I am often guilty of missing the moments in my pursuit finishing and accomplishing.
To be still, to enjoy the moment, to relax without a goal is hard. I am most happy having completed the task, maybe even an endorphin rush. But that does not last long. I become fidgety at best. At my worst, feel like a failure. Jonathan Malesic writes a wonderful piece called:
The Noon Day Demon [i]
I had “summers off.” It’s true that for those three months, not to mention another month in winter, I had no classes to prepare, no papers to grade, no meetings to attend, no electronic forms to fill out for the registrar. I could have – and some of my colleagues did – set up an email auto-reply to say I would be out of the office until late August and that the sender might consider trying me then. In short, I had no work obligations to keep me from doing whatever I wanted to do – or nothing at all – for a solid third of the year, even as my pay-checks kept coming in. I hated it.
He shares that the fourth century Desert Mothers and Fathers – who at first lived as hermits and later formed the earliest Christian monasteries in northern Egypt – had a word for this impulse to devalue the present moment:
“It besets the monk at about the fourth hour of the morning [ten a.m.], encircling his soul until about the eighth hour [two p.m.]. First it makes the sun seem to slow down or stop moving, so that the day appears to be fifty hours long”
Jonathan knows my kind well, too well. “Acedia gets you to wish your life away in anticipation of something that will validate your worth as a person. If you feel lonely and anxious in your work now, then maybe you’ll feel better at that meeting tomorrow.”
Acedia has been my curse for a long, long, time.
I recall have a conversation with my eldest daughter, she was about 12. She shouted at me in the middle of my sentence, “Dad, look at me when you talk!” She caught me with my noon day demon, I was talking to her but already planning my next day.
Acknowledging the Noon Day Demon is the beginning of healing.
I am learning to be present. I have Philip Britts poem “Sonnet 1” tucked in my prayer journal where I read it every day. I have it posted over my office desk to remind me at Noon.
How often do we miss the fainter note Or fail to see the more exquisite hue, Blind to the tiny streamlet at our feet, Eyes fixed upon some other, further view. What chimes of harmonies escape our ears, How many rainbows must elude our sight, We see a field but do not see the grass, Each blade a miracle of shade and light. How then to keep the greater end in eye And watch the sunlight on the distant peak, And yet not tread on any leaf of love, Nor miss a word the eager children speak? Ah, what demand upon the narrow heart, To seek the whole, yet not ignore the part.
I am slaying the Noon Day Demon. What about you?
[i] Malesic, Jonathan. (2019 April) The Noon Day Demon. Retrieved from https://www.plough.com/en/topics/justice/social-justice/economic-justice/the-noonday-demon?utm_source=dig&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=802