Acedia

During the last few weeks I have not wanted to be of this planet. In truth, I have grown weary with the world, the politics, and the unending changelessness of things. A presidential campaign lasting for more than two years. The power and wealth of the few and the continued suppression of the many. The continuing wars in Afghanistan, Syria, and Iraq still mounting in their toll of innocent lives. World famine and financial greed all increasing at alarming rates even when the tools to bring about change exist but are not implemented. The return of once eradicated diseases like cholera, scarlet fever, yellow fever, and polio now indifferent to the drugs previously used in their demise.

I do not want to be with friends nor do I seek to engage in new friendships. Phone calls and emails go unanswered or unreturned. I get through each day as another day of life doing the things I love, but somehow doing these things brings a different kind of satisfaction. It feels as if a completion of life to this point is being made. I find myself waiting for activities of the day to end so I can enjoy the blissful solitude of my own surroundings and wait for nightfall without interruptions. The darkness somehow feels safer for me now. There is nowhere, except for here, where I have to venture. I fall into the void of sleep with no thoughts of waking until the morning sun forcefully opens my eyes.

I am on a journey. It is not unlike journeys I have taken before except for the absence of a fixed timetable but this journey is internal, not external. Whenever I take journeys out into the world, I always come back with stories and experiences to share with friends. Small tokens commemorating the places to which I traveled. Pictures, postcards, etc.  I always come back a different person than the one who started the adventure initially but this journey is proving to be much different from those  I have taken before.

At first I thought I might be in a state of depression except for the fact that my feelings are not out of hopelessness or inadequacy nor are they out of synchronization with the events taking place in the outside world. It is more of a transition. A transformation of sorts. A transformation which takes me to my depths, rattles my brain, and challenges all my beliefs once again. I could blame these feelings on my aging and the facing of my impending death but I think it is more than a sense of doom. It is in a word, “acedia.” I know acedia is defined as “spiritual or mental sloth; apathy” in today’s English dictionary, but I prefer the medieval Latin and more philosophical spelling and definition to the modern psychological one. In Latin, accidie, as it was spelled, is a state that inhibits pleasure and prompts the rejection of life.* Thomas Aquinas associated it with the turning of one’s back on things, a torpor of spirit. Acedia is often translated as sloth, which is actually quite different.

The conditions of such a journey make it difficult to share with friends. I cannot explain something I am in the middle of experiencing myself. I have no photographs of pristine mountains covered with glistening white snow and no stories to share from fellow travelers met along the way. What I can share is this. The journey of transformation is one to be taken on numerous occasions throughout our lives. As soon as you finish with one, another waits on the sidelines to grab you and wisps you away. This type of journey requires a strength of belief. Not in a religious sense, as in a god, but a belief in oneself. A strength you may not even know was possible until you experience it firsthand and like those journeys taken into the outside world, you will return a much different person than when you entered. You will return with a greater truth and belief in yourself and your place in the world. Your awareness, acceptance, and understanding of life will be enhanced by the discoveries you learn about yourself. There is no preparation you can make ahead of time. There is no gear to pack and no magic wand can assist you along this journey. One does not take such a journey with plans to return to where one started nor do you know where or when it will end.

This life, in the end, is but a preparation for our final journey toward death. I believe the real journey starts when our essence or spirit is free of this body. I have loved and I have been loved. I do not ask for anything more.

I wish you well.

 

*Blackburn, Simon. The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy. Walton Street, Oxford, England OX2 6DP: Oxford University Press, 1994.