I was dreaming I had a younger brother named Max Williams who was an actor and drank too much, when our 13-lb gray cat jumped on my stomach and I woke to the smell of coffee. Weird where your mind can go when you give it free rein. There actually is a Max Williams who’s an actor. Also one who’s a basketball player, another who’s a photographer, 25 professionals who are registered on Linked-In, and one who’s the departing director of the Oregon Dept. of Corrections. Ah, Google, god of plenty.
An overcast Monday morning. When the sun was low on the eastern horizon, bright light and shadows dappled our west wall, but now it’s lost in the fog. The birds don’t seem to care, chirping away. Maybe it’s better for them, since the bugs can’t see their shadows and run for cover. Do worms notice shadows? I could google this, and probably lose an entire hour finding out, but I think I’ll resist.
A quiet day yesterday. Watched the 49ers opening game against Green Bay, which was quite satisfactory since the Niners won. I grew up in a town that was so crazy for college football (American style) it was hard not to get involved, but now it’s kind of a guilty pleasure, like watching gladiators in the arena. Theoretically, it’s not about hurting people and they don’t fight to the death, but an awful lot of them suffer life-long injuries and such bad and frequent concussions they develop early dementia. You’d think someone who’s so opposed to violence in the rest of life would forgo this, but every year I eagerly await the opener. Is it boredom? Not enough drama in life?
I believe that such standard dictionary definitions of acedia as “apathy,” “boredom,” or “torpor” do not begin to cover it, and while we may find it convenient to regard it as a more primitive word for what we now term depression, the truth is much more complex. Having experienced both conditions, I think it likely that much of the restless boredom, frantic escapism, commitment phobia, and enervating despair that plagues us today is the ancient demon of acedia in modern dress. The boundaries between depression and acedia are notoriously fluid; at the risk of oversimplifying, I would suggest that while depression is an illness treatable by counseling and medication, acedia is a vice that is best countered by spiritual practice and the discipline of prayer. —Kathleen Norris, Acedia and Me
Not being a pray-er, I would put the emphasis on “spiritual practice,” which I take to mean practices that take you out of yourself and allow a feeling of connection with the universe. If you didn’t suffer from “restless boredom” and “frantic escapism” before, the world of almost instant access to the endless distractions of the internet, such as we now have in the U.S., would certainly give them to you. Everywhere I go, people are wired in and completely distracted from where they are. On a recent cover of the New Yorker, a family of four is posing for a photograph, their backs to a lovely ocean view, each looking down at their handheld “devices,” as these ubiquitous thieves of awareness and time are called. What pleasure is there in that? But most of us do it a good deal of the time.
I’m pretty old, so this wired-in universe hasn’t been a big part of my life. But what about my grandkids? My eight-month-old granddaughter gravitates toward cell phones and remotes. My son tells me she’d rather listen to music from a cell phone than from the radio. The four-year-old and the nine-year-olds are completely obsessed by electronics. Their lives have TVs with hundreds of channels and DVR to record anything you might miss by stepping outside for a moment or two, Smart phones, X-boxes, Play Stations, video games, remotes of every shape and size. If they can’t turn on a device, they have no idea what to do with themselves. In the house, anyway. At least they still go outside and ride bikes.
Well, children are adaptable. They’ll figure it out. Maybe it’s the exposure they need to live in the world they’ll be in. For sure it’s going to be different from mine.