Activism is born of love and caring—and also of moral outrage and anger. Think of the thousands who marched in Selma or filled the jails voluntarily (teen agers among them) in Birmingham and elsewhere to challenge segregation, Jim Crow laws, and the rest.
Anger is often born of moral outrage or of grief. In either case, if steered correctly, it can be tapped into as valuable energy. If steered incorrectly, it leads to violence and more chaos and havoc and war.
This is why Thomas Aquinas can say that “nothing great happens without anger,” that anger is a fuel for taking on worthwhile tasks and persevering in them.
Beauty is another path to taking on great tasks, he also points out. “Zeal comes from an intense experience of the beauty of things.”
We are living in a time when there is much that is ugly—war and all its barbarity, a crazy and dangerous gulf, growing daily , between the billionaires of the world and 95% of the human population, the destruction of the planet, media moguls and politicians who choose to spread lies and can do so by way of almost instant communications and so much more.
But we are also living in a time when beauty is also more swiftly communicated including the courage and generosity of those resisting war in Ukraine and/or offering hospitality and assistance to the millions of refugees and so much more.
Can the outrage at war and the transmitting of war live into our living rooms daily translate into a deeper awareness of the folly of war altogether? Might the day come soon when we can steer the vast resources—intellectual and financial and creative–we use for war toward something we can all benefit from such as standing up successfully to defend mother Earth? All the research we put into war, can it be steered instead toward saving Mother Earth as we know her?
The capital sin of “acedia” I usually understand as Aquinas defined it, “the lack of energy to begin new things.” Depression, nihilism, self-pity, denial, despair, all these attitudes can birth acedia. But another way to name acedia, also offered by Aquinas, is this: A “shrinking of the mind.”
When our minds shrink, when our world gets too small, we can easily fall into acedia which includes not caring and not having the energy to act.
This is one more reason why a re-marriage of cosmos and psyche can be so valuable for putting love into action.
Adapted from Matthew Fox, The Tao of Thomas Aquinas: Fierce Wisdom for Hard Times, pp. 21, 131-137.
And Matthew Fox, Sins of the Spirit, Blessings of the Flesh: Transforming Evil in Soul and Society, pp. 189-201, 231-236.
To read a transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.
Queries for Contemplation
What does it mean to you, how does it strike you, that the “capital sin” of acedia is defined not as just “sloth,” but as the “lack of energy to begin new things” and by a “shrinking of the mind”? What follows from that?
The Tao of Thomas Aquinas: Fierce Wisdom for Hard Times
A stunning spiritual handbook drawn from the substantive teachings of Aquinas’ mystical/prophetic genius, offering a sublime roadmap for spirituality and action.
Foreword by Ilia Delio.
“What a wonderful book! Only Matt Fox could bring to life the wisdom and brilliance of Aquinas with so much creativity. The Tao of Thomas Aquinas is a masterpiece.”
–Caroline Myss, author of Anatomy of the Spirit