly requires me to jump from the topic at hand, listlessness, to my proclivity toward despair or anxiety, which may well be another animal … that getting “dragged into” someone else’s world sounds fantastic. It’s possible for fellowship to run either of two directions: just as it’s a great help to me if you commiserate with me, its also comforting to be let into someone else’s experiences. It’s a form of hospitality, in a way, and it makes the limitations of my own experience less constricting because it allows me access to the wider life of the community. Even when I can’t really access it, knowing that other people are happy is itself a happy thought – and it can be reassuring to know that someone else can see still see the stars, even if I can’t. This means there’s a chance they are actually there, and that my experiences don’t define reality. Even a book that merely shares the person’s experiences isn’t a bad escape.

        I guess it’s a small thing, but small things like being able to recall what has given me delight or hope, or things other people have said, provides something to put my hand on, to try and steady myself.

        • Danielle says:

          Also, I think it’s the “sitting and talking” that makes the difference; this is very different from throwing a pep talk or self-help book at someone and then running away.

          • Danielle says:

            This should be attached to another comment that is in moderation.

          • My “sitting and talking” is probably even more long term than most. There is one woman who I “met” six years ago, and we’re still walking through her illness together.

  4. CM, as I started reading this I thought, hey, he’s talking about acedia, and then you named it, thank you. It really doesn’t help to talk about something called depression but not clinical depression, tho it is often done. At the same time, most people have never heard of acedia. There is understandable confusion. What are we talking about here? How is defined? How is it to be understood?

    I recently finished reading Acedia & Me by Kathleen Norris. She investigated, researched, and explored both thousands of years of thought on this subject as well as her own inner struggles. If anyone could pull all this together and present it in terms most people could grasp, it would be her. When I finished the book I realized that I still had little idea just what acedia is, but I can recognize it in myself. It is most helpful to distinguish it from depression, which is often part of the syndrome and which I have dealt with, now I realize, for most of my life.

    I say if anyone could present the concept of acedia meaningfully it would be Norris, but at the same time her book has only served as an introduction and leaves much to be done. I don’t know anyone better qualified to press on than you, and I hope you will do so. I’m taking it that this is not just a bump in the road for you, but something ongoing. I know that it is for me, and that right now I can see this unfolding as something I will be working out for the rest of my life.

    So I encourage you to share whatever you have learned and whatever paths appear promising to you. For myself, I see contemplation and centering prayer as the best and most effective means of overcoming, but this as well is a lifetime project and discipline. At the end of Norris’s book she lists many pages of quotes from an astounding variety of people who have commented on acedia, named as such or not. On finishing, I realized I still didn’t understand just exactly what this is, nor apparently did anyone else. I expect I will have to read this book again after I have had a lot more time to think about it.

    I wouldn’t wish acedia on anyone, but at the same time I’m glad you seem to be dealing with it because maybe some progress beyond Norris’s book can be made in these pages. Please know that you have at least one intensely interested participant. I hope this is not a passing issue of little concern to others.

    • Good book. Maybe we’ll revisit it soon.

    • Fascinating!

      I was with my counselor once when she asked me to draw a line designating my shifts in mood. I drew a line across the center of the white board to designate “average” and then drew a wavy line for myself that would loop below average for a bit, then come up over average just a little, then loop back down. In other words, usually below average with periodic highs.

      She then drew what SHE perceived me to be, which was a wavy line ALWAYS below average, sometime approaching average, but never getting out of a “depressed” state.

      It was a revelation.

    • Acedia & Me-one of my all time favorite books. I’ve given more copies than I can count to people. Great, great book!

  5. How timely. I’ve been in a funk not just for a couple of weeks but it seems like most of my life. It comes and goes–some days I’m joyous, other days I can’t seem to focus on anything but my failures. I’ve almost come to accept it as just who I am but then I read Tokah’s comment and think, no, this isn’t normal and, what’s more, it’s not who God created us to be nor what He wishes for us.

    I can’t help but think some of it is because of image of God that is presented as one who is displeased with me and the only thing keeping His wrath away is Jesus. I’m learning that this is not the case but it is apparently deeply ingrained so that I have to battle against it constantly. It is comforting that it seems the Spirit is coming to my aid; I’ve been re-reading “The Return of the Prodigal Son” by Henri Nouwen in small doses for my devotional time and read this today:

    “God is not the patriarch who stays home, doesn’t move, and expects his children to come to him, apologize for their aberrant behavior, beg for forgiveness, and promise to do better. To the contrary, he leaves the house, ignoring his dignity by running toward them, pays no heed to apologies and promises of change, and brings them to the table richly prepared for them.

    I am beginning now to see how radically the character of my spiritual journey will change when I no longer think of God as hiding out and making it as difficult as possible for me to find him, but, instead, as the one who is looking for me while I am doing the hiding. When I look through God’s eyes at my lost self and discover God’s joy at my coming home, then my life may become less anguished and more trusting.”

    I think it no coincidence that I read that this morning nor that you posted on this very topic today. May all of us who struggle against acedia know the peace, the comfort, the grace, and the love of God through Jesus Christ.

    • Amen, Scott. I loved Nouwen’s take on the story of the prodigal and am glad to be reminded of it. And Mike, I pray that there would be some lightening of the cloud cover.

    • Danielle says:

      “I can’t help but think some of it is because of image of God that is presented as one who is displeased with me and the only thing keeping His wrath away is Jesus. I’m learning that this is not the case but it is apparently deeply ingrained so that I have to battle against it constantly.”

      Truth.

  6. I am kept so busy with my job that I am usually not aware at all about the blues. My wife can pick up on it because I may not feel melancholy but I can get grouchy with people close to me.

    Last week though I was on vacation at the beach with the family and finally had a chance to slow down. A series of small interactions really got me thinking about my moving into a new phase of life. Issues like body isn’t once what it was, older kids moving past me in so many ways (a great thing and one of my goals to have them be a better person than me but still points to me getting older), possibility of going through loss of a job/career (actually seeing someone to help prepare for that transition) really put me in a funk early in that week. My wife kind of laughed, not to be mean, but to say ‘ so you are finally feeling again, now you can process a little bit’. The blues are mostly alien to me although they were a big part of my life when I was young. But as I slow down its good to read stuff written here…. by the way, what got me out of my funk were my kids, being surrounded by so many and so much love really helps me step out of my black space….

    • Rick Ro. says:

      Radagast, I just mentioned this in a comment below, but take a look at John Ortberg’s “When the Game is Over It all Goes Back in the Box”. He talks a lot about the slowing down and trying to focus on the eternal (family, lives) and let go the temporary (focus on work). Good book. Some good insights.

  7. Ronald Avra says:

    I very recently had a major failure with an issue, which has been a significant impediment in my life and relationships for some time, and for which I have been in professional counseling and support groups for several years. After the failure, which has serious ramifications, I went down the list of coping mechanisms and tools that I have acquired over the years in order to deal with the problem. I failed to employ any of them in dealing with the event in progress. Knowledge and familiarity with the evil cannot guarantee success over our demons. While God’s is faithful in his grace, he does not always resolve events in a manner that presents itself as immediately comfortable to us. I have considered my struggle to be in some measure a “sanctification” project and my acquaintances clearly have the attitude that I should just ‘deal with the problem’, once and for all. The inability to conquer this demon has led my peers to have understandably tentative relationships with me, although at this point, I’m not certain to be thrown from the ship. I’m definitely done with “sanctification” projects, and even though I can find moments of joy throughout my day, I can readily identify with those who struggle and find that clouds generally fill their skies. My apologies; the foregoing wanders badly.

    • Rick Ro. says:

      Peace to you, Ronald. Indeed, Jesus is not a magic wand who instantly makes our earthly pains and issues go away. Sanctification and holiness seem to be processes, processes which we can sometimes aid but most often just need happen through God and Jesus and Holy Spirit, and which will only be fulfilled upon our death.

  8. David Cornwell says:

    As I get older I’ve noticed some of the things that affect my moods and feelings. Some of them have to do with age, but if I look back, I think they have been significant throughout my life. They have to do with very physical aspects of living in this body that God gave us and on this earth on which we exist.

    One has to do with the weather. Gloomy days that last for any period of time always have negative effects. Dimness of light and lack of sun are part of this. Bad winter weather always pushes me down, especially if I can’t get outdoors as often or as much. And over the years I’ve noticed that my body reacts to the barometric pressure systems that are in play at the time. Aches and pains always are present when a high pressure system is dominant, or the pressure is rising. Migraines come with high wind at times, or a rainy front. All these things can be depressing.

    Related to this is not being able to get outdoors to exercise or enjoy nature. I love to walk, to visit parks, and to ply my attempted talents at photography. These times are also for meditation, prayer, and giving thanks to God.

    Normal worries about family take a toll. It’s hard not to feel down if one of your children or grandchildren are in difficulty. Also the chronic sickness or the affects of age on a spouse. I’m not a “praise the Lord anyway” type of person.

    If I do not get enough sleep, I’m a terrible grouch. Even if I try not to be.

    I’ve noticed a big change in my physical and emotional well being when I lost weight. I feel better and do not hurt as much. Same with Marge. And the same with getting enough exercise.

    Being worried about a physical condition can easily weigh one down.

    And– when things do not pan out the way I planned: Beware!

    I could probably go on and on. But most of these do not have to do with sin. They are related to our normal human physical and earthly life. They are built in. We have to learn how to cope. And the coping will probably involve a combination of the physical, mental, and spiritual. Not recognising them can lead to sin at times.

    I do not say any of this to belittle any persons’ conditions or problems. But just for an awareness of where the common garden variety of human discomfort, negativism, and depression can come into our lives.

    • Rick Ro. says:

      Coincidentally, I’m reading John Ortberg’s “When The Game Is Over It all Goes Back in the Box” and he talks about the temporary and the eternal. Our goals and focus are often with temporary things – like aging bodies.

      I recommend the book. Some really good insights.

      • I’m reading “Soul Keeper” by Ortberg right now, and it will probably make my top 3 list of (very accessible) book recommendations about the spiritual life.

        I think I’ve always had an aversion to Ortberg because of what I perceived to be cheesy/Christianese book titles. Boy was I wrong. This guy gets it. A fantastic combination of mystical, clinical, and blue-collar perspective.

        • Rick Ro. says:

          I agree with you about Ortberg. I’ve been in avoidance mode. My dad loved “When the Game is Over…” and handed me a copy. At first I thought it would be a pretty hokey book built around a cheesy analogy, but it actually works well in illuminating the difference between chasing the temporary and chasing the eternal. I’m finding it very accessible and full of good insights.

  9. Christiane says:

    SNOOPY:
    “My life has no purpose, no direction, no aim, no meaning, and yet, I’m happy.
    I can’t figure it out. What am I doing right?”
    (Charles Schultz)

    I have thought about this, that we can take ourselves TOO seriously when we lose the ‘bigger picture’ and begin to take the ‘little things’ for granted. Somewhere between not appreciating the night-time stars and not feeling wonder at the tiniest forms of life itself, we can get lose our way. Coming ‘away’ from the craziness, and finding solitude can be one way of rediscovery of joy. Taking time out. Unloading the unnecessary. Foregoing the excess. Finding simplicity. Being still.

  10. I am going to be the odd one out here and equate acedia with either mild/moderate depression (reactive; could also be related to grieving or sadness in general) or, as someone just above said, related to physical problems (including illness, chronic pain, lack of sleep, Seasonal Affective Disorder, etc.).

    A lot of science and health writers have made the case for us being a sleep-deprived nation, and I think this is largely true. Many of us face things like SAD, or grief, or chronic pain and the fatigue that is an inevitable result (and on and on). For myself, because I fit into the SAD/chronic pain/fatigue conundrum, and also because of the deaths of many close to me over the past 10 years+, I have to say that if I looked at these issues via the acedia template, I would be a real mess. But I have been learning to discard that kind of thinking and cut myself a break – and I would encourage others to do the same.

    Fwiw, there is a real thing that starts happening to me about mid-July, when the days begin to get noticeably shorter. I know that I need to step up my time in front of the SAD therapy light box (which I use all year, just more in the fall, winter and early spring). I also know that when I’m in pain, it is hard to feel joy. However, on days when I am largely pain-free and rested, I often feel joy welling up for no particular reason, and it’s lovely. (This didn’t start happening until after I began to use a light box, back in 2008 – before then, my seasonal depression was a real player for most of the year. Still is, but *far* less so than in the past.)

    I think heat and humidity and oppressive weather of any kind can make a person feel sapped, and as we grow older , we’re more prone to it, due to our bodies’ slowing down and parts not working as well plus whatever other medical conditions we develop plus, well – life itself.

    Anyway, I think it is a good thing to think about causes other than spiritual when experiencing malaise. Might well be a passing thing, might be evidence of untreated (or undertreated) depression and/or other physical problems/conditions.

    Just something to reflect on.

    • Numo, I agree with much of what you have to say about physical and environmental causes for depression, David Cornwell is right about this too. I can feel the annual middle of August low coming up fast, tho it is not as intense for me as the middle of February. Another factor not being mentioned is diet and nutrition. All these things matter, make a difference that can be measured in brain chemistry, and medication to change that chemistry is another way of dealing with it for some.

      All of this is real, and yet I am recognizing something similar but different in my growing acquaintance with the concept of acedia. It has been referred to as the noontime demon, which is probably offputting to modern ears, but we speak of dealing with our demons without blinking. It was recognized by the desert mothers and fathers as something that hit in the daytime rather than the usual trials that tend to intensify with the night. I have started noticing the paralysis of will in getting things done that starts late morning when I should be getting busy with all that needs doing and is weighing me down not getting done.

      Also offputting is the concept of acedia as a sin, tho it was once considered at the top of the then eight deadly sins and a cause of the others. This is bothersome because it is not something we might do like stealing or lying or attacking someone, it is something that is seemingly done to us. I think of the liturgy in which we confess the things that we have done and the things we have left undone.

      None of this is meant to discount what you have to say. At this point in my studies it would seem that acedia often accompanies or includes or even causes depression, but is separate from it. We can learn to deal with depression in ways that you mention and otherwise, ways that work. I’m not so sure that acedia is subject to those same tactics. It may indeed be more of a spiritual affliction needing spiritual measures to counter, I don’t know. But I’m listening to what two thousand years of folks dealing with it have to say, and thinking that this might be the time when there is a real breakthru in understanding.

      • Charles, i agree about diet, etc., but feel somewhat suspicious about accepting monastic accounts of acedia at face value. That’s partly because a lot of these people were hermits, partly because some of the things ghey describe sound like both reactions to that kind of extreme solitude + hypomania, and partly because they didn’t have anything close to contemporary concepts of mental illness. I don’t think they were inaccurate in their descriptions of real things, nor that we have much more understanding than they do, but i have read vety early descriptions of acedia that sound like the writers were describing anxiety attacks, hypomania and the like.

        Frankly, if i had yo live in a hermitage, with no books, making baskets that were not put to use but iltimately destroyed to show that human endeavor is futile (some of the desert monastics actually did this!), i think I’d got slightly nuts in a very short period of time, or else become too depressed to care, or maybe both.

        I think it’s important to understand that there were a lot of crazy things being done at the time by would-be monastics, like living on pillars or suspended in nets and the like. Check St. Simeon Stylites, who wss one of many who lived on a pillar. Once the asetic impulse got into xtianity, some *very* weirdthings (imo, prfoundly unhealthy) started happening. Personally, i have to take all the desert fathers/mothers matetial with a grain of salt.

        • The desert fathers (and mothers, though their voices seem to be few in the literature) and the early monastics saw themselves as continuing in the way of the martyrs after the age of the martyrs. Some of the craziness of early monastics and ascetics seems directly related to the craziness of some martyrs as depicted in the legends surrounding them.

          The account of the martyr Perpetua, for instance, exhibits a pathological streak that’s truly disturbing. When in that story the Roman soldier balks at taking her life, and she helps him by guiding his sword to her chest with her hands and encouraging him to do as ordered, it’s hard not to see exhibited in that action a real contempt, not of death (as the hagiography would have it), but of life itself. She avidly participates in her own death, and even goes to the very threshold of self-destruction, to say nothing of assisting, and colluding with, her executioner in committing a morally heinous act, an act which corrupts him even as it gives her over to the realization of her religious rapture. So I think the psychologically unbalanced character that was sometimes exhibited by the first monastics was not introduced by them, but was a continuation by other means of that same tendency as depicted in the hagiography of some of the martyrs.

          • A lot of the hagiography was both written (and embellished) later on, though, as you are probably aware. And by no means is all of it factual.

            Whichever way you look at it, there were many strange things afoot.

          • Robert F says:

            Yes, I fake for granted the fanciful embellishment of both the hagiography of the martyrs (and saints), and that of the early monastics and hermits. But that Christians from an early time would hold in honor as worthy of emulation these embellished accounts is itself disturbing, however loosely the accounts hold to the facts of the events. Some of these honored embellished accounts, like that of Perpetua, exhibit a hatred for life that edges over into the pathological; that pathological tendency has continued as an undercurrent throughout Christian history and, sometimes has surfaced with horrific results.

          • Robert F says:

            Yes, I TAKE for granted…

    • Rick Ro. says:

      numo, I had an interesting experience with a SAD light box that convinced me of the validity of its affect. One dreary Seattle afternoon – dark gray and rainy – I turned the light box on and began playing Legos on the floor with my daughter. About fifteen minutes later, with my back to the light box (and to the window to the outside), I noticed shadows on the floor as if being cast by sunlight coming in through the window. I said, “Hey, the sun’s come out.” But when I turned around to look out the window, it was still dreary, dark gray. The light box illumination was exactly like sunlight and brought me some joy. I LOVE the affect the light has!

      • I live in a mountainous area in one of the mid-Atlantic states, and find that i use my light box for much longer periods of time per day during winters when we don’t have much snow. The reflected light from snow really makes things significantly brighter, even when it’s cloudy. We tend to have cool, rainy springs here, so i don’t start cutting back much (per amount of time i am in front of the box per day) until late April, even early May sometimes. During the winter, i usually have it on for 1 & 1/2-2 hrs. / day, depending on sunlight, overcast, snow, etc.

  11. Robert F says:

    CM,
    Here’s a song that might lift your spirits, if for a moment. Perhaps you’ve heard it?

    Christ in Me Arise:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aO6TAHD2Rxs

  12. CM–i get this. Depression is something i’ve battled on and off since my college years in the 1980’s. But in recent years was much more powerful and oppressing…counseling was what it took to climb out of that abyss.
    But: here’s my point…last November, i crawled in to bed one night, and….i started smiling–and i couldn’t stop. no reason for it, nothing had happened, no epiphany, no major event–i felt joy. and i told myself, oh! this is what it feels like to be happy! it was truly revelatory.
    Not too many people will understand/relate to this, i know that.
    Just want you to know you aren’t alone. it’s a journey….and there’s no ‘recovery’ but there’s hope!!!

    • On the contrary – i think a lot of other folks will undrrstand what you’ve written about. And you’re right; it’s not religious.

  13. oh, yeah, it’s not a spiritual thing….
    there’s baggage, sure, but it’s not sin.

  14. Numo, I agree with you on your take of the extremes of religious endeavor, but at the same time the monastic and hermetic tradition has kept alive the knowledge and practice of union with God when it was lost or even opposed in the formal, institutional church. I realize that mystical experience is considered wacky by many and probably always has been, but there is a very big blossoming of this knowledge going on in the church as we speak, perhaps bigger than it has ever been. Without those folks all along the way who wrote down their own take on what it means to become One with God, it would likely be considered an aberration today far more than it already is. And yes, I wonder if some of the accounts might not be describing an underactive thyroid or chemical or hormonal imbalance or some such. Still want to get a better understanding of just what acedia may be, as distinct from depression, which I pretty much understand, or at least far better than I used to.

    I get my light in the winter and darker times with the FeelBrightLight, a visor with LED bulbs in the brim directed down into your eyes. Works for me. To a large extent you can wear it while reading or working at the computer or moving around doing things, but it looks weird to others. Has a rechargeable battery to run it and the bulbs have a greenish cast which supposedly is more effective. Not to forget vitamins and minerals and various supplements which I find essential to maintaining balance.

    • Rick Ro. says:

      “…but it looks weird to others.”

      The image I have is of Geordi from ST:NG…LOL.

  15. Whatever we call it, acedia, depression, funk, the Black Dog, don’t let anybody call it Sloth. That’s considered a sin, and calling it that can be a way of blaming the victim.

    I’m praying for you, Mike. I spend a lot of time, especially in winter and spring, trying to keep the Black Dog away.