If acedia or apathy lies at the heart of climate denial in our culture today, as some keen observers like Lester Brown and environmental lawyers maintain, it behooves us to study more deeply what acedia is all about. Maybe doing so will unleash some of the forces holding humanity back from responding to our own extinction.
Etymologically, the word “acedia” is said to have two derivatives. One is akedos in Greek, which means “not caring.” The other is from the word for “sour.”
There is a not-caring aspect to acedia, a lack of passion, and there is also an attitude of sourness or cynicism toward life. It is said that acedia “consists in loving a great good with less intensity than it deserves; it is “slow love.” Dante defines acedia as “slow love.” A “slow love” is presumably one that fails to connect to the cosmic love.
The first chakra, we will recall, concerns taking in the sounds of the universe – it is all about cosmology and ecology; the sciatic nerve links to the minor chakras of the knee and foot.
It is all about being grounded in the sacredness of all being and all relations (remember that the sacrum literally means “the hollow bone.”). It is all about listening – listening to the vibrations and music of all that is, to all that is holy. Its color is the red of blood and excitement and eros.
Acedia, defined by Thomas Aquinas as “the lack of energy to begin new things,” is a kind of ennui, depression, cynicism, sadness, boredom, listlessness, couch-potato-it is, being passive, apathetic, psychically exhausted, having no energy.
Adapted from Matthew Fox, Sins of the Spirit, Blessings of the Flesh: Transforming Evil in Soul and Society, p. 189.
Banner Image: Playing the music within. Photo by Calum MacAulay on Unsplash
To read the transcript of Matthew’s video teaching, click HERE.
Queries for Contemplation
Do you recognize that being cynical and sour often accompanies an attitude of not caring? How can we get beyond that with one another?
“Wisdom, Grace, Love” – a 3-part online lecture series by Caroline Myss, Andrew Harvey, and Matthew Fox, September 8, 15, and 22, 3:00-4:30 pm Pacific (GMT/UTC-7). Learn more HERE.