In her book, Thoughts Matter, Sr. Mary Margaret Funk, uses the word “acedia” to describe “laziness of the body or sloth of the mind.” Sloth is one of the “seven deadly sins” identified by early monastic tradition in the Church. Last month I attended a Study Day at the Anglican Episcopal House of Study (AEHS) at Duke Divinity School. The speaker was the Rev. Dr. Christopher Beeley, who currently teaches at Yale Divinity School, but is the incoming director at AEHS. The Study Day was entitled, “Pray Without Ceasing”. It was a stunningly different sort of talk about prayer in which Beeley looked at how the 7 deadly sins affect our prayer life. Using the writings of Evagrius, who lived in the fourth century, Beeley showed how the spiritual writings of the early church can have meaning for our lives today.
The mystical and ascetic theology of Evagrius, Origen, St. Basil and the desert monastic traditions of the early church are heavy reading for anyone. To make those readings and the thought processes of early monasticism interesting to others is a gift! Beeley walked this line of scholar, fellow traveler, and teacher well. It was appropriately disturbing and challenging to ruminate over the chewier side of prayer – the side that looks at why we don’t pray without ceasing.
Writing about sloth in this first blog post in many moons is confessional. Being overtaken by spiritual laziness is not quite where I find myself; rather with the acedia that comes with indecision. Writing, for me is time consuming. Wanting to do it well means taking time to craft sentences and explore the nuances of words. This is one expression of creativity in my life. The other is visual art using collage and mixed media. Being an “artist” is more than doing beautiful visual pieces in all sorts of mediums. Words are the medium of many artists, and the beauty that is crafted by those who write is a stunning gift. Enabling eyes to see visual beauty, and hearts feel powerful emotions with words can open up worlds we might never otherwise enter.
Working on finding the time to express the creative gifts that God has given me while enduring in a complex and busy, busy world will be my struggle, I suspect, for the rest of my life. Time to “paste and paint” and the time to put words to work will likely always be the two loves that draw me along in the journey.