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Thu June 4, 2009
Green Tip 45--Acedia-Why Bother?
Hocking Hills, OH –
Since I was in High School in the late 1980's I remember people saying "who cares" in response to all sorts of things. Add to that the phases "whatever" and "so what" that are used every day by people of all ages in all walks of life since then. That makes a lot of negative thoughts and words floating around out there, somewhere. Deeds might be lurking right behind those thoughts and words. Whenever I hear these negative phrases, I shudder especially when it's from an intelligent and seemingly caring adult. It makes me crazy when my boys bring it home because they heard someone say it.
Last week when reading my Spirituality and Health magazine, I came across an article that helps explain and put into perspective these phrases, why people might say them and some explanation for why we have environmental issues and social injustices. The author of the article is Kathleen Norris, a best selling author. Her new book is called Acedia & Me: A Marriage, Monks and a Writer's Life. According to Kathleen Norris, the word "acedia" literally means "not caring" or being unable to care, and, ultimately, being unable to care that you can't care. She likes to think of acedia as the spiritual aspect of sloth. She says, "Acedia is spiritual morphine, but it does more than mask pain. It causes us to lose faith in ourselves and in our relationships with others."
According to Norris, the early Christian monks regarded acedia as one of the worst of the "eight bad thoughts" that plagued a monk trying to live and pray in peace. Acedia was right up there with anger and pride. Over the next few centuries .."The eight bad thoughts" evolved into what the church came to define as the "seven deadly sins". She quotes the late playwright Wendy Wasserstein who said, "When you achieve true slothdom, you have no desire for the world to change. True sloths are not revolutionaries but the lazy guardians at the gate of the status quo."
We have to care. We have to care about our bodies, our children, health, safety, our jobs, education, retirement, other people, our future and the environment. When we think or say "so what, who cares, or whatever", this attitude permeates our total being mind, body and spirit (even if we think it's just a joke or a phrase). For too long we have followed the status quo by making unnecessary purchases, by buying the newer, better household cleaner or body care product (more chemically laden), and by buying cheaper goods that are costly to the environment and human lives.
It seems to me that many of our environmental and social issues are a direct result of people being stuck in a mode of lethargy. We have not cared (at least not enough) and too many of us have been sloths. Many people have given up, not feeling like they can make a difference. Perhaps people think the problem is too big to tackle, so it's better to stick one's head in the sand. Remember, almost everything you do, almost every day, affects someone close to home and far away.
The eternal question acedia asks is the "why bother?" It suggests that what you are doing is useless and there is no hope. Lack of hope is the bottom rung of the ladder. So, when you feel this low, start climbing. Stop saying "who cares", "whatever" and "so what". Change your thoughts, your words and your deeds so that you can be better stewards of the Earth and each living inhabitant, seen and unseen. With everything you do every day, think of having clean air, water and land; better health for you and your children, your neighbor and your neighbor's children--all across the world.
Gwen Corbett, owner Bear's Den Cottages
www.bearsdencottages, Green Lodging
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