So, about a month ago, I picked up a book called Acedia and Me by Kathleen Norris. She writes about the spiritual term “acedia” and spends the whole book defining it and its effect on her life. It would probably take me an equal amount of space to do the same. So I’ll give a short definition, and illuminate a major area of my life affected by this condition.
Acedia is hard to define. Even Merriam Webster’s website does little to describe it. They give synonyms of “apathy” and “boredom” underneath the word’s etymology, but no actual definition. This may be why she took the whole book to define it. In a few words, it’s a lot of things. It’s spiritual apathy. It’s the temptation not to care. It’s torpor. Norris says that at its Greek root, it means the absence of care. It could be a refusal to care or an incapability to do so.
Norris writes that acedia was a spiritual state that 4th century Christian monks (a.k.a. Desert Fathers) knew a lot about, and she quotes a monk by the name of Evagrius often throughout the book. In fact, she realizes that acedia is a common spiritual theme that even crosses into different religions. The Desert Fathers called it “The Noonday Demon” and though the term has a history of applying more to monks than the public at large, Norris shows how it manifests itself in her life.
There were certain parts of this book where I was certain she had been secretly peeping through my windows to observe my day to day activities. One of her observations is how acedia prevents us from realizing how important a routine is to our spiritual lives. She says that acedia initially shows up as a “refusal of repetition.” It shows up as not wanting to shampoo, bathe, take a daily walk, clean anything, take a multi-vitamin, etc.
So I’ve written and talked about my knack for procrastination. I always knew it had to be a little bit more than that. I’ve gone on and on to myself and my husband and my friends about how I am the laziest human being that I know. I don’t take pride in this, and yet I’m not sure how to change. I realize the root of this problem is acedia. I don’t value what doing the dishes every day might have to teach me. I don’t value a clean home because I don’t value the idea of a routine. There have been brief moments of my life where I had a routine, and if I remember correctly, they were some of the most spiritually gratifying times. They also had a positive practical side, in that my kitchen was always clean, bed always made, clothes always washed and folded.
Lately I have been craving a routine again. Yes, me who is working two part-time jobs, going to school full-time, being married, and trying to maintain good friendships. I figure somehow there has to be a way. If I figure out a way to even have a small resemblance to a routine, I will write about it. I have some ideas that I’m going to try out, but I’d rather just wait and see how they work out before being accountable to my four person audience right now. =)
If you have time for reading, or perhaps even if you don’t, check out Acedia and Me if it sounds anything like something that would benefit you. It’s definitely shown me that maybe what I’ve always deemed irreconcilable laziness might in fact be something else, a little larger and a little deeper.
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