Sunday, October 13, 2013

Acedia - Sloth

...a spiritual malady.

I was reading an article about sloth by Rebecca Konyndyk DeYoung, a professor at Calvin College. I found it on the Internet because I have been wondering if my spiritual life is slowly dying. I wondered if it was dying because my strenuous efforts to achieve enlightenment have been slowly let go. My running transcendence project has been discontinued. Is my daily spiritual study enough? Is the fellowship of AA enough?

I don't really have a way to calibrate. Most spiritual concepts are woefully corrupted by religious dogmas which are not really spiritually based. Many practices are dopamine based.

First note, my reading of the sloth article this morning takes place against a back drop of the "conscious contact" spirituality offered by AA, A Course in Miracles, Paul Brunton's philosophy, my own Americanism, my life as a process safety expert in a chemical plant. If my left foot was not out of commission, I doubt I'd be spending the time on this. I'd be out running and dreaming of racing the next marathon or ultra-marathon.

So, some excerpts. She starts with the desert fathers; those early Christians who left the cities to dwell in desert wilderness and fight demons (evil thoughts). I myself, in my monastic life and in my secular solitary life, fight demons. The demon of acedia (sloth) "deploys every device in order to have the monk leave his cell and flee the life" (Evagrius) is a vice that threatens one's fundamental commitment to one's religious's entire commitment of one's life to God is at stake...For Pascal....diversions and distractions are what we fill our lives and minds with to avoid facing the truth about who we are and are called to be in relationship with God...

She discusses how in today's secular world, work has become a virtue equivalent to worship. How work is our promise of self fulfillment. How humans are wired to seek fulfillment but really, only the divine relationship can provide fulfillment. Acedia is a resistance to divine relationship by either laziness or virtuous industriousness. Rooted in self-love and presumption of dominion over our own lives that neither acknowledges nor depends on God.

Sloth is resistance, inertia.

For me this morning, "resistance to grace" sprung to life as I considered the plight of people with long term sobriety who quit going to meetings. We say we don't need the meetings. If I believe this, then I have probably missed the point of the meetings. They are not really about fear of drinking (although drinking does usually follow). They are about participation, cooperation, dependence on Grace, freely available at the meetings.

The answer is to go deeper. Alcoholism is a spiritual malady. Recovery is a spiritual project. If meeting makers make it, then meetings must be spiritual. Why do I resist except for ego? My original excuse, being in a convent, may have had a genuine yearning for contemplation as a virtuous motive. God may have devised my monastic experience as a way to add to my spiritual capability. But still, I am left with fighting demons.

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