Monthly Archives: April 2013

Letter 3

I should apologize up front for taking so long to write again. I wish I could lay claim to being engulfed in great and weighty matters that demanded my full attention, but in truth, I cannot. If I have been consumed with anything, it is sloth. Medievals called it the sin of the Noonday sun, and it is a particular sin of mine.
There are two components of sloth. The most familiar is a lack of activity, or perhaps more a lack of meaningful or beneficial activity. I was going to opine that modern life, and particularly the Internet has encouraged this sort of sloth, but on further reflection, I am selling the past short. Aesop’s fable about the grasshopper and the ant is very old indeed. We may have different paths to the same result, distraction mostly, but they all get us to the same place.
The other aspect of sloth, which does not get as much attention is a marked indifference. Accedia is the Greek term for it. One just doesn’t care one way or the other. Monastic orders found it their particular demon, perhaps as reaction to the intense focus and purpose of monastic life.
I mean to write. I think about it. Ideas come to mind. Some are even developed in part, but other activities, less demanding of the mind and attention also arise. They are easy, and what satisfaction they give is quickly attained. Other stresses of life intrude, and I start looking for some place to take my ease.
This was in part, the lure of Satan’s temptation of Christ. The various things Satan offered were seen by Jews of the time as badges of the Messiah. It would be the easy way to get adherents and obedience. There as of course the catch of submitting to Satan, but it would solve the problem of getting people to recognize Jesus as Messiah. Jesus didn’t take that route. Instead, he pressed on in a frustrating and slow moving path.
The Disciples likewise fell prey to acedia in the Garden. They were tired. They just couldn’t bring themselves to care, and so they slept. Jesus was disappointed, but he did not condemn them. They were tired, and I am sure they were in a state of shock after everything that had transpired in the Upper Room that night.
I was hoping to offer some possible corrective to the temptation to sloth, but it occurs to me that I do not have any. The usual business of modern life seems to encourage the sort of sloth the Disciples demonstrated in Gethsemane. We do this, we do that, and we do it seven days a week. No wonder we’re tired and could care less. At the end of the day, I just want to sit down and do something mindless.
This might be why the monks found sloth so besetting. With their lives so scheduled, I suspect it was easy to stop caring. One simply did things, without stopping to think too much about it. I wonder if this is why God also scheduled Sabbatical years and Jubilee years. We need that unstructured time to refresh and regain awe and wonder, just as the earth itself apparently needed the time off to regenerate.
And with that, for now, I rest.


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