“whenever it [acedia] begins in any degree to overcome any one, it either makes him stay in his cell idle and lazy, without making any spiritual progress, or it drives him out from thence and makes him restless and a wanderer, and indolent in the matter of all kinds of work, and it makes him continually go round the cells of the brethren and the monasteries, with an eye to nothing but this; viz., where or with what excuse he can presently procure some refreshment. For the mind of an idler cannot think of anything but food and the belly…” On The Spirit of Acedia, Chapter VI, the Institutes of John Cassian
What is acedia?
Many theologians have tried to define this spiritual plague. Deep discontent arising in the spiritual life is at its bitter core. For a monk it may manifest in just what Cassian details. An aching spiritual hunger that is never satisfied. A monk may try to soothe his discontent with anything but prayer…wandering to and fro..eating this and that.
Sound familiar? A monk’s life is not all that different than ours at the heart.
In the world we may see the symptoms of acedia (akeedeia) in a similar manner:
Wanting to be anywhere that you aren’t. Wanting everything that you do not have. Being miserable in your own skin…restless. Quite a modern day illness if you will?
Buddhists have described this similarly, in that desire is what keeps you miserable and tied to this world. Christians do not shun desire itself, insofar that it is ordered correctly. Cassian reminds me of this. Remembering to desire within what I have been given, within providence. Reminding myself to be happy with what I have been given, even if it is the glorious chance to suffer, for that is to feel.
As much as I adore escaping through literature, travel or even creating beautiful recipes, there is a deep pain that can come from too much of this practice. One does not have to want to run to the ends of the earth to be suffering from acedia. One can be constantly searching within their own heart. That searching can bring illness. Everyone on Facebook seem to have more exciting lives than you? Watch that acedia! Wish your husband would whisk you away on a romantic getaway as they do in the movies? Ok, but bet if he does, as soon as you are back home, acedia.
Acedia might even get you while you are on holiday, for a new location will never bandage the pain of today for long.
What might be a way to remedy this?
Learning to BE. Accepting our lot in life. Well, as a food writer in particular (excluding the other personal aspects of my life), not going outside my budget, which as of now is tighter than it has been. Over here as much as I love new cultural recipes, experimentation has its costs both financial and spiritual. No bookmarking any recipes this week using duck confit.
I fight the restless urge of the mind to buy, seek, move forward, produce! Isn’t that the American way? It may be, but it is not the only way all of the time. There is something to be said for tradition and simplicity.
So no buying new ingredients this week. Look at the produce you have. Peek into the depths of that cavernous pantry that hasn’t seen the light. Can you make something with it? Or better yet, just eat it as it is.
If only we could be happy….just where we are. I’m trying. Care to try with me?
Eat tomatoes cut in half w/salt. No link needed!
Cucumbers or Carrots?
Eat cucumbers & carrots cut up & sprinkled w/salt. Perfect.
Eat Fruit. Sink teeth into that plum and enjoy the juices running down your face.
Have a CSA w/ Veggies Coming In?
Current ways I have been simply eating my CSA from One Woman Farm and my herb garden:
Cut up vegetables with Tzatiki (yogurt+lemon juice+fresh dill(and/or mint)+salt)
Sauteed Kale + Buttered Toast + Scrambled Eggs
Seeking some more depth on acedia? I can’t vouch for the rest of the blog (because I haven’t read it yet), but this post over on Darwin Catholic on acedia is quite perceptive. Also, she (they?) has a tag line in the same vein as mine. Sweet.