Before there were the 7 Deadly Sins, Evagrius of Pontus offered the 8 Thoughts. One of those 8 Thoughts that didn’t stick around through the evolution to Deadly Sins was acedia. This Thought is at least as prevalent and problematic as the others in our time and in my life.
Currently I’m transitioning from one job to another. Still with the old job, looking forward to the new. I’ve been on the hunt for a while and for many different reasons. But as I look forward to the new job, it’s been helpful to realign my expectations when I’ve caught myself thinking, “It will all be better when I start something new!”
While in any situation for long enough, it’s easy to wonder if life would be better elsewhere, if a change of circumstances, surroundings, or people might resolve the problems of boredom, dissatisfaction, stress, or any other affliction. This “grass is greener” syndrome is a primary expression of Evagrius’ acedia.
Evagrius was a Desert Father writing for monks over 1,600 years ago. His acedia was also called “the Noon Day Demon,” because it tended to come in the middle of the day, when time moved slowly, and the day appeared “fifty hours long.” The demon settles in the mind, and causes suspicion to grow about the monk’s surroundings and takes his mind to other worlds such as a past life, or imagined future. The monk began to wonder if anyone would even ever visit him (sad face). Not only did it cause the monk to lose enthusiasm about his duties, perhaps more alarmingly acedia also caused him to miss the music of the moment, the daily fruit of his vocation.
Preparing for a new job, I’ve paid special attention to what I’m looking forward to. How much of what I am looking forward to is the actual good that I am following? How much of it is just acedia? Why does it matter? Acedia creates an illusion that acting on acedia's promptings will solve our problems. Yet in the end, it brings us to the same problems we left. Many of my problems start with me. And no matter where I go, I will be going, too. There will also remain problems of other people and the occasional trudger, especially in work. No change in circumstance resolves these totally!
Answering questions of motivation now helps me not to temper, but to realign my expectations. My expectation for happiness and satisfaction should be grounded on something real, something good, not illusions of solving my problems by changing this or that circumstance. Continuing to ask the question of motivation after the change will help keep acedia at bay, as I hopefully remain aware of the sustaining and real reasons for the change and the real source of my satisfaction in work.
My prayer is to look forward to the new job with gratitude for the gift that it truly is, and the Presence I will find there for my satisfaction, the same Presence that the demon of acedia has helped me overlook in my old job:
Help me to remember that the grass is greener where You are present!