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.