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.

Stream of Consciousness

Image by George Grie

Image by George Grie

I had cracked open the shell of a dream and came out unscathed. The morning not yet abloom. There is time for another. Let me sleep just a little longer. A few moments more and all will be well.

I cannot.

Somewhere beneath the diaphragm the cancerous palpitations had already taken hold. My arms propel me out of the claggy sheets and I rush into the bathroom determined to preempt the attack. Water. Water will be my saviour. It will turn my skin into silk and usher away all concerns.

It must. It must. It must.

Within moments I know the battle to be lost. I feel the pain scarring through my veins unabated. It buds through in sheets of ice, each limb offshooting another, clawing through from the core of my stomach outwards. Its ivy smothers the beat of my heart lassoing lungs and pulling in until it is impossible to breathe.

Let it end. Oh please – let it end!

Fingers cradle into the recess of the wall unable to steady the oncoming shudder. Each intake of air seers my nostrils. Breaths shorten. One. Another. A third. A few seconds more and there will be none to be had. Not weightless. Never weightless. Barely able to find my feet, I crawl into a towel. The lines of the walls dissolve all around me, melting into the floor. The room bursts into blurs of purple. Hammers pound through obliterating all in their wake.

All I have is fear.

 

Writing 101, Day One: Unlock the Mind

About this post: I am late to the game, having been away from my blog for most (call it all) of June when the Writing 101 challenge began. Nonetheless, I will attempt to follow into the footsteps of my betters and contribute to the mix.

The first assignment posited a challenge. I am not as a rule a “stream if consciousness” writer. To overcome this early hurdle I decided to describe a recent (this morning’s in fact) experience.

Many of you would have experienced anxiety at some point, and while I hope your own struggles have not fallen into extremes, I am certain that this piece will resonate with some of you at least.

I have no brush to paint you a picture, but this is the best I can manage to fashion in words. For the time being at least.

Warm regards,

Vic

Ellipsis

Stones and Flowers by Vic Briggs

“I suppose sooner or later in the life of everyone comes a moment of trial. We all of us have our particular devil who rides us and torments us, and we must give battle in the end.”
― Daphne du Maurier, Rebecca

I look up from my tomb of stone and for a time wait in silence for the end to reach me. There are no last words of wisdom, no legacy of letters to offer in exchange for one day more.

As the shadow crumbles into darkness I glimpse an edge of white curved into my palm.

I blink. I blink again. It stays with me.

A flower… My thumb traces its crown as if to reassure itself that it is truly there. So small that it could be a trick of light.

Light? Realisation breaks through.

Not all is lost.

By the Dots

Phoenix

fire-phoenix,1366x768,51166

Extinguished voice,

Its failing light

Wounds,

Crashing through white noise.

A shadow –

From its body ripped –

Guides simmered hopes,

All blind with fright.

By wordless depths unbound

In death,

A dissonant lament

Burns solace through my grief.

As tears turn to ash,

I write into my skin

The fire

Of a long-lost dream.

 

Writing Space

Inadequacy

Full Moon by Vic Briggs

Freud had placed envy at the centre of malign feelings, for envy destroys all that is good, including goodness itself. We are never quick to admit to being envious of others, because that would entail also admitting that we are, in some way or another, their inferiors, be that in talent, intellect, ability, skill, kindness and so on. Yet there is another feeling which is as painful and can be as destructive: that of inadequacy.

There is a tendency and desire in people both to conform and to stand out. A feeling of inadequacy implies a failure in both.

I considered leaving it at that. After all, the experience of inadequacy must be near universal. We have all believed ourselves to have come short of expectations – whether our own or others’ – at some point in our lives. Nonetheless, there is a particularity attached to each individual’s experience: sameness in difference and vice versa.

Going to the root of the problem appears a near impossible feat. I journeyed through a plethora of theories, each concluding in the terrifying image: an internal battlefield where the discrepancy between reality and an idealised version of the self are set to clash. It is a vicious cycle, whereby anger is directed inwards and creates a self-perpetuating conflict that – when left unaddressed – will result in the onset and persistence of depression.

The problem goes deep. Reaching an objective viewpoint seldom helps. Whereas with most other malign feelings, understanding and acceptance make it possible to overcome their hold, that is not the case with inadequacy. This feelings is unsupported by reason. Even when we know that there is no basis in reality for how we feel, that does not automatically allow for its power to be broken. Since reason fails us, the solution will necessitate a creative approach.

Having been reminded of Nelson Mandela’s reversal of the coin, I would like to conclude on a more optimistic note: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.” If we are inadequate, the great pretenders of this world, what we are reflects the chasms and vicissitudes on an imperfect world. And since we are able to dream up perfect versions of ourselves and of the world we inhabit, then ours too is the power to let go of these imagined Utopias.

 

Daily Prompt: The Great Pretender

The sound of emptiness

72471151d2f1a15a8850287ed0cb66ac

There is a place where empty souls find rest

From the relentless dust of days that simmer black

And for a time it fills the void with noise so white

That colour’s memory refuses to come back.

 

I let the rain freeze on my collar-bones

And prayed that it would never let me feel

For when the thunderstorms awake within

The last respite of flesh on bone they steal.

 

So cold… this endless gaol always finds a way

To tear me down, smashing through all hope

And when another dawn breaks through again

The light bleeds blue in twists of scarlet rope.

*

Daily Prompt: Careless Whisper

 

Sleeplessness

Sleeplessness

I tried to find some source of happiness in the beauty that surrounded me. As long as the sun was high on the horizon and a thousand nothings were to be seen and done I could carry on as if nothing of importance had truly happened in my life. The routine appealed. It gave my chaotic universe some semblance of order and I could at least pretend to feel at peace.

In the darkness of the long winter nights I struggled to keep my demons at bay. I tossed and turned for hours on end pursued by ghostly visions and when a deeper sleep took hold of me at last I would be roused suddenly by a recurring scream, bewildered and afraid, my eyes searching fruitlessly the pitch-black corners of the room for its source. It would take minutes, long centuries of them, for me to realise that the shriek had been my own; that it had been outwardly silent, an asphyxiated expansion of a cavity denied a voice. Yet the haunting cry reverberated for hours longer through the darkest recesses of my mind, taunting me, scratching away at the little oasis of everydayness that had kept me sane thus far.

With each sundown malign dreams gnawed away more intensely at my respite. I grew terrified of shutting my eyelids lest the storms of my unconscious took hold once again. Frenzied spells would give way to bouts of melancholia and with the lack of sleep; my waking thoughts had grown darker too.

I feel a vast emptiness all around me. No history, no memories, no content whatsoever. The world and all its tribulations belong to others, not me. Anguished. In pain. It is this pointlessness of misery that sweetens the taste of poison and makes one’s neck crave the cuddle of a rope. A set of fingers, following instinctively the course of those thoughts, trailed the rounded curve of the neckline and contracted gently for one moment only, reassured by the pulse of the blood surging through.

Had I fallen asleep? Was I awake? At times I struggled to make out the difference.