My Confession of Acedia

25.08.21 06:44 AM Comment(s) By BMI

In confession, I confessed that I felt that I was ignoring and not responding to some promptings of the Holy Spirit.  The priest said smiling, "That can be serious.  It is acedia.  Many refer to it as the Eighth Capital Sin." Traditionally the Seven Capital Sins are vices that lead to multiple other sinful behaviours.  They are pride, avarice, lust, envy, gluttony, anger and sloth.  I was somewhat shocked, a "capital sin?"

Like most who want to have the immediate satisfaction of knowing, I searched "acedia" on the internet and came up with "sloth." Sloth?  Well, why didn't he say so." Sloth is listed last of the Seven Capital Sins.  Why did it deserve the distinction of being a separate sin from what seemed a seldom mentioned but common imperfection of sloth?  It bothered me enough to discuss acedia with a spiritual director who informed me that it is a root evil like gluttony but may not always be grave.   One can be gluttonous in varying degrees, from a simple lack of intemperance when reaching for that extra sweet on the coffee table to a full-blown vice that seriously opposes the virtue of temperance. 
I had to know more. I searched articles and books that would lead me to understand the effects of acedia and found two excellent ones on the topic​1,​2. 
Acedia is sinister and has many entanglements or daughters.  Often referred to as the "Noonday Devil." It can mascarade as "…loneliness, feelings of being excluded or thinking that life is sterile and unproductive… It may also appear as "…a lack of joy and hope, a feeling of discouragement…."​3  Some may become excessively fearful, leading to depression. 

Excessive preoccupation with fashion of any kind can be a likely symptom of acedia where one seeks freedom even at the cost of being well.  We see this not only in our attire but in our speech, opinions and patterns of behaviour.  To be fashionable, we often choose to be free rather than be well. "There is a sense that our freedom came at a cost, namely the loss of a higher purpose, of anything worth living for, and so the only remainder is a 'centering on the self'" We quickly get bored, and fashion seems to soothe the desire for free expression. 

Snell points to an industry that gives an excellent example to acedia in modern western culture.  Fashion tends quickly to extremes "…there is no fashion so absurd, even grotesque, that it cannot be adopted, given two things: the authority of the fashion-trendsetter…and the vacuity of (e)noughtness of the consumer." By its very nature, fashion does not yield to quality but gives its object no identity and is without quality. 4  To rid ourselves of acedia's boredom, we temporarily use fashion to give us a "new" experience.  Even when doing valuable, good work, the slothful find "…sorrow and repugnance, even horror." They form a disgust "…with reality, a loathing of our call to be friends with God, and a spiteful hatred of place and life itself." Acedia manifests discretely at first but blossoms full-blown with a preoccupation for "newness" and fashion in manners of behaviour, language, moral values and dress. The affected need to be constantly stimulated to be at the peak of style and quickly choose a culture of emptiness seen in modern fashionable behaviours. In their emptiness, they quickly move onto new horizons.  The styles have the permanency of Brylcreem.  Yes, I am guilty of using it. 
Acedia is pernicious and dangerous, and its effects will have lasting consequences even when the style has vaporized.  It will impact the quality of life, where morals seem to hold little value.  Moral values are ignored.  Reason and logic give way to emotions and style that loath quality in exchange for grotesque behaviour, loathing what makes reasonable and logical sense and what is to be esteemed in moral life.  Acedia leads to a deep disgust for a quality of life and value for solid moral choices using reason, logic and a traditional sense of self-worth. 

Acedia, “a little dab will do ya”,1   or do you in. 

Dr. John Bickert 
1 The Noonday Devil: Acedia, the Unnamed Evil of Our Times
Nault, Jean-Charles. Ignatius Press November 2015: ISBN: 9781586179397 
2 Acedia and its Discontents: Metaphysical Boredom in an Empire of Desire. Snell, R. J., Angelico Press May 2016:  ISBN: 1621381269 
3Nault,  The Noonday Devil. 
4 Snell, Acedia and its Discontents: p 69 
1 From a Brylcreem commercial in the 1950’s. Amazingly it is still sold.  
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