November 18, 2017

Losing The War Part Two—Hell On The Installment Plan

 

 

acedia-brueghel1

 

This post is about the sin of acedia.  It is known by a lot of other names, none of which entirely capture or circumscribe this sin; ennui, anomie, alienation, despondency, carelessness, boredom, but the Fathers who describe it called it by its Greek name, acedia.  It is an old word. meaning literally “carelessness”.  When it came West, it got subsumed into that most comfortable of all the Seven Deadly Sins; stultia or Sloth.   But acedia is far more than just laziness or inaction.  Indeed, laziness is a symptom of acedia much more than the res in se.   A person suffering from acedia can also exhibit furious activity, but all of it without any discernable purpose.   It is also much more than simple depression, which often has a physical component and can be treated by medication, exercise, and diet.  The best definition of acedia I have yet found comes from the manual of a video game:

Accidie: rejecting life… is a Middle English word, retrieved because the usual word,   “sloth,” now only expresses a trivial laziness.  Accidie is a form of spiritual despair, a refusal of grace, a bargain with nothingness that shuts out God’s gift of the new possibility.  Usually called sloth, laziness, dejection, passive-aggressiveness, despair or spiritual depression nowadays, accidie is a spiritual listlessness or depression, a reluctance, and finally a refusal, to respond to God.

Accidie begins at the center, at our relationship with God, and it stems ultimately from a refusal to live toward God as dependent creatures made in His image. It is a passive shrinking from creative existence. The style of accidie would be to dampen down one’s inner life, living at a minimum level of mind and heart, letting thoughts and feelings die down. 

It is the ultimate in spiritual minimalism.

Accidie is a partial consent to non-being, striking a bargain with insignificance. Another way to sin by accidie is to empty out one’s self in idle worship rather than growing toward God, seeking significance in some other human being or cause or circumstance, scrabbling after a sense of self-worth. Self-abdication offers a temporary refuge both from God and from the nothingness that stalks creative life. The fruit of accidie is despair. In its terminal form it finally rejects God’s new possibility.  It rules out grace, shutting any opening to the divine life.

Accidie has its full effect when one puts oneself intentionally beyond the reach of God’s mercy. Spiritual withdrawal and depression often start with dishonest prayer, refusing to raise some issue with God, rejecting a summons, getting tired of God’s silence and walking away. It chooses to live and die on the margins of nothingness rather than launch out further into the abyss of God. It leaves the self independent from God and in control, even at the price of self-minimization. Those who strike bargain with nothingness can avoid surrender to God.

Scary words, aren’t they?  No wonder the Fathers put pride and acedia together on the same level of toxicity with lust, gluttony, greed, envy, and anger lower and less dangerous.   If pride is the unGodding of God by usurping His place, acedia is the unGodding of God by abolishing His place. Alas, there is no psychiatrist out there with a pill for acedia.

Acedia is a covenant with non-being, a descent into willed insignificance, Hell on the installment plan.  Acedia is the husband and father who has been unemployed for three years and is watching his family disintegrate while he refuses to budge from the couch where he is playing World of Warcraft.   Acedia is the jilted single woman who refuses to climb out of bed in the morning months after the breakup, not because she feels bad, she doesn’t , really, but just because she refuses to believe that the day can bring her anything worth the effort.  Acedia is that Christian yawning over his chotki, or his Rosary, or his Bible early in the morning, mumbling his prayers with no inner fire, no desire for any inner fire, no memory of there ever having been any inner fire.  Eventually, he discounts any report of an inner fire as subjectivism or fanaticism

Perhaps the finest cinematic portrayal of acedia I have ever seen is Bonjour, Tristesse, starring David Niven, Deborah Kerr and Jean Seberg from 1958.  It is a psychologically complex little movie, maybe not as psychologically complex as Salò, or 120 Days of Sodom, or Winter Light, but I’m an incorrigible middlebrow.  The story is very sparse.  Well-to-do womanizing widower Raymond (Niven) and his sexually loose sixteen year old daughter Cécile (Seberg) live together on the French Riveria.   Raymond and Cécile spend their days doing little more than drink, swim, and fornicate, which suits Cécile just fine.   Raymond, though, is having misgivings.  His life lacks the gravitas, significance, a man his age should project.  Anne (Deborah Kerr), a divorced friend of Cécile’s mother, comes into their lives.  She is a smart, competent woman, and as Raymond begins to court her earnestly, she begins to resurrect him from the living death in which he has entombed himself.  Cécile hates this and conspires with one of her father’s mistresses (they are interchangeable) to break them up.  She succeeds, and Anne commits suicide.  Father and daughter seek to escape from their guilt by submerging themselves anew in their previous hedonistic life.  Raymond’s and Cécile’s residual guilt what makes Bonjour, Tristesse a ‘fifties movie instead of a ‘nineties movie.  If I had been making the movie today, I wouldn’t have added that disgusting little sop to the prevailing morality.  I’d have had Raymond continue his gigolo ways, getting tanner and leaner and more distinguished looking until his inevitable Catholic funeral, and Cécile wildly successful as a hedge fund manager.

Most of the people with whom I have discussed this movie want to cast it in terms of Cécile’s Elektra complex, but I think it goes deeper than that.  Both Raymond and Cécile see something in Anne that they cannot abide; a chance to engage the world, to live for something more permanent than their momentary distractions.  David Niven is a great actor, and you can actually watch his Raymond exhibit surprise at himself as he moves away from his non-life with Cécile and starts to gain substance in his relationship with Anne.  The tragedy of the film is not so much that Cécile succeeds, but that Raymond wants her to succeed.  He sees what his daughter is doing, but is too morally paralyzed to take any action to prevent it.  He thinks that be not acting, he will not be judged culpable, but his inaction is an embrace of non-being.  It is pure acedia, and it is culpable, even damnable.

Chaplain Mike wrote something astounding in a post last week that hit me like a man striking a bell.  I took a few liberties with it and want to reproduce it here:

Most of my dissatisfaction is about me. I can’t stop “shoulding” on myself. I should lose weight. I should take more walks. I should  use my time better. I should order my daily life and schedule more wisely. I should pay more attention to my wife. I should have  a more disciplined prayer life. I should remember birthdays and anniversaries. I should eat healthier. I should clean up my clutter.

The list is endless.

I should…

I should…

I should…

I envy those souls that seem to be content, their hearts and minds at rest.  [They’re] so damn responsible and fulfilled.   They planned their lives, and somehow it’s working out. They [married the right people, studied the right major in college, made the right connections,] built the nest egg, paid for the kids’ college, have the cabin at the lake or in the mountains, go away to the beach on Spring Break and come back all tanned, send out the glowing Christmas letter. They seem to have safely and successfully negotiated whatever minefields they faced with little trouble. I can hear some of them saying, “Well of course we went through some tough times when we didn’t have much. But we worked hard and stuck to it and, with God’s help, it panned out.”  Life is good.  [Worse than that, they are doing good; planting an organic garden, adopting orphans from the Philippines, mentoring in a mens’ group, while I am doing nothing, hamstrung by the disorder in my life for which I alone am responsible.]

Mike’s “shoulds” are so reasonable.  I would be so much better off if I could fulfill them.  Others would be better off if I could fulfill them.  I would be so much more useful, so much better a Christian.  Let me gird up the loins of my mind and I’ll get right on them.  Right after I check my email, or eat that last lemon bismarck, or watch this episode of Battle Spirits Sword Eyes Gekitouden, or listen to this latest EP, or google that search term, and click on the first few results.  You get the idea.   The Internet, for me at least, is to acedia what gasoline is to fire.  So why is it so hard for me to get down to the serious business of knocking out these “shoulds”?  Let us listen to St. John Cassian on the subject of acedia and its symptoms:

And when [acedia] has taken possession of some unhappy soul, it produces dislike of the place, disgust with the cell, and disdain and contempt of the brethren who dwell near him, as if they were careless or unspiritual. It also makes the man lazy and sluggish about all manner of work which has to be done within the enclosure of his dormitory.  It does not suffer him to stay in his cell, or to take any pains about reading.  He often groans because he can do no good while he stays in that place.  He complains and sighs because he can bear no spiritual fruit so long as he is joined to that society. 

He considers himself cut off from spiritual gain, useless in his place. He feels he could govern others and be useful to a great number of people, yet was edifying none by his teaching and doctrine. He cries up distant monasteries and those which are a long way off, and describes such places as more profitable and better suited for salvation; and besides this he paints the intercourse with the brethren there as sweet and full of spiritual life.   In contrast, he says that everything about him is rough, and not only that there is nothing edifying among the brethren who are stopping there, but also that even food for the body cannot be procured without great difficulty. 

Lastly he fancies that he will never be well while he stays in that place, unless he leaves his cell (in which he is certain to die if he stops in it any longer) and hurries away from there as quickly as possible.   Then the fifth or sixth hour bring him such bodily weariness and longing for food that he seems to himself worn out and wearied as if with a long journey, or some very heavy work.  He looks about anxiously this way and that, and is irritated that none of the brethren come to see him.  He goes in and out of his cell, frequently gazing up at the sun, as if it was too slow in setting.  

So a kind of unreasonable confusion of mind takes possession of him like some foul darkness.  This makes him idle and useless for every spiritual work.  Finally, in a fit of pique, he imagines that no cure for so terrible an attack can be found anywhere except visiting some one of the brethren, or in the solace of sleep alone.  

He believes he ought to show courteous and friendly hospitalities to the brethren, and pay visits to the sick, whether near at hand or far off.  He talks about some dutiful and religious offices; there are kinsfolk who ought to be inquired after, and he ought to go and see them oftener.  He meditates that would be a real work of piety to go more frequently to visit some religious woman, devoted to the service of God, who is deprived of all support of kindred; and that it would be a most excellent thing to get what is needful for her who is neglected and despised by her own kinsfolk; and that he ought piously to devote his time to these things instead of staying uselessly and with no profit in his cell.

St. John Cassian is, of course, occupied with the struggles of monastics, but acedia is just as much a danger to married people living ‘in the world’.  If I believe, and I do, that the goal of marriage is the union of a man and a woman to reflect the Union of Christ and His Church, then I will be judged on the level of separatedness that obtains between my wife and myself when I appear before “the fearful judgement seat of Christ.”  All of the times I blew off my wife because I wanted to attend to some fleeting distraction on the computer screen, or the television, or on the playing field will rise against me on that Day.  The ‘world’ which I profess to love starts there, with her, and with our children after that, and in concentric circles flowing out from there.  Acedia would have me position my wife in the world of objects, as just another object in the world of objects.

I don’t know if I’m alone, but I’m going to risk some censure here.  I noticed a marked increase in my dissatisfaction life when my wife went through menopause.  There are certain circadian rhythms to which men connect through the women in their lives.   This is one reason why it is important to stick with one woman for the duration of your life.  Your chemistries merge.  For this reason I always read Walker Percy with a grain of salt.  The acedia of his characters always seems to clear up when they start sleeping with a younger woman.  If you have to recalibrate yourself to compensate for a different woman every few years, you’re going to miss stuff.   Important stuff.  I don’t know firsthand, but I suspect that the inverse is true for women as well.

This discovery links the sin of acedia intimately with the ascesis of marriage.   Marriage rolls along relatively easily when you are young and full of sap.  The desperation of the childbearing years can cause you to view your wife as an ally, and this can blind you to the discouraging fact that no real union is being effected.   Once the dust settles, though, the real struggle begins.  Marital acedia moves in with its fog-like tendrils, and every defect seems magnified a thousandfold, and real intimacy, not just the fireworks of sex, seems farther away than ever.

So, maybe I started out wanting to score some points against the much-maligned Christian Right, and how their electoral reverses increases their danger to the savaging of their souls by this ruinous sin, but hell, I have met the enemy and he is me.  This demon does not want to be named.  I felt like I was running uphill in hot sand writing this post (and probably reads like it).  You don’t know how many distractions I succumbed to; the stupid clicks that took me to stupid sites to read stupid things about people and issues I care nothing about.  I am in mortal danger, as Screwtape said to Wormwood, of ending my life doing neither what I should nor what I enjoyed.  Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?

The Fathers are unanimous on the cure for acedia.  It is surprisingly New-Agey-sounding: “Be Here Now.”  The Fathers called it nepsis.  “Wakefulness, sobriety.”   Nepsis is supposed to be the attitude captured when a saint is depicted in the holy icons.  My daughter thinks the icons ought to be smiling.  I once tried to explain to her that they didn’t because they were grown-ups, and serious.  They are awake, and vigilant.

Man is called to pray and to work.  What are you supposed to be doing right now?  If prayer, attend to that.  If work, attend to that.  Don’t think about what you would rather be doing or what you will be doing once you finish the prayer or the work.  Be Here Now.  Sounds easy, doesn’t it?  I’m sure Sisyphus’ task sounded easy to him when Hades first proposed it to him.  Nevertheless, let me be about my Father’s business, despite my distractibility, and even my own desire to be distracted.  The alternative is to go step after soundless step down a long dark stairwell into a pond of leaden water upon the surface of which not even the wildest hurricane of grace can raise a single ripple.

Comments

  1. Wow, mule. Great post. Your last sentence is beautiful and haunting. Thanks for running up the hill of hot sand.

    I agree with the Father’s cure (for who am I to disagree with the Fathers?) but one questions remains: how can we grow in wakefulness? What is the recipe for nepsis?

  2. Re. the novel (also titled Bonjour tristesse) on which the movie was based, Françoise Sagan was still in her teens when she wrote it (her 1st book). So perhaps some of what you see is actually due to an adolescent’s imaginings of adult relationships, fairly mindless hedonism, and many other things, filtered through a French post-War sensibility.

    As for “despondency,” I don’t think it is anything close to a synonym for acedia – it’s too close to despair for that.

  3. As for acedia itself, a lot of the descriptions I’ve read sound like they’re actually about depression, or a prelude to full-blown severe depression.

    As someone with chronic pain, I experience what some might call acedia whenever my pain levels are higher, and when I’m recovering from a bout of bad pain – which is incredibly energy-sapping.

    I wonder if these early writers gave much thought or heed to the way in which the body can affect the mind and emotions, and vice versa. Somehow, I’m inclined to doubt that they did, at least, I don’t see much room being made for the mundane details of day-to-day suffering.

    But that’s just me.

    • “I wonder if these early writers gave much thought or heed to the way in which the body can affect the mind and emotions, and vice versa.” Good point, numo. As a corollary I wonder if modern people give much thought to the concept of sin as opposed to dysfunction.

      Practically, many of the ancients did believe in a strong relationship between the body and the mind/soul/emotions. That’s why they fasted, trained in asceticism, and lived according to rules and seasons. Some lived saner and healthier lives than others, of course.

      • somehow I think it’s impossible to try and live such a solitary life (as a hermit) and *not* encounter all kinds of problems.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          I understand that’s why St Benedict started gathering the monks together into monasteries under a common Rule — so the presence of others would serve as a reality check.

          • I would last about 3-5 hours in a cell, tops – I mean, no wonder these guys developed “acedia”! Out there alone, nothing to do but pray… in the desert, at that.

            While it’s certainly true that some people are, by nature, fairly solitary creatures, well are also social, and even the most hermit-like folks *still* need the company of others.

            Early asceticism in the ME and N. Africa (xtian, that is) is, to me, kind of scary – people living on the tops of pillars and all of that. there was a *lot* of craziness. (I had to study Byzantine art for a requirement in grad school, and believe me, you run into TONS of descriptions of pretty crazy behavior by those who thought they were doing the will of God via extreme “self-mortification” in the wilderness/desert.)

          • “we’re,” not “well are.”

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            While it’s certainly true that some people are, by nature, fairly solitary creatures, well are also social, and even the most hermit-like folks *still* need the company of others.

            Early asceticism in the ME and N. Africa (xtian, that is) is, to me, kind of scary – people living on the tops of pillars and all of that. there was a *lot* of craziness. (I had to study Byzantine art for a requirement in grad school, and believe me, you run into TONS of descriptions of pretty crazy behavior by those who thought they were doing the will of God via extreme “self-mortification” in the wilderness/desert.)

            1) At the time, the idea was that in order to REALLY please God, in order to REALLY be “On Fire for The LORD”, you HAD to go into the desert as a hermit. If not, you were just one of those Lukewarm Pew-Sitters. Just like today, except now it’s something other than living atop a pillar in the middle of the Sahara and not bathing for 30 years.

            2) According to OrthoCuban, among the Orthodox(TM) the characteristic way to flake out is the “Monkabee”, trying to become an Ascetic Monk (MOAR MORTIFICATION!) on your own.

            3) Don’t forget to factor in “Can You Top This?” about both the above. Some of these hermits had to be competing with each other as who had the most extreme devotions. We do it now, why not then?

          • There actually seems to have been a pillar-sitting fad, along with similar contraptions, like a basket suspended from two pillars.

            I am not, sadly, making this up, and it does strike me as being extremely competitive.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            If you want X-Treme Self-Mortification, you’ll have a hard time topping St Rose of Lima. If half of what I’ve heard about her was true, she was about as self-destructive as you can get. Tearing her face with her fingernails to destroy her worldly beauty until all that was left was scar tissue? Gargling lye to destroy her vocal cords and “worldly” beautiful voice? Dying before 30 due to all the Mortification damage?

            My writing partner has observed similar self-destructive patterns in rape/molestation victims, and speculates this might have happened to St Rose when she was very young. To this day, I don’t know if she was canonized because the Church of the time mistook her self-destructiveness for holiness, or if she was holy in spite of her self-destructiveness.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Which begs the question of at what point does Depression shade into Acedia? And what is the actual relationship between the two?

      And what about acedia as burnout from 24/7/365 Wretched Urgency? When you’re completely overwhelmed by everything (like I am now — job where I do the work of three people, homeowner’s responsibilities, “patient empowerment” meaning I have to do all the medical legwork in my ongoing prostate cancer scare), why not just sit in front of a screen, log into World of Warcraft or Team Fortress 2, and never log off?

  4. Acedia is the jilted single woman who refuses to climb out of bed in the morning months after the breakup, not because she feels bad, she doesn’t , really, but just because she refuses to believe that the day can bring her anything worth the effort.

    You think perhaps she is still grieving? And somewhat depressed – or at least sad – as a result?

    that’s my take.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Again, what is the relationship between Depression and Acedia?
      Or Burnout and Acedia?
      Or Being Overwhelmed and Acedia?

      In all of these, Acedia seems like a numbing burnout reaction to overwhelming stress.

      • I agree with you, HUG. (And have always been horrified by the way in which Rose of Lima has been idealized – she was obviously in incredible mental distress and torment.)

        Most of the “acedia” I’ve experienced was actually either mild-moderate depression and/or the burnout caused by overwhelming stress. That it would be characterized as sin is just beyond my comprehension.

  5. Best post ever and timely to my personal situation. Thank you.

  6. Christiane says:

    I loved all of the books of author/poet Kathleen Norris, and bought many of them for my own library, but when it came to her ‘Acedia and Me’, I felt like I got hit by a truck. I didn’t know that there was a name for this ‘condition’, much less a demon, but the book was painful to read, and too close to home . . . I wonder how many people have experienced some of the ‘symptoms’ for a short time or for an extended period, but I think Norris had the right ideas about how to break out of it.

    Do I recommend her book? Not for the faint of heart. It will help people who are strong enough to face how much trouble they are in so that they will take the action needed to take those first steps to get back to sojourning through this world again.

    As Norris puts it: “it’s worth something to be present with others.”

    • I had the same reaction when reading that book – and I know I need to read it again.

    • I had to read it in small batches with months in between – not because of acedia but because it is a lot to process and think through in ones life.

  7. “Accidie is a partial consent to non-being, striking a bargain with insignificance.”

    That is horrific and doubly so on account of its accuracy.

  8. Vega Magnus says:

    Did not expect a Salo reference. Anyway, brilliant post. I look forward to the future parts of this series.

  9. I always thought of acedia as discouragement, more so than pure sloth or laziness: It’s that attitude of “What’s the point?” which we find in Jesus’s story of the servant who buries the talent in the ground, figuring his master harvests what he doesn’t plant—deep down figuring his master doesn’t deserve his efforts, so he isn’t gonna get ’em.

    Kinda like the Christian who figures there’s no point in sanctification, “for all have sinned,” and therefore isn’t gonna even try to live a virtuous life: They’ll just sin as usual, and figure God’s grace will take care of them anyway. And in so doing, cheapen grace.

    • Discouragement and self-indulgence both, K.W. There’s a kind of luxury (at least in my experience) in refusing to act, in excusing and pampering myself as I wallow in a familiar and comfortable sloth.

  10. Fantastic Post. So glad I didn’t skip this one

  11. Be Here Now. Yup, that is the whole point, isn’t it? And yet, like you write, we get so distracted we don’t pay attention to what is right in front of us. I am so non-perceptive it is scary.

    Great post!

  12. Definitely something I need to read. I too have contemplated the downward spiral of the computer but lacked the “here-now-ness” to do something about it — Thanks for the kick in the pants.

    And what video game was that quotation from?!!

  13. Oh my. Mule, you have described the edge upon which I teeter. I am both frightened and grateful.

  14. This is fantastic.

    Although I cannot escape the irony that I read this post, and am typing this comment, from my work computer.

  15. I warned all of you before. I am a mule of very shallow draught, and should not be depended on for spiritual guidance. Sloth [acedia] is a serious spiritual condition, and cannot be alleviated in an afternoon of reading Kipling, Chesterton, or Mauriac, followed by a resolution to Do Better. It requires spiritual guidance at a level I am not qualified to give. Maybe someday Lisa, Martha, CM, Jeff and I should do 200 words apiece on spiritual direction and how to obtain it.

    @Daniel – Spiritual sobriety [nepsis] is a subject for another post.

    @numo – I am aware of Mlle. Sagan’s reputation as an enfant terrible I have not read her novel, but Otto Premingerwas definitely a grown-up, and I think he probably captured nuances in Mlle. Sagan’s story that even she was unaware of.

    Despondency, depression, and chronic pain are likely border marches on the country of acedia and it is beyond my poor powers to distinguish between what is culpable and what is treatable.

    @Christiane and Susan – I wasn’t able to read Norris’ book, but her prescription “Be Here Now with others” is fuller and more Trinitarian advice then simply Be Here Now. Sartre was only half right. Paradise and salvation are other people as well.

    @Damaris and Greg R – The video game is an old one from the Pentium years- Of Light And Darkness. The manual is better than the game.

    • Mule: you might consider yourself unqualified to help, but you’ve at least helped put a name to one of my biggest struggles. I know this made an impact, there was an “ow….this (stuff) hurts” factor. I won’t go into the ugly details, but your comments on how this relates to marriage had me tapping out. I need to go put ice on something….. then reread and get busy. Nice work: please keep up the honesty level.

      • Christiane says:

        Mule’s honesty is a echo of the kind of honesty in Michael Spencer that we came here for

        . . . I don’t think mind the kind of honesty that is not couched in self righteousness . . . maybe that kind is the only REAL honesty there is, anyway, and it is as refreshing as it is disturbing, and I for one am grateful when I encounter it . . .

        • Christiane says:

          correction: “I don’t think I mind” . . .

        • Christiane is speaking for me also on this one. I’ve noticed that honesty sometimes hurts like heck… but is ALWAYS helpful. like good coaching: well said , Christiane

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Sloth [acedia] is a serious spiritual condition, and cannot be alleviated in an afternoon of reading Kipling, Chesterton, or Mauriac, followed by a resolution to Do Better. It requires spiritual guidance at a level I am not qualified to give.

      And it sure can’t be alleviated by Five Fast Praise-the-LOORDs and fifteen minutes Bible study each morning. (“Memorize three Bible verses and call me in the morning”?)

    • Mule, a good diagnosis always precedes a proper prescription.

  16. David Cornwell says:

    This is such a thought provoking post that any reply I make seems shallow, and probably is. Some things quickly come to mind however, about me, at least. I think acedia can be fed by any number of things. After colon cancer surgery 13 years ago, then a serious spinal condition that progressed after that, I started thinking about retirement. When I look back at it, acedia probably tightened its grip on me at about that time. Physical conditions, and retirement, the resultant lack of direction, become excuses and feeders for the sin.

    Sit down in the television room, bring your meal with you, and time; minutes, hours, days, then years will run by with little notice and less purpose. It’s not that I spent days doing this, it’s just that I did it all. Think about what you are seeing and hearing and consuming. It’s pathetic.

    Eat food at table with your spouse of many years. Even if the newspaper is on the table.

    Also hear and head the words of St Paul ” Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price. Therefore glorify God with your body.” This body that we so often shame and dishonor with our actions is “us.”

    We are not some kind of floating “soul” disconnected from the body, waiting to be “saved” when it separates itself from the body at death. This body waits for the final victory of God when Christ will once again call it forth from the dust of the earth.

    My point is that “acedia” many times has its roots in the dishonor we bring to this temple of God.

    • Very practical, and doable insight on sharing meals. I can go with this: thanks, David.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      I started thinking about retirement. When I look back at it, acedia probably tightened its grip on me at about that time. Physical conditions, and retirement, the resultant lack of direction, become excuses and feeders for the sin.

      I saw my father deteriorate after Retirement. Funny thing about workaholics — they long to retire and “get out of the rat race”, but once they do, the inactivity of not working gets to them and they just go downhill. An ex-friend’s father was even worse; when he retired, all he did was sit around and wait to die. It took him 15 years.

    • “My point is that “acedia” many times has its roots in the dishonor we bring to this temple of God.” Brilliant, David! I think you’re exactly right.

  17. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    A person suffering from acedia can also exhibit furious activity, but all of it without any discernable purpose.

    That’s not acedia, that’s my job. Everyone running around in circles screaming but nothing ever gets done.

  18. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    My daughter thinks the icons ought to be smiling. I once tried to explain to her that they didn’t because they were grown-ups, and serious. They are awake, and vigilant.

    They’re saints. Not shiny happy clappy Megachurch Christians.

    • The icons of my childhood were always smiling – even when the emotion was not appropriate – Barbie, lego guys (the old ones), flannel graph story characters. I was told to not have emotion but to be just a smiling “helper” (then “helpmeet”). I learned how to push all feelings into, what if I must picture something, a door’s mail slot. I wonder if the denial of feelings leads to self-indulgence in feeling when one finally opens to door or has it smash into their reality because one door can only hold back so many emotion. Or does the acedia come to help self medicate our image?

  19. I think it was Carlyle who said to his mother, if he was the preacher he would just tell people to do what they knew they should. And his mother replied, Yes, Thomas and will you tell them how. There is a definite Christian thread through history of the difference between these two. It is a paradox of the will free and enslaved. Can is no necessary result of ought. One notices this with St Cassian, but it was with the thoughts of Augustine with Pelagius, and Erasmus with Luther, and Calvin with thoughts on Job, and Barth with Brunner, and………

  20. Randy Thompson says:

    Thank you for a stupendously good post that speaks to the deep places of the heart.

    I never realized it until reading this post that Charles Williams’ brilliant and frightening novel, “Descent into Hell,” is about acedia. In it, Williams’ character, Lawrence Wentworth, implodes into hell through a self-willed avoidance of reality, which for Williams is a gift of God. Williams referred to this state as “Gomorrah.”

    The concluding words of “Descent into Hell” reflect the final sentence of this post:

    “He was sitting at the end, looking up an avenue of nothingness, and the little flames licked his soul, but they did not now come from without, for they were the power, and the only power, his dead past had on him; the life, and the only life, of his soul. . . The silenced lasted; nothing happened. In that pause expectancy faded. Presently then the shape went out and he was drawn, steadily, everlasting, inward and down through the bottomless circles of the void.”

  21. I’ve always thought Dorothy Sayers did a good job describing acedia: “a sin that believes in nothing, cares for nothing, seeks to know nothing, interferes with nothing, enjoys nothing, hates nothing, finds purpose in nothing, lives for nothing, and remains alive because there is nothing for which it will die.”

    Now I guess I’ll stop surfing the Web and go work out . . .

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      “The difference between Atheism and Nihilism is the difference between not believing in Something and believing in Nothing.” — G.K.Chesterton (from memory)

    • Randy Thompson says:

      Thanks for the Dorothy Sayers quote. I came across it years ago, and then forgot about it. It’s worth remembering.

    • Wow, Kate, this is quite a description! Thanks for that.

  22. Excellent post!

  23. “So why is it so hard for me to get down to the serious business of knocking out these ‘shoulds’?”

    I agree that acedia is a problem, especially among Christians, including me. It is easy to see the wrong and shrug ones shoulders in response to a situation one feels impotent to address, or walk away in apathy concluding “It’s not my problem”.

    This post and Michael Spencer’s “tyranny of the urgent” together outline the perimeters of living hell. If tyranny of the urgent is the opposite of acedia, it is no improvement. Cultural warriors will often criticize those not engaged in their efforts to “redeem the culture” as lazy, apathic, selfish, and compromised. Francis Chan and those like him will go as far as questioning the salvation of those not “on fire” like them (e.g. those darn lazy pew-sitters). I assume you have more to follow which may address this opposite extreme. I think the Holy Spirit works sanctification in us through very earthy, unimpressive means, such as vocation, which could be easily confused by the “on fire” folks as acedia. Perhaps tyranny of the urgent, radicalism, and legalism result in acedia, either through hopelessness, exhaustion, or despair.

    There definitely are “shoulds” that God is working out through our salvation. The “how” seems to be the question. One extreme seems doing nothing and waiting for God to do it all; the other seems to be the individual striving to save oneself through human effort. I assume you’ll touch on “Theosis” at some point.

    • “The tyranny of the ‘ten thousand things’ ” is a living breathing component of acedia

      I will mention theosis next week.

      You won’t like it.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Cultural warriors will often criticize those not engaged in their efforts to “redeem the culture” as lazy, apathic, and compromised. Francis Chan and those like him will go as far as questioning the salvation of those not “on fire” like them (e.g. those darn lazy pew-sitters).

      i.e. “My Way Is The ONLY True Way and All Others Are Heretics!”

      I saw that in the pro-life movement in the Eighties (where each organization had its One True Way) and I see it now in the local prostate cancer support group (where each member has his own One True Cure). It wouldn’t be so bad if each and every One True Way didn’t flat-out contradict all the others…

    • Correction: “Wretched Urgency”, not “Tyranny of the Urgent”.

  24. John Porterfield says:

    Why, oh why, did you cut the light on? I was so happy in my numbness. Now I have saved this post to my Google Drive, and it will wail out to me everyday demanding a response. I’m sure the cure will be just as tough as the diagnosis! Thank you, I think.

  25. Camus wrote, “One must imagine Sisyphus happy…,” but I’ve never been able to pull it off.

    Zen also says, “When you chop wood, chop wood….When you carry water, carry water..” But one quickly finds out when meditating intensely for protracted periods, that when you think you are doing just one thing, you are actually doing countless things. Chopping wood is also in a sense carrying water. Sleeping is also being awake. Working is praying, and praying is working. Thoughts impinge on and overlap each other like waves on an endless ocean, and so do actions. Nothing is separate and by itself, everything seeps over the boundaries that we at first think are so solid.

    Try to be quiet 15 minutes, or half an hour as Revelation says will happen in heaven, really quiet. Again, as Camus said, “the myriad wondering little voices of the earth rise up….” The same is true of any task we try to focus on apart from the spinning dance of all things around it.

    Nothing is by itself; all things exist together.

    I wait for him to deliver me from this body of death.

    • Christiane says:

      “I wait for him to deliver me from this body of death”

      somehow reminded me of this:
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9f5pkzzmhNI

      “And am I born to die?
      To lay this body down!
      And must my trembling spirit fly
      Into a world unknown?
      A land of deepest shade,
      Unpeirced by human thought
      The dreary regions of the dead,
      Where all things are forgot.
      Soon as from earth I go
      What will become of me?
      Eternal happiness or woe,
      Must then my portion be!
      Waked by the trumpet sound,
      I from my grave shall rise;
      And see the Judge with glory crowned,
      And see the flaming skies!”

      • I am familiar with the bluegrass-y versions of that song, but I’ve never heard it like that. Painfully beautiful.

        • Christiane says:

          Hi MICHAEL,
          Sacred Harp singing IS different . . . one of the original teachers said of it that a man could teach people to sing, but only God could teach people to sing with spirit. 🙂

          the Sacred Harp shape-note singing is the oldest hymnody in America . . . it used to be sung in rural Churches where people had no musical instruments and couldn’t read music . . . hence the ‘shapes’ for notes helped them to learn to sing . . . this form of singing is enjoying a revival in this country, and people in Ireland have taken it up, too (with stunning effect, as you see in the link) . . . it is a ‘communal’ form of singing with everyone participating, which is pretty wonderful for a faith community . . .

          Is this form of singing one response to the withdrawing and isolating effects of acedia ? well, if it is ‘painfully beautiful’ to the soul, it might just . . .

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YHUfHNEZDPc

          • hey there – yeah, Sacred Harp can be harsh at times!

            Though I think it might be the oldest surviving from of hymnody, but not necessarily the oldest – ever heard any recordings of William Billings’ hymns? There are also – fast disappearing – regional survivals of Gaelic psalm-singing in parts of the South and in Oklahoma (introduced by Scottish Presybyterian settlers and, later, missionaries). There aren’t many recordings of this style, though if you can get your hands on a copy of “The Gaelic Psalms of Lewes” (Scottish island), you can hear it unfiltered and unedited. (The audio quality isn’t the world’s best, but the music is startling and remarkable.)

          • Sorry, that should be Lewis.

            The recording is out of print, but you can snag a used copy here: http://www.amazon.com/Scottish-Tradition-Vol-Gaelic-Psalms/dp/B00000241H

          • Christiane says:

            Hi NUMO . . . thanks for sharing the beautiful Gaelic psalm singing . . . and the video of the Isle of Lewis is so lovely

          • Numo: A lot of Billings’ hymns are in our Sacred Harp shape singing book. He is really excellent.

          • Christiane – thanks! I believe that video was shot on another of the islands, though – there’s info. in the title and description on uTube. And there are some other vids of Galeic psalm-singing there as well, though the audio on some of them is pretty low-fi. Still good, though!

          • oops! I was thinking of some of the other psalm-singing vids that I check last night, I believe.

            (mid-afternoon sleepiness is setting in. 😉 )

  26. Josh in FW says:

    That was like a needed slap in the face. Thank you for this post Mule and thank you to the many commentors that have shared helpful tidbits from their experiences. Now that I have a diagnosis, I need to get working on a treatment plan.

  27. There is wonderful book about acedia by Kathleen Norris: “Acedia & Me: a Marriage, Monks and a Writer’s Life.”

  28. Perhaps the greatest hurdle to jump over in any spiritual practice occurs when you experience that not much is happening; a great ennui follows, and one wants to stop because it feels useless. But don’t stop. It’s not useless. This is the spiritual battle in its most elemental form. You’re not wasting your time by staring down the sense of boredom and futility. In time, it will yield fruit. This is the path.

  29. SottoVoce says:

    I was initially intrigued by the concept of acedia when I heard of Kathleen Norris’ book Acedia and Me. I thought it might provide some answers to my general sense of restlessness and distraction in grad school. While it was an interesting read, I came away from it feeling skeptical that an emotion that seems to be best ascribed to a lack of normal stimulation experienced by certain monastic orders can be applied to people with more typical lives and occupations. It is also important to keep in mind that the early church did not have access to our modern understanding of human psychology and illnesses such as depression when compiling the catalog of Sinful Thoughts and Feelings. Acedia honestly sounds a lot like a more liturgical version of the ever-present evangelical refrain, “Are you on fire for Jesus? Burn for Jesus! BURN I tell you!” Personally, I think my ability to Be Here Now would improve considerably if people would quit telling me to police and pathologize my every thought and feeling. I identified quite strongly with the post that you quote from Chaplain Mike. I assure you that this state of mind is quite painful and frustrating enough without the additional guilt of being told that my feelings, which are not under my direct control, are now sinful. Sigh. Seems like no matter what church community I talk to, people can come up with reasons why I suck and God hates me. Just let me live my life already.
    (That said, I can think of at least two acedic characters off the top of my head: Quentin Coldwater of The Magicians and Daria Morgendorffer. I don’t consider them role models.)

    • + 1

      I personally do not believe that there is a “sin” of acedia.

    • I think my ability to Be Here Now would improve considerably if people would quit telling me to police and pathologize my every thought and feeling.

      Exactly! About 8 years ago, I found myself in a very protracted set of circumstances (things that just happen in life) which were *extremely* stressful and where I felt that I was failing terribly at keeping up with all the “shoulds.” In actual fact, I was doing as well as just about anyone could while at the same time struggling to keep my head above the engulfing ocean long enough to get a few breaths here and there.

      It took a long time for me to recover from the effects of the acute, traumatic incidents that started off the whole chain of events. During that time, I had to learn to set aside – just plain stop – all the constant internal monitoring and though-policing that had been instilled in me during my decades in evangelical/charismatic-land.

      Sometimes it’s still a struggle, but it’s been remarkably freeing,. I found that my mind became a great deal calmer when I was able to truly stop the incessant “You’re not doing enough, you will never do enough, you’re not good enough, you’re a sinful worm” train of thought and learn to accept that God’s grace is paramount, as well as his love. Judgement – not so much.

      Whatever and however all that ahs come to be in my life, and regardless of the decisions I’ve made and actions I’ve taken (and continue to take) in order to start off on a different path (with the help of a good therapist, I will note), I am grateful for the freedom to breathe and simply *be* that has come as a result.

      In fact… I think a lot of us (in american society) are afraid of simply being. I used to wonder about the many workaholics I knew when I lived in D.C. – when did they allow themselves time to stop and look at the sky and breathe in and out, and relax a bit? It seemed to me that the only down time most of them had was when they were asleep – which is very sobering and made me sad.

      Life is really, *really* too short to spend one’s energy pursuing “shoulds” and trying to manage “sins” of the acedic variety.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      > I came away from it feeling skeptical that an emotion that seems to be
      > best ascribed to a lack of normal stimulation experienced by certain
      > monastic orders can be applied to people with more typical lives and
      > occupations.

      Perhaps there is a bit of redefinition occuring here; but I do believe is something that could be called “acedia”.

      > Acedia honestly sounds a lot like a more liturgical version of the
      > ever-present evangelical refrain, “Are you on fire for Jesus? Burn
      > for Jesus! BURN I tell you!”

      Really? I do not see the similarity at all. [And it is hard to believe there are many who *despise* Evangelicalism more than I do.] Acedia is a volitional cognitive state – at least in the beginning. It is nothing like just being tired, or frustrated, or occasionally morbid.

      > Personally, I think my ability to Be Here Now would improve considerably
      > if people would quit telling me to police and pathologize my every thought
      > and feeling.

      I didn’t take that away from this post, not in the least. Saying “here is a dangerous and tempting intellectual error, lets talk about it” and saying “to police and pathologize my every thought” is simply not the same thing; *THAT* is Evangelical logic.

      > I identified quite strongly with the post that you quote from Chaplain Mike.
      > I assure you that this state of mind is quite painful and frustrating enough
      > without the additional guilt of being told that my feelings, which are not
      > under my direct control, are now sinful.

      But they are sinful, of course, or at least tainted. That is what it is to be human. Personally I find it humorous as often as I find it painful; like, really-I-know-that-is-stupid/wrong. Frequently I think it would be most appropriate for an angel to appear beside me and just slap me up the backside of the head, and we’d both have a good chuckle. One can recognize this condition without being tormented by it.

      > Sigh. Seems like no matter what church community I talk to, people can
      > come up with reasons why I suck and God hates me. Just let me live my
      > life already.

      Bah, nobody here said any such thing.

      > (That said, I can think of at least two acedic characters off the top of my
      > head: Quentin Coldwater of The Magicians and Daria Morgendorffer. I don’t
      > consider them role models.)

      Sadly, I could name several much closer to my home. Once magnificent souls who have tuned out, dropped out, and now are slowly sinking. Modernity in many ways makes acedia easier [and potentially more physically comfortable] than before.

    • We can agree to disagree on this, Sotto, and it won’t bother me , but I dont’ think you understand the post (or maybe I don’t 🙂 ) It’s not about a certain emotion or an isolated thought, if I’m tracking Mule correctly. “Acedia” seems to more about a willful state of carelessness, restlessness, and distraction. A distraction brought on and fueled by a continual desire for……. something ELSE. Something other than what I’ve got in the here and now. That’s not an emotion, and even if this is a broken state of affairs, we are not condemned for it (there’s that blood of Jesus thing….) but maybe it’s not a good set of choices, a good way to live.

      I certainly don’t think it’s Mule’s agenda to harp on something to make us feel bad, guilty, not right with God. Sometimes though, I think it’s helpful to know what exactly it is we are to repent of. That’s how it seems to me, at least.

      • There’s also the obvious: if this isn’t your struggle, praise God, don’t try and wear a shoe that isn’t yours. It’s a public forum, but that doesn’t mean everyone is dealing with this, and I don’t think Mule would say that.

        • Christiane says:

          as far as succumbing to acedia, it may be that if someone is in a situation not of their choosing and has the care of a disabled individual over the course of many years, especially at times and places where there wasn’t much in the way of assistance available or affordable . . . it can lead to a slow, steady drain on the spirit, not willingly of course, but the care-giver does need to recharge batteries from time to time . . . when no opportunities arise to do so, some aspects of self-preservation do ‘kick-in’, I suppose . . . not always invited willingly, but that occurs . . .

          walking in the shoes of a care-giver over a period of years . . . that is one example of the kind of situation that can lead to the ‘drained’ and ‘numbed’ quality that sometimes comes unbidden, unwelcomed, and doesn’t leave easily, even when help finally arrives after many, many years . . .

          perhaps its the isolation that some care-givers experience . . . I think that must feed into it some for sure

          I don’t know if cumulative stress can bring it on over a period of years, but people have to have some hope of a difficult situation getting better in some way and after a long, long time, that hope remains more and more as a memory as resignation begins to take form with all of its trappings, none of them good

          don’t judge folks who have been care-givers, or who have lost someone they dearly loved, or who withdraw from all that has meaning for you . . . they don’t understand always ‘how it happened’, or how to find a way out of the maze, no . . . it’s not judgment they need ( least of all from themselves ) . . .

          somehow they do need to be re-connected to the company of community life in any ways that can be managed and they have to take the first steps themselves willingly, for it to have real meaning for them . . .

          some thoughts

    • I apologize for jumping in so late to this discussion. Sotto, I appreciate you sharing your thoughts. “It is also important to keep in mind that the early church did not have access to our modern understanding of human psychology and illnesses such as depression when compiling the catalog of Sinful Thoughts and Feelings.” My impression is that the original poster has never experienced personally, or watched a close friend or relative, go through such illnesses as Clinical Depression, Bipolar Disorder, or a Mood Disorder. My family has a strong history for depression, alcoholism and suicide, and I struggle (no, STRUGGLE) with acedia on a daily basis (I now have a new name for it). After praying my brains out, I have decided this is apparently my “thorn in the flesh.” I’m approaching the sixth anniversary in ten days of my brother’s suicide, and the temptation to give in to despair can be overwhelming. The article seems to suggest that people who struggle with this are sinful and unspiritual, which I find very disheartening. Perhaps people with diabetes, hypertension or poor eyesight are spiritually lacking as well, and need to practice some mindfulness. If that doesn’t work, there’s the always-helpful advice, “Snap out of it.”

  30. “After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?”

    He replied, “This kind can come out only by prayer.” Mark 9:28-29

    Acedia seems like an affliction that is like the one referred to in this passage. An unglamorous remedy for an unglamorous sin.

  31. I actually liked the book called Be Here Now by Ram Dass which was written in 1971. I know he is not saying the same thing that Mule Chewing Briars is saying, but we can all find wisdom in various ways. Ram Dass may have helped some people move away from using drugs and move closer to knowing that clinging to the past and fearing the future is not the way to go. (Off-topic a bit…I get that way.)

    • Yes, I read his book Grist for the Mill as part of course work in a class called Countercultural Philosophy in 1979 or so. Through this book I became interested in matters spiritual for the first time in my young life. I immersed myself in Eastern philosophy for a decade or so, practicing Zen with some intensity. But I also read the Brothers Karamazov during that time, a novel that I credit with starting what would become my eventual movement into my present Christian faith. I’m grateful that Ram Dass was there to provide me with spiritual hope when I felt none.

      • Robert, yes, Ram Dass provided me with spiritual hope as well. I practiced TM for some years and studied Zen in some ways, but found for me that those things lacked the “love” connection that I only found through Jesus. I know that some Christians would say that yoga and Zen are “of the devil” but it’s hard for me to say that religious practices that a huge portion of the world’s population find inspiration from is demonic. I think God responds to people’s needs wherever they are and if they “find God” they have found Jesus or Jesus has found them. Our words cannot really describe the connection of God and humans. We put God in too small a box when we say he can only relate to people if they say these particular words and perform these particular rites.

  32. I think acedia is actually quite widespread; the spiritual torpor can be masked by frenetic activity and busyness orbiting around a core of near hopelessness. I think there must also be a close relationship between acedia and addiction/attachment (aside from the physiological factors involved) , which is a way of medicating the felt hopelessness of acedia without addressing the core spiritual issue. In fact, I think the human race is rife with acedia in more and less virulent forms.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      > I think acedia is actually quite widespread; the spiritual torpor can be masked by frenetic
      > activity and busyness orbiting around a core of near hopelessness.

      +1

      > I think there must also be a close relationship between acedia and addiction/attachment
      > which is a way of medicating the felt hopelessness of acedia without addressing the core
      > spiritual issue.

      “Better living through chemistry!”, a mantra I frequently hear. Only it is usually just living dialed down to a steady hum.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      I think acedia is actually quite widespread; the spiritual torpor can be masked by frenetic activity and busyness orbiting around a core of near hopelessness.

      “We party to drown out the sound of grass growing on our own future graves.”
      — can’t remember where I heard that one, but it’s a good line

  33. With reference to the “whatever happened to the iMonk we knew and loved” post (my paraphrase) by Jeff the other day, this is the works.

    In fact, it’s a partial answer to prayer.

    The other half of the answer would be a bit more help on where to go from here.

    Maybe the ‘On Fire’ stuff is a partial effort to shake the acedia? Might it work? I don’t feel very firey. I don’ t even feel like being firey. I’m not sure I even want to feel like being firey. Is that another symptom?

    • I love your last paragraph, Ben S. I am not on fire either. At best, I am a small smolder.

      • JoanieD,

        As a convert from Fundimentalism once shared with me…. While he was involved with the non-denom churches he was on fire, but once his journey led him to here (Catholicism) he found it was more like an enveloping warmth…. I think that is what I also experience here….

      • JoanieD – it’s not open flames that are used for cooking, but the kind of “small smolder” you mentioned re. yourself. The thing is, good coals stay hot for a long, long time.

        No need to fan the flames, imo!

      • Joseph (the original) says:

        Ben S & JoanieD:

        A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out…

        ~Isaiah 42:3

        • Thanks, Numo and Joesph (the orignial. Smoldering wick I am and will be, God willing and the creek don’t rise! 😉

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Maybe the ‘On Fire’ stuff is a partial effort to shake the acedia? Might it work? I don’t feel very firey. I don’ t even feel like being firey. I’m not sure I even want to feel like being firey. Is that another symptom?

      I think it’s flip one-eighty in the opposite direction and go full intensity.
      Like Communism begetting Objectivism.

  34. Travis Sibley says:

    Absolutely amazing post!

    Thank you so very much for writing it. Sharing on FB!

  35. Nepsis sounds like the Buddhist practice of “mindfulness.” But I’m not sure it’s the cure for acedia anymore than health is the cure for sickness. I think it’s more the antithesis of it. I am convinced that the cure for the evil within is not something that we do. For some of us, nothing could possibly sound more difficult than “be here now.” If that’s the ladder I must climb, my out of shape soul is in serious peril.

  36. Does all this blogging contribute to this acedia? It certainly seems that way with a lot of the youth – seems they want to spend lots of time on facebook instead of getting anything done or even experiencing normal social interaction.

    I practice anti-acedia…meaning I am terribly afraid that if I let myself I could end up sitting on the couch all the time not getting anything done, fretting over not having the motivation. And how does that manifest itself? I am always doing, whether it be projects, work, coaching…. so my wife’s favorite line to me, almost daily is “but are you here in the present”…and although it causes me to think, in truth it does irritate me. Is anyone in the present and isn’t that a sad state of affairs if none of us are.

    Very good post including responses

  37. Christiane says:

    “Man is called to pray and to work. What are you supposed to be doing right now? If prayer, attend to that. If work, attend to that. Don’t think about what you would rather be doing or what you will be doing once you finish the prayer or the work. Be Here Now.”

    ora et labora . . . and some thoughts also from a father who made the coffin for his own child by hand,
    and who said he could understand how ‘work’ can be ‘love made visible’:

    http://blog.newadvent.org/2013/05/the-coffinmaker-powerful-memento-mori.html

  38. Tigger23505 says:

    Seems like the theme is failure to choose is actually a choice. That seems to be the current mode – perhaps this sort of internal dialogue:
    “I don’t like that, but it isn’t worth making a fuss over.”

    The ultimate condemnation of the choice of not choosing. Is this Martin Niemoller poem.

    First they came for the communists,
    and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.

    Then they came for the socialists,
    and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a socialist.

    Then they came for the trade unionists,
    and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

    Then they came for me,
    and there was no one left to speak for me.

  39. This discussion has a eerie resonance for me, as I discover more about the non-stereotypical form of ADHD that I’ve recently been diagnosed with. ADHD can exist in a form that is almost the opposite of hyperactivity — rather, the person who is easily overstimulated may instead withdraw until the incoming “noise” is at a bearable level. If the underlying problem isn’t diagnosed or treated, to an outside observer it looks like depression and, yes, acedi, and can easily fall into it..

    Except — the withdrawal is a learned response, an attempt to cope, which means that it can to some extent be UNlearned, so there is hope. Learning to practice mindfulness, attention to where you are, is extremely helpful. So is learning to take a deep breath and pause to consider, rather than simply reacting, or rather than barreling on down one’s own track without being aware of surrounding others.

    Like so many mental disabilities, it’s simply an enlarged version of something we are all likely to do at times.