Acedia is a Latin word which means “lack of care.” It is further described in Wikipedia as, “A state of listlessness or torpor, of not caring or not being concerned with one's position or condition in the world.” This condition was first described in monks who, as a result of a solitary life, become afflicted with a condition that prevented them from either work or prayer. The theologian Thomas Aquinas saw acedia as a “flight from the divine.” We have all gone through periods of our life when we feel like doing nothing. Acedia is not a depression but rather a lacking of drive, ambition, and passion. How often have you had that feeling like you just didn’t want to do anything?
It is very common and natural but if acedia continues for long periods of time, the ego may begin to consider this as the new normal.
While Aquinas saw acedia resulting from a running away from the divine, we can see acedia exists in agnostics and atheists too. Those who never believed in a divine force may still go through periods of torpor. Maybe, as suggested at the beginning of this article, it has more to do with living a solitary life. Those who have a strong connection to spirituality or God or some higher power may be less likely to experience loneliness. Of course, our relationship with friends and families can also be an antidote to acedia. It seems connections, divine or otherwise, can give our lives purpose or meaning and be a source of inspiration.
It is greatly concerning that the loneliest generation is the youngest generation. A recent survey, conducted with 20,000 people in the United States, found that people who are part of Generation Z, (the post-millennial generation) have the highest rates of loneliness — even higher than that of seniors. In fact, in this same study, the least lonely group were those older than seventy-two. It may seem ironic that the generation who was born connected to the internet and the World Wide Web is the loneliest. Perhaps the fact that we are social beings and the vast majority of communication in the Generation Z group is through texting and social media apps has something to do with it.
There is a way to experience connection and ameliorate feelings of loneliness – mindfulness. Yes, research (ref: https://www.livescience.com/21867-loneliness-mindfulness-mortality.html) has shown that people who practice meditation for twenty minutes a day feel less lonely. It may seem counter-intuitive that sitting with your eyes closed in a solitary practice can assist with feelings of loneliness but the practice seems to help people feel less lonely – perhaps connecting into a sense of self or spirit or for some, a connection with the divine. If you are feeling like you are stuck in neutral and lack the ambition to go forward, perhaps a meditation practice can help you get in gear and move forward with some ambition.