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  • Writer's pictureJane Leder

I Have Acedia: I Bet You Do, Too

What the heck is acedia? If you're like me, you've never heard the word before but sense that maybe it's something bad caused by the Pandemic. And you'd be right.

A friend emailed an article from the online magazine Conversation, a publication described as an independent and not-for-profit part of a global network of newsrooms first launched in Australia in 2011.

Independent? "Not-for-profit?" You mean, a publication based on science, research, and editorial integrity? Halleluya!

So, have you finished that photo album you started back in March or read the pile of books sitting on the table next to your bed? (I know I haven't.) Are you still posting photos accompanied by recipes for all the new dishes you've created? Are you running out of Netflix or Amazon movies and series to watch? And what about all that Zooming that at the start of all of this was so "cool--a lifeline to take the place of human contact?

Oh, I should add to the list all those emails sent to friends and family back in April and May that chronicled how all your free time was so appreciated because you finally could get stuff done that you'd been putting on the back burner for months--for years. You know, like cleaning your closets, rearranging the furniture, balancing your checkbook. I'm sure you can add to the list.

As Beth Daley, author of Acedia: the lost name for the emotion we’re all feeling right now, wrote, "We're bored, listless, afraid and uncertain." Add to such malaise an upcoming election that has the country divided almost down the middle, and it's no wonder that we're ready to jump out of our skin!

Well, join the crowd because you are suffering from acedia, an emotion that an ancient Greek monk wrote about back in the early 5th century. His mind was "seized," and he was none too happy. He was "disgusted" with his room, "listless," just plain tuckered out. He had no visitors and spent empty hours waiting for the sun to set so his day would end. Ring a bell?

I won't bog you down with the etymology of the word acedia. For that, you can check out Daley's detailed discussion. The salient point is that acedia has disappeared from our lists of emotional woes; perhaps, it's time to resurrect it.

Social distancing limits physical contact. Lockdown constricts physical space and movement. Working from home or having lost work entirely both upend routines and habits. In these conditions, perhaps it’s time to bring back the term. Beth Dalely

So, the next time a friend calls and asks how you're doing and you're feeling "down," tell them you have acedia. What? Acedia? Yeah, you know, acedia. Explain to them that words like melancholy, depression just don't cut it, but that a monk back in the 5th century knew exactly what so many of us are suffering from during this Pandemic.

And consider asking one of your media-savvy friends to post the hashtag #downwithacedia and see if it trends on Twitter.


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