From The Quick and the Dead by Joy Williams:

[Alice, Corvus, and Annabel are discussing their upcoming wilderness ‘retreat’ while sitting in Annabel’s living room with her father Carter, when he suddenly jumps up and runs outside to meet the gardener Donald who’s just driven up to the house.]

‘Is he still the gardener?’ Alice asked.

‘Of course he’s still the gardener. What do you mean?’ Annabel was looking at the hiking boots she’d just bought for this expedition. Never in her life had she encountered anything so totally without charm.

‘Well, there doesn’t seem much left to do around here. It all looks pretty nice.’

‘Some people get very involved in gardening, Alice. It can become a lifelong obsession. Sometimes they just move rocks around together. Donald is a big believer in fighting ass … acidGod, what is that word?’

Acedia,’ Corvus said.

‘That’s right! You are so good, Corvus. You could go on Jeopardy or something. It means sloth, right?’

‘It means more like experiencing the moment as an oppressive weight. It means listlessness of spirit.’ Corvus pushed a fallen wing of black hair behind her ear.

Annabel didn’t know what else to do, so she smiled generously. ‘Well, he’s got Daddy moving those rocks, all right.’

Further reading on acedia from The HermitaryAcedia, Bane of Solitaries

Is not acedia the original perception of alienation and revolt against complacency and the burdens of culture? Is it the angst of Kierkegaard, the ‘nausea’ of Sartre, the alienation and revolt of existentialists from Camus to Marcel? Acedia is never without a sense of guilt or complicity, not as sin but as complicity in the horrors of contemporary life. To the modern mind, acedia remains real and relevant. It is a personal statement against the contrivances of culture, the hypocrisy of public morality, alienation from the natural patterns of nature and simplicity.


Acedia can have a strong spiritual component in the life of the one who experiences it, and that very component makes acedia the sign of great potential for insight and wisdom. The solitary need not fear acedia. Acedia, at a minimum, signifies no complacency or superficial contentment with the contemporary cultural order. Acedia can be a tacit expectation that life can be better, or at least better understood.

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