Life, friends, is boring. We must not say so.
After all, the sky flashes, the great sea yearns,
we ourselves flash and yearn,
and moreover my mother told me as a boy
(repeatingly), ‘Ever to confess you’re bored
means you have no
Inner Resources.’ I conclude now I have no
inner resources, because I am heavy bored.
People bore me,
[business] bores me, especially [success in business].
– John Berryman (Norris, p. 44)
Business owners are often asked, “What keeps you up at night?” The business owner usually pours forth the litany of
- A problem employee or customer
- Difficulty getting or keeping good employees
- Cash flow woes
- Too many “good” opportunities
- Difficulty getting things done quickly and, if we’re honest
This last one is, in fact, the long tail of the “noonday demon” or, acedia. Like the five foot Indonesian Komodo dragon, the reptile acedia has a long tail. That long and agile tail is attached to a powerful carnivore! Acedia is a lizard that can eat you alive. In the blur of our daily activities, we can barely make out the tip of our parasitic pet acedia’s tail—let alone its fearsome body.
Over the next couple blogs, I’ll help us define and discover this unwelcome pet. Before you dismiss this term too easily as the rant of a deluded antiquarian, consider what skeptic Joyce Carol Oates says about the term “noonday demon:”
…the poetic figure of speech is a powerful one that no amount of scientific terminology and matter of fact discussion of serotonin deficiency, neurotransmitter systems or tricyclics can match. Though we “know better,” we tend to feel symbolically. (p. 37)
When do you know you are feeling acedia? Some of acedia’s symptoms seem harmless enough. We’ve all experienced
- Languid coffee breaks that fail to refresh
- The sudden impulse to call or seek out a colleague while in the middle of a writing difficult proposal
- Difficulty re-engaging after a vacation
- Marginally purposeful emailing or texting that allows us to feel we’re doing something purposeful.
When do you see the tail of the demon acedia? Stay tuned to see how your pet parasite masks a long-term strength.
During this week, take time to reflect on your own symptoms of boredom or creeping indifference. Pay attention to what exacerbates them and what diminishes them.
Source: Kathleen Norris, Acedia & ME: A Marriage, Monks, and A Writer’s Life, 2008.