Get Out of My Life, God! But First Could You Drive Me & Dawkins to the Mall?
After all, if it's a capital sin, there must be a reason. And a capital sin is...
Hey, what is a capital sin, anyway? I'm assuming that it involves choosing a course of action that places one's soul in real danger, ultimately running counter to one's very reason for being. These sins lead to spiritual suicide, if you will -- a self-administered celestial abortion and an in-your-face rejection of O. It is not just the flight into Ø, but the prideful celebration of it.
Again, since there is no adequate translation of acedia, it has become associated with "the middle-class work ethic" -- as if the latter could have anything to do with spiritual perfection. But if anything, acedia is at a right angle to the work ethic, in that Aquinas associates it with forgetting the sabbath, "by which man is enjoined to 'rest his spirit in God'" (Pieper).
And if you will turn your new testavus for the rest of us to page 236, you will see that Toots Mondello enjoins us to observe the sabbath speed limit, which does not mean putting your pedal to the metal, but rather, slowing down, precisely. To quote ourselves, it involves "turning toward what is 'behind' and 'above' the external world and its nihilocracy of urgent nonsense." Furthermore, it is simultaneously a "memoir of the future" and a return to "the unmanifest paradise of Eden."
One might say that the paradoxical "work" of the sabbath involves internalizing its essential contours and rhythms, so that there is a peaceful "zone of silence" between oneself and the world. The work of the sabbath is not "not doing" -- which is only the opposite of doing -- but non-doing, as per our friend, the gentleman from China, LaoTsu.
We prefer to call it non-doodling, because it may look like we are just doodling around doing nothing, but it's true. We are indeed doing nothing, which requires the effort of no effort. In fact, I'm not doing it right now.
Speaking of this return to the vertical source, I just want to share something that ba-lew my mind, as they used to say. This weekend I was reading this fine little book on Aquinas, by Josef Pieper. I am embarrassed to admit that I've never actually read the Summa Theologica, a failing I am about to rectify.
Anyway, I get to the bottom of page 101, and Pieper says that in order to understand the structure of the Summa, one must imagine "a circular diagram, in a ring returning back upon itself."
And here is Aquinas' bottom line, which turns out at bottom to be a metacosmic circle: "In the emergence of creatures from their first Source is revealed a kind of circulation, in which all things return, as to their end, back to the very place from which they had their origin in the beginning."
Who knew? Aquinas was a Raccoon!
Where were we? Yes, back to acedia, which, in a way, can be thought of as the perverse struggle to convert the above-noted circle into a straight line. Doing so automatically takes one off the path, and prevents one from floating upstream on the cosmic winds.
Acedia fundamentally involves choosing worldliness over spirit; it is to commit oneself to the horizontal over the vertical. Thus, it "lacks courage for the great things that are proper to the nature of the Christian" (Pieper), so that the acedic man hasn't "the will to be as great as he really is. He would prefer to be less great in order thus to avoid the obligation of greatness" (ibid).
One can well understand how acedia represents a kind of "perverted humility"; Pieper aptly compares it to the neurotic patient who consciously wishes to get better, but unconsciously resists it because of the responsibilities it will bring in the future, not to mention the regrets about the past.
Resistance is ubiquitous in psychotherapy, if only because any dynamic system first and foremost wishes to go on being. But there's more to it than that, as genuine growth is always a double-edged sword, as is seen quite vividly in developing children. Every major movement toward individuation and autonomy brings with it a little separation anxiety that needs to be tolerated and worked through. To put it simply, gaining individuation means losing mommy.
I might add that we never truly resolve this dialectic between merger and autonomy, a topic I will be posting on in the near future. It's just that instead of fleeing back and dissolving into the loving arms of mommy, we regress in different ways, some healthy, others pathological.
For example, it's no secret that for the Raccoon, the Beer O'clock slackrament is a kind of dissolution into the arms of the cosmic mother, but there are many other examples. Always there is the father principle of doing and the mother principle of being. Obviously there are many ways for pathology to enter into the marriage, but that's a subject for a different post.
Pieper goes on to say that acedia can go from mere passive drifting to "an actual fleeing from God. Man flees from God because God has exalted human nature to a higher, a divine, state of being and has thereby enjoined on man a higher standard of obligation."
Again, man is condemned to transcendence. But to paraphrase Pieper, acedia ultimately expresses the wish that God would just leave us alone and stop pestering us with these annoying calls to dignity, nobility, and greatness. Go away, God! I'm not your baby anymore! I can do it myself!