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Benvenuto, S. (2018). The Silent Fog. Am. Imago, 75(1):1-23.

(2018). American Imago, 75(1):1-23

The Silent Fog

Sergio Benvenuto

In a certain sense boredom is the most sublime of human feelings.

—G. Leopardi, Thoughts

Boredom is the most sterile of human passions. Born of emptiness and generating the void, because not just sterile in itself, but making everything it touches or mixes with sterile too.

—G. Leopardi, Zibaldone

I Acedia

Boredom, laziness, disgust, depression, melancholy, desperation, abulia. These concepts are all interlaced and every era has chosen to focus on one. The topic continues to be studied today (see Agamben, 1977/1993). At the end of Antiquity and during the Middle Ages, however, akedia (ἀκηδία)—lethargy or listlessness—was particularly written about. In those centuries, akedia became sloth, one of the seven capital sins, an ailment specific to monks.

Indeed, a lethal danger loomed over the monk, alone in the Egyptian stone desert where he spent his life trying to resemble Jesus as much as possible. At noontide, when the sun was at its peak and the heat became stifling, the “meridian demon” took possession of the loner's soul. Monakos in Greek means solitary and celibate. These single, quite singular, men would give that noon scourge the Greek name akedia, later Latinized into acedia. The “a” is the privative prefix and “kédos” means care—in other words, acedia, sloth, is an unconcern, an indifference, a negligence, and a dejection.

From the Egyptian Thebais acedia moved to the monasteries of the West.

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