The Discipline of the Routine

Monotony. How we’d love to escape it. Cleaning our rooms, making our beds, doing dishes or laundry–none of these are very exciting. Yet, in the last several years, I’ve learned a thing or two about routine chores. For me, they are spiritual disciplines that fight against the sin of acedia. At least in my case, that is what laundry has come to be, an antidote to acedia (or sloth). When I do laundry, I do what I do not want to do, what I would rather put off or have someone else do for me. I should clarify–folding and neatly putting away the laundry is what I dislike doing. I have often contemplated hiring someone else to do my laundry and neatly put it away. Of course, I’d wash and put away the undergarments. But there is something about laundry in my life, it stacks up and has to be done over and over again, there is something about it that I find very tedious. I’ll wash dishes or clean the bathroom or pick up…but laundry for me is a spiritual discipline.

At the end of her book, Acedia & me: A Marriage, Monks, and A Writer’s Life, Kathleen Norris shares a collection of definitions of acedia. One that I found particulary helpful was by Jean Bethke Eishtain who has this to say about it:

I take sloth to mean not simply inactivity but acquiescence in the conventions of one’s day: a refusual to take up the burden of self-criticism; a falling into the zeitgeist unthinkingly, and, in so doing, forgettng that we are made to [citing Karl Barth] “serve God wittingly, in the tangle of our minds.” . . . Pride and sloth may seem to be antitheses but there is “profound correspondence”
between the Promethan and the “unheroic and trivial form of sloth” . . . Sloth is a type of escapism, an evasion of responsibility. . .

Yes, I’d like to flee the responsibility of laundry and do something that I find more interesting. But in doing laundry, I combat sloth or acedia, which is good for my soul.

I appreciate this book. And the above is but one definiton of acedia. I recommend that we read the book, for in reading it we see ourselves and learn about a sin that is prevalent but rarely spoken of.

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