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Wed Sep 2, 2020, 03:23 PM

The Ancient Greeks Had a Word for the Specific Kind of Bad You're Feeling Right Now [View all]

Listless and unable to motivate yourself to get your work and other things done? That's 'acedia.'


Bringing back "acedia"

Acedia might be a new word to us in the 21st century, but it was well known to those living in the Middle Ages. Derived from Greek roots that mean a seizing up or freezing of feelings, the experience was apparently fairly common among Medieval monks shut away in monasteries.

One fifth-century theologian described one who suffers from acedia as "horrified at where he is, disgusted with his room ... It does not allow him to stay still in his cell or to devote any effort to reading." He confronts "bodily listlessness and yawning hunger as though he were worn by a long journey or a prolonged fast ... Next he glances about and sighs that no one is coming to see him. Constantly in and out of his cell, he looks at the sun as if it were too slow in setting."

Sound familiar? Monks and moderns might be stuck at home for very different reasons, but the human response to enforced immobility seems to be constant. For centuries, lockdowns have been making us exhausted and unable to motivate ourselves to do work that's sitting right in front of us.


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