In Matters of Sloth

Smile and Sloth by Vic Briggs Daily Prompt: The Eighth Sin

Acedia or sloth, was first listed amongst eight evil thoughts (the basis of the modern seven deadly sins) by Evargrius the Solitary, a Christian ascetic monk.

Curiously, acedia does not necessarily have to mean sloth. It appears that in the Philokalia, which translates as “love of the beautiful, the good” and is “a collection of texts written between the 4th and 15th centuries by spiritual masters”,  the term acedia had the meaning of dejection or depression.

While depression may very well dim our ability to be sensible of the beautiful and the good in our lives, I should think that by including it amongst lists of “evil thoughts” and “deadly sins”, we attribute a negative agency to those who suffer from depression that is undeserved. So too goes for the paralysing consequences that depression can have, which prevent those who struggle with it to be as active and productive as they are when they are in a healthy place: being unable to work in such cases can by no means be deemed as slothful.

And while 4th century monks may have been ill-informed as to the causes of depression and its consequences, and could feel themselves justified in denoting it as a sin, I think that it may be time to eliminate it from the list.

So instead of adding another sin to the list, I say it is high time we lobby for the opposite.

As for our name-sake mammals, a few years ago I met one of their number in Peru. They are truly beautiful creatures, with soft, shaggy hair, kind eyes and appear to have a constant smile on their lips.  Certainly, they are very slow in their movements and I suppose that’s where they got the name. Then again, they have no reason to be in a hurry.

I’d like to think that perhaps if we too slowed down every now and then, and took our time to observe and delight in the world around us, we would enjoy life that little bit more.

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20 thoughts on “In Matters of Sloth

  1. I love everything about this post, Vic.

    I also met a beautiful sloth in Panama last February, and tried to “capture” it for a blog post, back then.

    Many thanks.

    • Thank you so much, Ann. They are such beautiful creatures and very gentle too. I fell in love the moment those long claws closed around my finger as if in sign of hello. I thought them very good “speakers” in the cause I am lobbying for in this post 🙂

    • Thank you, Chris. I was working on something rather different when I came across this day’s prompt and couldn’t help it. Also, it gave me a chance to take to my sketch pad again, which can only be a good thing.

    • It is how I combat writer’s block. My editing is stalling and I know that the best way to get over it is by wiring more not less. I am determined to get in at least 8 hours of editing this coming weekend – no matter how bad it is (or how bad I think it is, which when one has an editor’s bilkers on it’s likely to be one and the same 🙂 )
      Coming over to read your post.

    • Thank you, Elisabeth. I wanted my message to be full of light rather than the opposite. The subject of “deadly sins” is not an easy one to approach with humour, so I took the more serious route to begin with, but I hope I sprinkled just enough for a smile at the end.

  2. Hi Vic, back again! You are so right, we could learn a lot from sloths …”they have no reason to be in a hurry” Often our reasons for activity are spurious anyway. Your post in its Vic-ly wonderful way, shows us to take ‘time out’ smile and sloth! Luv the pic 😀

    • Hello Lee-Anne. I have to admit that I enjoyed my day away from blogging and I have another one coming tomorrow (or it might be today already: difficult to say with so many timeline variations). The moment I returned I knew what I wanted to write about, even though it was mere vapour once I set myself down the poem came to me fully formed. I only hope that the subject of choice does not make others anxious.

      • So far, no one has gleaned the darker interpretation of Secrets in Indigo (at least no one has mentioned that they have) so I will have to conclude that I worried for no reason at all. The “secret” remains so still.

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  5. Who was it that said–when we don’t lift a finger to change the world, the world doesn’t get better? I would add that this applies to our lives as well. My vote is to leave it as a sin,as I think that we all know what sloth really implies. (Not that it has anything to do with the rest of the animal kingdom.) Relaxation however, now that’s another subject!

    • Thank you for your comment, Patricia. Certainly sloth (in its most often used meaning and when taken to an extreme) would hardly enrich one’s life.
      I found the epistemology of the term very intriguing, as at the time when it was included in the list that would have been the usual usage. I was surprised that the theologians of the time would have deemed someone who was prone to bouts of melancholia to be sinful for that reason alone.
      Hope you are having a relaxing day 🙂

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