The Art of Acedia:
If you look up the word acedia in a modern dictionary, you will find a definition absent of its original usage. Originally the word acedia was used to describe a problem among ancient ascetics, that we might call “active laziness”. It was using work to cover up the fact that one was too lazy or afraid to engage in the deeper work. The state of acedia often resulted from despair and indifference. One could not imagine the world getting better, so they would commit themselves to following a set of rules or a code of work that kept them so busy they could ignore the real work of destiny. Acedia, in essence, is the ability to use busyness to avoid the more important issues of life.
I’m a public speaker by craft. I have had the opportunity to speak in different settings around the world and locally here in Knox and Warren County. Here in Knox and Warren County, one of the compliments I continually receive after a talk is, “the way you think and the language you use really connects with our youth.” That has been peculiar to me. If you would have told that to my network back in Austin, they would laugh.
If you study a speaker, you will learn most (not all), have one message; it’s their schtick. They figure out how to say it a hundred different ways, but it’s the same message. I know my message hasn’t changed. I’ve honed it in. I’ve better crafted it. But the message is still the same. I had to ask myself, "Why is the message that I spoke in Austin to thousands of adults considered a youth-oriented message here?"
My message is about telling a better story with your life through justice and the betterment of humanity. Have small-town Midwestern adults outgrown this message? Is this a message that adults in places known for innovation crave while in places that seem to be in survival mode fear? Do we, as adults, believe that our window for risk and dreaming big have closed? Do we believe our best stories are in the past? Have we allowed the negative effects of agri-business and globalization to define us? To live out of one’s imagination, to dream big, to dare to tell a better story is scary, it takes real risk and imagination. I have to wonder, do we use one version of hardy work to avoid the deeper work. Do we practice cultural acedia?
What if we believed Knoxville’s best stories have yet to be written? What if you believed that your best stories have yet to be written? What if you believe you have more to offer the world?
What if you believed the best days of your marriage where ahead of you, not behind you?
What if you believed you haven’t played your best card yet?
I believe if we allowed these ideas to inspire our imaginations, as a people we could begin to challenge, change, and inspire individuals, families, and small towns around us! So, how do we tell a better story? Begin to imagine the future you want!