Wiki defines acedia as a state of torpor – of apathy and indifference, a lack of caring associated with the deadly sin of sloth. It can resemble depression and at its worst leading to suicial state of mind.  Kathleen Norris writes of her own struggle with acedia, tracing it throughout her own life and that of the monastic community.  She sees it as an affliction of the spirit, the soul.

Have we not all experienced this state at some point in our lives?  For most of us a day in which we just do not feel like doing anything at all.. of withdrawing from the world…where even the effort of the smallest task overwhelms us.   It is a sort of world weariness.  For most of us, it is temporary but it can become a pattern of life.  It can be self propagating.  Ennui can lead to more ennui.  In me it seems to involve a sort of inner talk…no one cares, why should I..what worth is one person, what difference does anything make, etc.  It’s the couch potato at its worst where nothing gives us joy…and yet it is a kind of restlessness….especially of the spirit..a spirit not at peace.

We are a nation that has increasingly complained of depression – a nation reliant on all sorts of pills to lift depression.  I found one citation by Norris interesting in referring to the practice of psychiatry.  At first psychiatry practiced emotional counseling without chemical means but now it practices too much reliance on chemical means without the emotional counseling.   At one time religion was the primary source of emotional counseling…not that it often worked.  In fact it was often abused and made a condition worse.   Yet, to discount the spiritual seems to discount something extremely iimportant to the human psyche.

I believe much of the Bible is not factual, especially the miracles.  Much is myth.  We cannot prove there is a God;  we also cannot prove there isn’t although we have no scientific evidence of one.   Nevertheless, in a strictly atheistic world,  there seems to be a denial of any meaning to life except the reproductive one of keeping your species going after you are dead.  A short story by Ernest Hemingway is about a boy who finds out the ugly truth about a father he worships (My Old Man). The story ends with the boy saying, “Once they get started, they don’t leave you anything.” While it’s about that passage into adulthood with all of the illusion of childhood shattered,  it’s also a profound statement about the loss of faith.    Norris’s husband did not believe the Bible it was true in the factual sense even though he’d had a Jesuit/Catholic upbringing.  He also suffered debilitating depression at times.  Was there a connection?

I feel we must have some new sort of spiritual life…that churches must “evolve” into nourishing the spirit without the necessity of belief in myth, that they must come to a kind of truthfulness…an adult understanding.   St. Paul wrote – when I was a child I thought as a child, but now I am become a man I must put away childish things.  The myths we tell children to assure them and ease their sense of helplessness  are not the myths we should continue in as adults.

Like Paul I say, I believe… help me with unbelief…and the belief is that there is more to this life than just an animalistic survival.  Otherewise is not acedia reasonable?

Advertisements