I am feeling a little sick/nauseous this morning and so I can’t promise complete coherency, or that all of my quick takes will be of much substance…..
(see what I did there?…)
No matter how many times I hear it, read it, or have it explained to me, I always benefit from the occasional reminder that the vice of Sloth has far less to do with the activity or inactivity of our bodies or the toughness of our circumstances and far more to do with our wills.
I love Dr. Kreeft’s description in “Shocking Beauty”:
“Habitual boredom, boredom, not just with a specific task like chopping wood for ten hours a day, but boredom that is like the sky spread over everything, not only leads to sin, but it is in itself a sin. The medievals called it sloth (acedia or akedia), one of the seven deadly sins.
Sloth is not simply laziness. In fact, it does not necessarily imply any physical laziness at all. It means the passivity and inactivity of the will and the passions even in the presence of the true good. In other word, it is the soul’s refusal to eat its food. As violence is spiritual junk food, boredom is spiritual anorexia.”
When we are feeling and acting lazy, we should examine the state of our hearts. Sometimes “the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matt 26:41), in which case we just have to try our hardest to overcome the weakness (and keep on “chopping” per Kreeft’s example above). However, sometimes the flesh is weak precisely because the spirit is, in fact, unwilling.
More Sloth and other things.
Continuing from the thoughts on Sloth above but going on in a slightly different, but slightly same direction…
We live in a culture that sometimes overtly and sometimes subtly denies the freedom of our wills. For example, when we fail to love, our culture tells us we couldn’t help it because we “fell out of love” or “lost that loving feeling.” When we are angry or annoyed or impatient we look externally for the causes of our anger or annoyance or impatience. When we are bored during Mass or while our spouse/mother/father/friend/coworker is talking, we are tempted to think it is because the Mass or our spouse/mother/father/friend/coworker are boring!
But love is a choice we can make in spite of our feelings in any given moment. Our feelings may be a part of us, and to some degree beyond our control, and our wills may be enslaved or addicted insofar as we have let them become so, but they are still free. Likewise, if we are angry, annoyed, or impatient, while these may be prompted by something external, we are nevertheless responsible for our response. God promises us enough grace in any situation to be able to make the right choice and to move forward.
And finally, regarding Mass and our spouse/mother/father/friend/coworker, recall one of the key lines from the Kreeft quote earlier:
[Sloth] means the passivity and inactivity of the will and the passions even in the presence of the true good.
The human person is immortal, an unfathomable mystery, and contains the possibility of sharing in the goodness, truth, and beauty of the Holy Trinity. In the Mass, Christ, the second Person of this Holy Trinity, gives Himself — Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity — to human persons.
True goods? Uh, yeah. Am I slothful? Yep.
Last week Teresa, Dominic, and I discovered the weekly farmer’s market held at the Muskingum County Fairgrounds in Zanesville, Ohio. I had always liked the idea of farmer’s markets, but had been consistently underwhelmed by those I attended. This was the first event that really merited the term “market” and I must say the whole thing finally really clicked for me.
There were about 20-30 vendors (usually more on non-rainy days, I was told) with a huge variety of gorgeous produce from pumpkins to peppers to apples, sausage, and steak. The produce was of great quality, the people were friendly and fun, and the prices were unbeatable. One couple I began talking to wouldn’t let me leave without striking a deal I couldn’t refuse: 12 beautiful, green peppers for $2.
I loved it. There were just so many things “right” about this experience.
It was great to see this variety of local food producers working together as a vocational group of sorts both to support and facilitate each others’ businesses, but also to make it a fun and worthwhile experience for the customers. These are real people from our community whom we might wave to on the street or worship with in church. They are accountable to and interested in our community the way a big-box store, owned by someone halfway across the world, could never be. Likewise, since these people are our friends and neighbors, we want to invest in and support them and our “voting dollars” have a real effect when we do so. Finally, of course, the quality and prices of these healthy, fresh, nourishing foods were unbeatable. I think we’ll probably be back every week from now on.
I found the following “Prayer for Those We Love” years ago in a little black prayer book given to me by my parents.
Lord God, we can hope for others nothing better than the happiness we desire for ourselves. Therefore, I pray you, do not separate me after death from those I tenderly loved on earth. Grant that where I am they may be with me, and that I may enjoy their presence in heaven after being so often deprived of it on earth. Lord God, I ask you to receive your beloved children immediately into your life-giving heart. After this brief life on earth, give them eternal happiness. Amen. — Saint Ambrose of Milan (339-397) (http://www.catholicity.com/prayer/prayer-for-those-we-love.html)
This prayer has returned to me throughout my life at those times when human mortality was most evident. When family or friends have been sick or dying or even in response to the deaths of very distant figures, like Steve Jobs or Michael Jackson, to name a couple, this prayer has always welled up in my heart. Every soul is a treasure and there could be no tragedy greater than the loss of even one.
“There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.”
— C.S. Lewis
Check out the blog of my good friend, Brother Rex: http://littleportionhermitage.blogspot.com
“Little Portion Hermitage is a place of Christ-centered solitude, sacred silence, and intercessory prayer. Founded for the glory of God and inspired by the example of St Francis of Assisi, the hermitage is faithful to the teachings of Jesus Christ found in their fullness among Churches in full communion with the See of Peter. The hermit residing at Little Portion is a person in Consecrated Life in accord with Canon 603, under the jurisdiction of the bishop of the Diocese of Portland, ME.”
I met Brother Rex during my brief stint in seminary. At the time I was very anxious about the direction of my vocational discernment and Brother talked me through it and supported me in prayer. He has been a good friend and spiritual mentor of sorts ever since. Now we work together for the Coming Home Network International.
Over on Twitter, William Newton pointed out:
Some Interesting Links
Roger Scruton – Why Beauty Matters (2009) – BBC documentary http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RiajXQUppYY
Get the Perfect Haircut: How to Talk to Your Barber http://artofmanliness.com/2010/08/25/get-the-perfect-haircut-how-to-talk-to-your-barber/
Alzheimer’s could be the most catastrophic impact of junk food http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/sep/10/alzheimers-junk-food-catastrophic-effect?CMP=twt_gu
Ok, time for bed. Happy Friday to all!
For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!