I led our small group discussion last night on number 7 of the Seven Deadly Vices--Sloth. Or, in the Greek--akedia. Why, you ask, do I bother to put the Greek in there? We know what sloth means in the English. Ah, but do we? We typically think of busyness or industriousness or utility as the opposite of sloth. Sloth, we think, means laziness. And in this age of over-busyness (over-business?) couldn't we all use a little more sloth? Don't we need to just kick up our heals every once in a while? But what if akedia really doesn't mean "laziness"? What if it means something like "unreflectiveness" or "living by reflex" or "lack of care"? In that case, does it matter whether we're running around like crazy or kicking up our heals--aren't they both kinds of sloth? We can be apathetic and doing things--lots of things--and yet be as apathetic (as "care less") as if we were sprawled out on the couch sucking down a cold one in front of the tube. This was my concern last night. I don't know if I can really define sloth, but if it means something like "living by reflex" then I'm slothful way too much of the time. Too rarely do I stop to consider the "why" behind my motivations or even to evaluate certain behaviors. Why do I think it's okay to watch a movie, or shop at Best Buy, or drink a Coke? Should I be wary of these things? Is it living slothfully to just be unthinkingly going through the paces of life? Why does it matter? Or maybe sloth is even more insidious. Maybe it's not just living unreflectively, as we all do from time to time. Maybe it's living in such a way that we don't have to care about others; we never feel the need to love or serve. Maybe it means that the reason I find it so easy to love my neighbor as I love myself is because I don't consider anyone my neighbor. (Therefore, I need to love no one and yet I am not disobeying the "letter of the law of love.") I am insulated from even recognizing my own shortcomings. This quote from Pascal that we read last night seemed to sum up the whole matter pretty well:
The only thing that consoles for our miseries is diversion, and yet this is the greatest of our miseries. For it is this which principally hinders us from reflecting upon ourselves, and which makes us insensibly ruin ourselves. Without [diversion], we should be in a state of weariness, and this weariness would spur us to seek a more solid means of escaping from it. But diversion amuses us, and leads us unconsciously to death. [Is this the origin of Neil Postman's title Amusing Ourselves to Death?] (Pensees #171).
Stern words there, Blaise.


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