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06. novembre 2019

Three forms of «doing nothing»: Acedia – crash – leisure / Drei Formen des «Nichts-Tuns»: Acedia – Crash – Musse

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Acedia

In the last TUNE IN, texts by the philosopher Josef Pieper helped us to discover the value of «leisure». Pieper also points out that, in Christianity, «doing nothing» has often been dismissed disparagingly with the word «Acedia». Acedia belonged to the Deadly Sins of the Middle Ages.
Strictly speaking, mediaeval theologians certainly did not see every form of «doing nothing» as being as bad as «Acedia». Acedia, according to Pieper, actually means a kind of paralysis resulting from the fact “that a man does not, in the last resort, give the consent of his will to his own being; that beneath the dynamic activity of his existence, he is still not at one with himself; that, as the Middle Ages expressed it, sadness overwhelms him when he is confronted with the divine good things immanent in himself (that sadness which is the tristitia saeculi of Holy Scripture).”
So man has not discovered what God intended him to be and wishes to be more (or something other) than what God has called him to. He has not discovered what God has put in him. This paralyses him. Or it can even drive him into activism. If one looks at depictions of Acedia, one sees that she is asleep and is perhaps inwardly fixed on unrealistic dreams. If I personally had to find a modern illustration for Acedia, I would paint a teenager in puberty who has not yet discovered what God has called him to. He dreams of becoming a great pop star. One moment he seems paralysed and devastated because his dream vision is far from reality; but the next moment he leaps up and spends the whole night working over his electric guitar. By doing so he misses (till he becomes more mature) his true calling.
Even as adults, we still have to ask ourselves if there is a teenage Acedia of this kind in us.

Crash

In front of the MO museum of modern art in the town of Vilnius in Lithuania, a wrecked car is currently on display. One gets the impression the driver must have used his last strength to get the car there – despite a flat tyre. This kind of peace comes from hectic action, perhaps from excessive speed. Are we familiar with this kind of crash in our lives? What was still going very fast a moment ago suddenly comes to a standstill. This car is like a person looking back after a crash at hectic activity from which nothing is left over except an ugly and now meaningless tin box. If it still has any value at all, then only for a scrap dealer or, at best, a museum.

Leisure

Going a few steps further, in a small sculpture park behind the museum, we can see a work by the sculptress Ksenija Jaroševaitė (*1953). The proposal to purchase the sculpture and display it was obviously highly controversial. For it refers to something which is taboo in today’s art scene: to a Bible passage, more precisely, to Psalm 23, with a man lying in the grass and looking up into the sky. On his stomach he has Bible verses. The artist often draws on the pictorial language of archaic art and Orthodox icons. This sculpture is talking about a different kind of «doing nothing», which is neither Acedia nor the car crash. This man has consciously chosen to lie down the grass in the sense of Psalm 23. He is not suffering from burn-out. Nor does he seem to be fondly holding onto any unrealistic dreams about what he might wish to become sometime. His artless, perhaps slightly comical figure communicates no vanity. His gaze is directed upwards.
As an exercise, let us pray Psalm 23, let us become quiet (perhaps in precisely the same position as this man) and bring all of our crash and Acedia moments before God.

Psalm 23

1The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
3He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.
4Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
5You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
6Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
forever.

Acedia

In the last TUNE IN, texts by the philosopher Josef Pieper helped us to discover the value of «leisure». Pieper also points out that, in Christianity, «doing nothing» has often been dismissed disparagingly with the word «Acedia». Acedia belonged to the Deadly Sins of the Middle Ages.
Strictly speaking, mediaeval theologians certainly did not see every form of «doing nothing» as being as bad as «Acedia». Acedia, according to Pieper, actually means a kind of paralysis resulting from the fact “that a man does not, in the last resort, give the consent of his will to his own being; that beneath the dynamic activity of his existence, he is still not at one with himself; that, as the Middle Ages expressed it, sadness overwhelms him when he is confronted with the divine good things immanent in himself (that sadness which is the tristitia saeculi of Holy Scripture).”
So man has not discovered what God intended him to be and wishes to be more (or something other) than what God has called him to. He has not discovered what God has put in him. This paralyses him. Or it can even drive him into activism. If one looks at depictions of Acedia, one sees that she is asleep and is perhaps inwardly fixed on unrealistic dreams. If I personally had to find a modern illustration for Acedia, I would paint a teenager in puberty who has not yet discovered what God has called him to. He dreams of becoming a great pop star. One moment he seems paralysed and devastated because his dream vision is far from reality; but the next moment he leaps up and spends the whole night working over his electric guitar. By doing so he misses (till he becomes more mature) his true calling.
Even as adults, we still have to ask ourselves if there is a teenage Acedia of this kind in us.

Crash

In front of the MO museum of modern art in the town of Vilnius in Lithuania, a wrecked car is currently on display. One gets the impression the driver must have used his last strength to get the car there – despite a flat tyre. This kind of peace comes from hectic action, perhaps from excessive speed. Are we familiar with this kind of crash in our lives? What was still going very fast a moment ago suddenly comes to a standstill. This car is like a person looking back after a crash at hectic activity from which nothing is left over except an ugly and now meaningless tin box. If it still has any value at all, then only for a scrap dealer or, at best, a museum.

Leisure

Going a few steps further, in a small sculpture park behind the museum, we can see a work by the sculptress Ksenija Jaroševaitė (*1953). The proposal to purchase the sculpture and display it was obviously highly controversial. For it refers to something which is taboo in today’s art scene: to a Bible passage, more precisely, to Psalm 23, with a man lying in the grass and looking up into the sky. On his stomach he has Bible verses. The artist often draws on the pictorial language of archaic art and Orthodox icons. This sculpture is talking about a different kind of «doing nothing», which is neither Acedia nor the car crash. This man has consciously chosen to lie down the grass in the sense of Psalm 23. He is not suffering from burn-out. Nor does he seem to be fondly holding onto any unrealistic dreams about what he might wish to become sometime. His artless, perhaps slightly comical figure communicates no vanity. His gaze is directed upwards.
As an exercise, let us pray Psalm 23, let us become quiet (perhaps in precisely the same position as this man) and bring all of our crash and Acedia moments before God.

Psalm 23

1The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
3He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.
4Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
5You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
6Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
forever.

Text: Beat Rink / translation: Bill Buchanan

DEUTSCH

Acedia

Im letzten TUNE IN halfen Texte des Philosophen Josef Pieper, den Wert der «Musse» zu entdecken. Pieper weist auch darauf hin, dass «Nichtstun» im Christentum oft mit dem Begriff der «Acedia» verpönt wurde. Acedia gehörte zu den mittelalterlichen Todsünden. Genau genommen meinten die mittelalterlichen Theologen aber gar nicht, dass alles «Nichts Tun» so schlecht ist wie die «Acedia». Acedia bezeichnete nach Pieper tatsächlich eine Art Lähmung, die daraus kommt, «…dass der Mensch seinem eigenen Sein letztlich nicht zustimmt; dass er, hinter aller energischen Aktivität, dennoch nicht eins ist mit sich selbst; dass ihn, wie das Mittelalter es ausgedrückt hat, Traurigkeit erfasst angesichts des göttlichen Gutes, das in ihm selber wohnt (welche Traurigkeit die tristitia saeculi der Heiligen Schrift sei).»
Der Mensch erkennt also nicht, wozu Gott ihn bestimmt hat und will mehr sein (oder etwas Anderes) als wozu Gott ihn berufen hat. Er merkt nicht, was Gott in ihn hineingelegt hat. Das legt ihn lahm. Oder kann ihn sogar zu Aktivismus antreiben.
Schaut man sich die Darstellungen der Acedia an, so sieht man, dass sie schläft und vielleicht unrealistischen Träumen nachhängt. Ich selber würde die Acedia, wenn ich ein modernes Bild dafür finden müsste, als pupertierenden Teenager malen, der noch nicht erkennt, wozu Gott ihn berufen hat. Er träumt davon, ein grosser Popstar zu werden. Im einen Augenblick ist er noch wie gelämt und am Boden zerstört, weil sein Traumbild weit weg ist von der Realität. Aber im nächsten Augenblick springt er auf, um eine Nacht lang seine E-Gitarre zu behandeln. Dabei verpasst er (vorläufig noch, bis er reifer geworden it) seine wahre Berufung.
Auch als Erwachsene müssen wir uns fragen, ob in uns immer noch eine solche Teenager-Acedia steckt.

Crash

Vor dem Museum für moderne Kunst (Museum of Modern Art MO) in der litauischen Stadt Vilnius steht zur Zeit ein Autowrack. Es sieht so aus, als habe es der Fahrer mit letztem Aufwand dorthin geschafft – trotz flachem Reifen. Diese Art von Ruhe kommt aus der Betriebsamkeit, vielleicht aus überhöhter Geschwindigkeit. Kennen wir diese Art von Crashs in unserem Leben? Was soeben noch sehr schnell ging, bleibt auf einmal stehen. Dieses Auto gleicht einem Menschen, der nach einem Crasg auf hektische Betriebsamkeit zurückblickt und dem nichts bleibt als eine hässliche, sinnlos gewordene Blechbüchse. Diese taugt höchstens noch für den Schrittplatz oder im besten Fall noch für ein Museum.

Musse

Ein paar Schritte weiter, in einem kleinen Skulpturenpark hinter dem Museum, ist ein Werk der Künstlerin Ksenija Jaroševaitė (*1953) zu sehen. Der Plan des Museums, die Skulptur anzukaufen und zu zeigen, war offenbar höchst umstritten. Denn sie bezieht sich auf etwas, was in der heutigen Kunstszene tabu ist: auf eine Bibelstelle, genauer auf Psalm 23. Ein  Mann liegt im Gras und schaut in den Himmel. Auf seinem Bauch trägt er Bibelverse. Die Künstlerin greift oft die Bildsprache archaischer Kunst und orthodoxer Ikonen auf. Diese Skulptur spricht von einem anderen Nichts-Tun als die Acedia und der Auto-Crash. Der Mann hat sich bewusst im Zeichen von Psalm 23 ins Gras gelegt. Er hat kein Burn Out. Und er scheint auch keinen unrealistischen Träumereien von dem, was er einmal sein möchte, nachzuhängen. Seine schlichte, fast etwas komische Figur kommuniziert keine Eitelkeit. Sein Blick geht nach oben.
Beten wir zur Übung Psalm 23, kommen wir zur Ruhe (vielleicht gerade in derselben Stellung wie dieser Mann) und bringen all unsere Crashs und Acedia-Momente vor Gott.

Psalm 23

1 Der HERR ist mein Hirte,
mir wird nichts mangeln. 
2 Er weidet mich auf einer grünen Aue
und führet mich zum frischen Wasser. 
3 Er erquicket meine Seele.
Er führet mich auf rechter Straße
um seines Namens willen. 
4 Und ob ich schon wanderte im finstern Tal,
fürchte ich kein Unglück;
denn du bist bei mir,
dein Stecken und Stab trösten mich. 
5 Du bereitest vor mir einen Tisch im Angesicht meiner Feinde.
Du salbest mein Haupt mit Öl
und schenkest mir voll ein. 
6 Gutes und Barmherzigkeit werden mir folgen
mein Leben lang,
und ich werde bleiben im Hause des HERRN
immerdar.

Text: Beat Rink

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