Celtic Thought: Acedia & When Life Is Calm

20170314 when life is calm CELTIC THOUGHTLife has been hectic over the last three weeks.

My Dad was admitted to hospital because of a heart attack three weeks ago. A heart-stent was fitted, and  at 91 years of age recuperation is slow, but each day there is a step back towards normality – though we all have to wait and see what ‘new normality’ looks like. Currently, the twice a day hospital visits continue, but things are settling down, or maybe I’m getting used to the routine. The immediate ‘storm’, however, is over, but we still have some way to go.

Busy! Things are calming down. Are you undergoing a ‘storm’ in life at the moment?

Some of you may know that near my London place a huge riverside development is taking place, and a few of us have banded together to form a residents’ group to ensure that developers play fair. It’s been hard work and not without some resistance from the developers’ company, but at one meeting just a few days ago, where we invited the developers’ company CEO to attend, we made several factual and impassioned speeches about the work (and what could be done to minimise problems), the compensation package (which covers only a handful of people and doesn’t really address local residents’ needs), and how information should be given to local residents (such as two to three weekly regularly-occurring meetings, some honesty and transparency from that company). Those we normally interact with had made some minor concessions in the past, but the CEO, at that recent meeting, entirely agreed with us, and promised big changes! Things are looking good, but busy. For now, the storm is over, and things are calming down.

I mention these two instances because, if you’re like me,  we can be so busy that life can pass us by and we ‘skim’ the surface of life, and miss a lot. Activity can happen to the detriment of depth. And yet, such storms and activity will recede – ‘this too shall pass’. And, so – to use a sea analogy – the waves have, for now, calmed, and I find myself on a millpond of a sea, unexpectedly.

I’m reminded on the story of Benaiah:

“One day Solomon decided to humble Benaiah,, his most trusted minister. He said to him, “Benaiah, there is a certain ring that I want you to bring to me. You six months to find it.”

“If it exists anywhere on earth I will bring it to you, your majesty,” replied Benaiah, “I will find it and bring it to you, but what makes the ring so special?”, he said.

“It has great power,” answered the king. “If a happy man looks at it, he becomes sad; and if a sad man looks at it, he becomes happy.”

Solomon knew that no such ring existed in the world, but he wished to give his minister a little taste of humility. Spring passed and then summer, and still Benaiah, who was trevelling far and wide, had no idea where he could find the ring. On the night before his six month quest was up, Benaiah who was back home, decided to take a walk in one of the poorest quarters of Jerusalem. He passed by a merchant who had begun to set out the day’s wares on a shabby carpet. “Have you by any chance heard of a ring of great power that makes the happy wearer forget his joy, and the broken-hearted wearer forget his sorrows?” asked Benaiah.

He watched the older man take a plain gold ring from his carpet and engrave some words on it. When Benaiah read the words on the ring, his face broke out in a wide smile. This was the ring. That night the entire city welcomed in the holiday with great festivity, and King Solomon appeared.

“Well, my friend,” said King Solomon, “have you found what I sent you after?” All the ministers laughed, and Solomon himself knowingly smiled. To everyone’s surprise, Benaiah held up a small gold ring and declared, “Here it is, your majesty!”

As soon as Solomon read the inscription, the smile vanished from his face. The jeweller had written three Hebrew letters on the gold band: gimel, zayin, yud, which began the words “Gam zeh ya’avor” — “This too shall pass.” At that moment Solomon realized that all his wisdom and fabulous wealth and tremendous power were but fleeting things, and that everything on earth changes.”

Things have changed (albeit slightly), and I’m enjoying the calm, the respite, but…

…but, there’s a certain unease in my soul. I am enjoying the calm, but I know that I can get too used to it, and though it’s right to bask in this calmness, enjoy the moment, and metaphorically get my breath back, at least for a while, I know it is all too easy to make this pace of life the ‘new normal’, and coast in life. It is so easy to rest on that millpond of a sea and to ignore depth! Are you like that? Or, is it just me?

Acedia. Tradition calls acedia the “noonday devil,” for like a demon that attacks in the light of day, it comes when we least expect it, and it is difficult for its victim to recognize it. The word acedia in English comes from the Latin, which itself comes from the Greek akèdia, meaning “lack of care”. For some, it may manifest itself as extreme lethargy – but it’s more!

And so, in the time I now seem to have and for which I am grateful, I intend to re-double my effort, and enjoy myself in doing some of the things that momentarily stopped (and would encourage you to do the same) – and so I’ll write more articles, do some handfastings (that have recently have been arranged, and I so do enjoy them), do some house-blessings, and also do some other things that I, hitherto, haven’t done (for some time), such as: every 4-6 weeks I think it would be good, and some might be interested in participating in a celebration-meal-come-ceremony to mark the seasons (so, do watch this space!). I did ‘test the waters’ some time ago, but am resolved to press on.

I’ve learned to adapt, and will continue to endeavour to get the balance just right been activity and rest.

‘Do anything, but let it produce joy.’ Walt Whitman

What do you think?


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