The midday demon in our distracted time
What to do if you enjoy Netflix binge more than God's calling?
The spirit of Acedia drives the monk out of his cell, but the monk who has perseverance will ever cultivate silence. A person affected by Acedia suggests visiting the sick, but serves their own purpose. A monk who has been given to Acedia does a service quickly, but regards his own satisfaction as a requirement.
– Evagrius Ponticus, from On the eight thoughts
IIn the first year of my doctorate, I was 21 years old, lonely, disoriented, completely overwhelmed and unwilling to admit it. Instead of running to my professors for help or diving into the library, I avoided homework altogether. I said to myself that I don't work because I don't care about my lessons, but the truth was that the fear of failure was too great to bear. I knew that God had called me to this task, but when the difficulty of the work began, my call became a source of sadness instead of joy.
I first heard the term Acedia – which Thomas Aquinas defines as "sadness in an inner or spiritual good" – as a PhD student working as a teaching assistant for an introductory ethics course. I didn't think about it much at first, but over time I realized that this old Christian concept was at the center of my daily experience.
When my doctoral program ended, my struggle with Acedia wasn't over. Instead, it shifted to a realm I never expected: my relationship with my children. It is impossible to describe the joy of being a parent or the love that you suddenly feel for the tiny person who has been taken care of by you. In everyday life from early morning hours, diapers, cleaning and endless negotiations, parenting can seem stressful rather than joyful. Even now, I'm occasionally looking for escape from life that …