Have you ever noticed that when you learn something new, suddenly you hear about it everywhere? Or you get a different car, and now it seems that every other car on the road is the same make? It’s not as if the word ‘acedia’ is coming up in conversations all over the place, but the concept certainly is.
In Sunday School our teacher was talking about “settling” for less in life, and why we don’t pursue spiritual things more aggressively. Some people mentioned fear of failure or fear of rejection. Others said they don’t have time. Some admitted that we do other things instead, because we’re seeking to fulfill an immediate need. I suggested that actually we’re not fulfilling any real need, but trying to numb ourselves against our own dissatisfaction.
We live in a world of media, and I wonder how much of our time connected to a computer, an IPod, a DVD screen or a video game is meant to distract us from a whole list of “shoulds” or “what ifs” or “if onlys”? Acedia is the demon of “I’ll think about that later”…”I’m too tired now”…”it doesn’t really matter anyway”… A generation of procrastinating students don’t do any homework at all because “when am I ever going to use this information in the real world?” They plug into ear-damaging music, send each other messages filled with wild fantasy, play endless rounds of Guitar Hero and Grand Theft Auto. And of course this is so much more useful in the “real world”…
I’m not trying to sound like a last-generation fogey. My generation turns on the TV, picks up the phone, eats another cookie, reads a magazine or a novel, checks e-mail again. We’re all professional-level procrastinators, and I think it’s the spirit of the age. Acedia isn’t just a personal demon any more. It’s a prime tool of the prince of the power of the air(waves) which makes us feel mildly productive when we’re only getting better at avoiding what’s important. Our instant access to world news increases our helpless despair…what can I do about war in Israel, or another shooting in a shopping mall, or the plummeting stock market?
What we don’t ask is, “What is my next-door neighbor’s greatest need?” Heck, often we don’t even know her name. What we don’t ask is, “What could I do for two hours this week to better my community?” I’m preaching to myself here, folks, so if this doesn’t apply to you I’m envious. It definitely applies to me. And I really hope that these thoughts and ideas and images don’t go away any time soon. I hope they keep coming up. Maybe then I’ll do something about them.
For one idea of a social issue to pursue, you could read Jon’s post for today, where he talks about his friend, Dian.