Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Antidote for Listlessness

One of the capital sins is sloat—laziness. Catholic University rector, whose field is psychology, in his article in the Kyeongyang magazine shows the readers how close the early desert fathers were to the thinking of our present-day psychologists. Many are the reasons for lack of energy, listlessness, which have little to do with attitude: genes, environment, psychology, physical and spiritual conditions all play a part in much of our lack of energy and 'quiet desperation' felt by many.

The second type is a compulsion that enters into our lives. This can be an improper understanding of what we are about, coming from society or religion—an incorrect attitude about life. Burnt out and depression are signs of this condition. The writer mentions there are those in the field of psychology who recommend a person with these problems to do nothing—be lazy. This is not to make light of the situation but showing that many in society do not understand the difference between laziness and leisure/rest.

Psychologically laziness has much to do with anxiety. The habit of procrastination, and not doing what we know we should, brings lethargy and depression. The habitual delay caused by anxiety can cause depression and a variety of non-wanted behaviors. We have work for work's sake, addiction to work, and little energy for anything else. This is not necessarily depression.

The antidote to sloat from the Christian tradition is very much like the advice coming from the psychology of today. He mentions the Praktikos of Evagrius Ponticus and the teaching of John Cassian, they both recommend working with the hands. Work, prayer, reading, and fasting influencing their daily life. In our present knowledge of depression, we are recommended to move the body as an important healing procedure. Since the motive power to move is missing, more than trusting their feelings and thoughts, they need to move the body.

This is not only true of the depressed but of many others who find movement difficult, requiring forceful effort on their part. The teachers of Christian spirituality have considered the awakening of the body as the awakening of the soul. This brings about the awakening of one's ardent desire and in search of the good.

In the parable of the good Samaritan, Jesus tells us to stop before those who are in need of help. In our present world environment of individualism and narcissism, this is not something easily achieved. To listen to others and be concerned is annoying but is a great help in overcoming our laziness.

The desert fathers considered sloat a disease of the soul: "When we are oppressed by the demon of listlessness, we should tearfully divide our soul in two, making one part encourage the other, showing good hopes in ourselves and singing David's  words, ' Why are you depressed  my soul, why do you disturb me? Hope in God, because I will praise him, the Savior of my person my God. Ps 41:6... we should persevere and valiantly tackle all comers,  particularly the demon of listlessness, which is the most oppressive of them all, and so particularly bring out the quality of the soul. Running away from such conflicts and trying to evade, this teaches the mind to be helpless, cowardly and fugitive... The monk ought always to be ready as if he were to die tomorrow, but at the same time, he should use his body as if he were going to live with it for many years to come. The first approach cuts back the thoughts of acedia and makes the monk zealous, while the second preserves the body and keeps its self-control balanced." (Praktikos 27-29)

Carl Jung the Swiss Psychiatrist, said after 35 all our emotional problems are spiritual problems about the meaning of life. The Austrian doctor Victor Frankl, said one of the big problems in mental health is the loss of meaning. Finding meaning is the return to health.

The 'why of life' is the important question in overcoming listlessness. According to Evagrius tears of repentance are necessary to return to values and the meaning of life. This is the beginning of a new life.

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