Greg's Weekly Word: "ἀκηδία" (acedia)
Updated: Oct 7, 2020
It's an ancient word for what so many of us are feeling these days.^
We've watched everything on Netflix. Zoom parties are no longer new and fun. Nobody is making sourdough bread anymore. We have piles of books to read, but scroll thoughtlessly through social media. The news seems worse every day but we keep watching. We want to get outside or run a 5K but can't seem to find the time...or the motivation.
This is ἀκηδία (acedia). It's an emotion described mostly by the ancient Greeks, literally meaning "a lack of care or concern." But it's more than apathy or melancholy. Acedia describes the feeling of being both bored and listless, uncertain and anxious but without energy. Early Christian writers spoke of acedia as "the noonday demon," and found it often arose out of the distance and disconnection of solitary monastic life (i.e. the original social distancing).
As the COVID-19 pandemic has worn on, we've gone months with limited physical contact and social activity. Our routines and sense of what is "normal" have been completely upended. And phrases like "I'm in a funk," or "I'm just worried" don't seem to capture our feelings. Neither do clinical terms like anxiety and depression (although some of us do struggle with mental health, and even more so during times such as these).*
What we're feeling is acedia.
For starters, we can acknowledge that our experiences and emotions are more complex than simply being in "a funk." And we can acknowledge that these circumstances in which we are living right now are difficult, and it is natural to feel the way we do.
Then, perhaps we will realize that we are not the only ones feeling this way...and perhaps share with others who might feel the same. I know I have felt acedia, as recently as this week, even. In short, you are not alone. None of us are.
So finally, maybe we can find ways to social and emotional isolation we have felt. Stay connected with friends and family (and church family!). Pick up the phone and make a call to someone. See if you can get together for a cup of coffee or a drink outdoors, 6 feet apart. Share how you're feeling with trusted loved ones.
And (of course I had to get a plug in for the church) we are now worshiping in-person on Sunday mornings. So if you feel comfortable coming, join us in the sanctuary (with certain precautions, of course) at 10:30 am on Sunday morning. Or, if you can't come, watch live on the church's Facebook page. Either way, worship is always an opportunity to connect with God and with one another, and in doing so, to remember that we are never alone.
^ Even though I am a huge ancient languages nerd, I only learned about this word from a recent online article. Much of what I've written here is drawn directly from it.
* If you are struggling with your mental health, please reach out to a mental health service provider or counselor. Our church partners with Canterbury Counseling Center, or you can search the United Way's list of mental health resources.