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Hallo again to all.

'All this buttoning and unbuttoning', began and ended a suicide note in the eighteenth century. Whether a more complex story lay behind these last words, we can't know, for the writer is unknown. But perhaps it is buttons—or some pathetic equivalent—that can bring people to the edge of despair and eventually hasten them over.

A slothWe all encounter times of heavy sadness, a sort of ashy mood that dusts everything with a sense of vague hopelessness. Sometimes that can approach a flirtation with despair, which is always an invitation to sloth: Why bother? What difference does it make? Atchoo, atchoo, we all fall down . . . But 'falling down' isn't the problem (rather the human condition, that). It's the unwillingness to get up again and continue on down the road of life, languishing in despair, stuck in a treacly slough of despond. Atchoo, atchoo, accidie* . . .

Ah, accidie. Has anyone else wondered whether sloth is misfiled in the list of the seven deadly sins? Compared to anger or covetousness, it always seemed comparatively tame, rather like putting off doing one's chores, purposefully forgetting to hoover the back hallway. But smack amongst the seven deadlies sloth is, and doctors of the church had no doubt of its insidious evil. For accidie brings with it first a sort of listless restlessness, often followed by a mood of 'nothing matters', which can proceed to nihilism and despair.

After a few days of psychic sulk (into which we all can fall), it's good to stamp one's foot and say 'Enough!' Surely our birthright as Christians is never to despair. No matter how bleak, no matter how black, even at the grave we make our song. To get up after falling down, to button up again, may be as simple a matter as going out into the garden to pull weeds, emailing our MP or member of Congress to voice our opinion, putting aside tins for the parish food pantry, or agreeing to chair that committee on the PCC. Maybe sniffing a newborn baby's head or burying one's nose in a lavender bud will help us get up again. As a recent novelist put it, 'Do the thing that's less passive. Do the active thing. There's more of the human in that'**.

Meanwhile, we push back the devil at noonday (or midnight!), keep hope alive, and

So what if we groan.
That's our noise. Laughter is our stuttering
in a language we can't speak yet. Behind
the world made of wishes grows dark. Ahead,
if not now then never, shines what is.

    The Seekonk Woods, Galway Kinnell

See you next week.


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21 October 2012

*If you're not sure how to pronounce that Latin word, it's ack SID dee ay with the stress on the second syllable. Here's a mnemonic: Having a grumbly day? Maybe it's accidie!

**Nuala O'Faolain, My Dream of You. New York: Riverhead Books, 2001.

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