Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Jan. 7, 2012: The Sin Nobody Knows About

Jan. 7, 2012
Being a medievalist, occasionally I post on the Seven Deadly Sins. This topic is Acedia.

What’s that, you say. (Even my husband, with twelve years of Catholic education, says he never heard of it.)
Acedia: the failure to attempt to live up to your potential. It appears on some lists of the Seven and not on others. Aquinas and Dante have a lot to say about it. You can look it up on Wikipedia.

The idea behind it was that each person is blessed by God with a unique potential, and to fail to try to fulfill it is to undermine God’s intent. This ranks as a sin comparable to suicide: throwing back in God’s face the gift of life –which would get you excluded from burial in hallowed ground in the old days.

Whether you believe in God or not, making the most of what you are certainly is good advice in any case. Of course life never, or at least usually, doesn’t make it easy.

Acedia. Perhaps this is the sin that over-arches all the others, since the others are really a matter of allowing your focus of attention to be absorbed in a mode of behavior that is going to be destructive to you, and to others, in the long run if not right away. The other sins all lead to Acedia – diverting you from fulfilling what you ought to be doing.

Acedia. It fits yesterday’s post. Focusing on sports, adoring athletes, or rock singers, actors, talk show hosts, whatever, to the exclusion of developing your own potential in a meaningful way. Yes your boy or girl may learn to throw a ball really well. Just what good does this really do for mankind? Or for his or her security in terms of being able to make a living in a way that brings some daily happiness?

Acedia leads to despair, most often the dull sort that makes life a daily trudge, sparked only by the engineered consumerism of TV entertainments, especially sports. It’s a vicious circle, isn’t it? Bring the child up on the hopeless fascination of sports so that he or she hasn’t the practical means to develop a fulfilling life of his or her own, and is left with the life long escape back into sports – buying overpriced shirts with ball players’ names and numbers, for themselves and for the next generation they are bringing up in their own hollowed-out footsteps.
We don’t have to live like this.

Katherine Ashe is the author of the  four volume Montfort novelized series