Many of you know that I like learning new (and obscure) words–especially if they have an interesting pedigree. So you probably won’t be surprised when I tell you how much I enjoyed the article Lyn Gust put in last week’s Northliner about the word “acedia.” (See the Oct. 23rd issue for “Anxious and Bored at the Same Time?” for the full article.)
The word comes from the Greek words “a” (meaning “no”) and “kedos” (meaning “care”)–merging into “akedia.” It meant “not caring” about anything in your life. (“Listlessness” is probably the closest word we have in English for this condition). When it was borrowed into Latin, the Greek “k” became a Latin “c” (but with the same “k” sound), and it was spelled “acedia” (though still pronounced the same as it was in Greek: “ah-kay-dee-yah). By the time it was borrowed into English (in the early 1600’s), the Latin “c” was being pronounced like an “s,” and the “e” was undergoing the “Great Vowel Shift” (from “ay” to “ee”), so that it is now pronounced “uh-see-dee-yuh.” (I know, I know: “Little-known and less-cared-about facts” from your minister!)
Although acedia originally meant something like listlessness, laziness, and the like, it is now being used for a feeling that combines anxiety and boredom. Or, as author/poet Kathleen Norris describes it:
A feeling of restlessness,
seeing the future as overwhelming,
and seeing the work ahead as never-ending.
Although “acedia” is not technically a new word (since it entered English 400 years ago), it was a fairly uncommon word before now, but presently seems to be a perfect fit for our times. With the current spike in Covid cases, added to the angst about our upcoming presidential elections, don’t a lot of us feel restless, overwhelmed, anxious, a bit despairing, and a little bored at the tedium of our hunker-down lives–all at the same time?
I don’t know about you, but I kind of like having a word to describe what I’m feeling, especially since I know it’s probably a commonly shared emotion right now. (Sometimes just having a name for something makes it a little easier to handle.)
So I leave you with the word “acedia,” in case it helps to describe some of what you are going through right now.
But I also leave you with a quotation I came upon recently (by Dave Hollis) that also helps me deal with my “acedian” feelings:
In the rush to return to normal,
use this time to consider which parts of normal
are worth rushing back to.
Peace and unrest, my friends. Peace and unrest,
P.S. After my Parson to Person column last week (about typos, dangling modifiers, and other funny-bone-tickling announcements that have actually appeared in church newsletters and bulletins), our UCN office administrator Lyn Gust mentioned one she often made when serving a different congregation. Instead of typing “Divine Savior,” she sometimes typed “Diving Savior.”
I also remembered a typo that appeared in a Metropolitan Community Church order of service. (Metropolitan Community Churches generally serve the gay and lesbian communities in the U.S.) Apparently the order of service, quoting from one of the Psalms, said “Give head to the Lord” instead of “Give heed to the Lord.” The congregation laughed so hard, they couldn’t get the service started for the first 10 or 15 minutes. (Eventually, believing God had a sense of humor, they continued the service and left with a smile.)
In a future Parson to Person column I’ll mention some other church typos and mistakes that Dean Johnson sent me. And if you know of any yourself, be sure to send them along so I can include them too.
Oh, and Happy Halloween, everyone!