The incident was not the prime focus of the conversation, but it did come up.
Martin, one of the security guards at the condo complex in Rosarito, had the side window on his car smashed. He was a little upset that the thieves had shattered this window because the other one was already broken. The car’s battery was the target.
Almost immediately Martin shifted gears and talked about how blessed was his life. The sun is out today, the ocean looks so blue and beautiful, listen to the birds, I have a family, and I have a job. God is good.
I caught myself wanting to dismiss his confession as merely religious rhetoric from the conservative side of the family. Shame on me.
Martin was making no effort to appear righteous or a devout Christian. While acknowledging that there might be other ways to look at recent events, he said, “My life is blessed. God is good.”
I gave my spirit a good shake and bit my tongue. There were things I need to confess.
First, my arrogance.
In my head, the voices were saying unflattering things like “How can you be thankful for this job? You spend 12 hours a day patrolling property primarily populated by Americanos who use these condos as second residences. And, for this, your daily payment hovers around $15.”
Again, I was ashamed of the judgment which rose so quickly within me.
Thundering in upon my shame was another question: How long have I been infected with the virus of dissatisfaction? I have excuses. Blame the media, the advertising, the consumer culture which has contaminated the air I breathe since we first were able to receive the Spokane station KXLY on our black and white television.
I have not only allowed this virus to spread; I nurture it. I find it incredibly easy to compare “up.” Do I need the latest update? Absolutely! Is there something better? Where?! Most of my Google searches for a product contain the word “best.”
Not good enough.
In my research into the countermeasures against acedia one of the recurring practices used is that of gratitude. More generally the wisdom advises to reframe the situation so that, when acedia tempts, we see a larger picture. (Also a recommendation by those who coach those seeking to design a new life - or ministry.) Put more bluntly, when the temptation comes, find ways to get out of the blinders of our preoccupations. (Drugs and consumption are short-cuts.)
Gratitude is one of the most reliable and recommended practices.
In some ways, since the practice has attained mainstream status - buy a Gratitude Journal at your local bookstore - the power of the practice has been diluted. But, in classic thought and the ongoing practice of the wise, gratitude remains central.
By its nature, the practice pulls us out of a narrow focus upon our own emotions to consider other blessings that may have crossed our path that day. This very enlargement of attention serves to diminish the slide into acedia.
But the practice of gratitude is a choice. And, as a choice, signals that acedia and the struggle against it are moral activities.
Martin declares that he has chosen to see his world as coloured by blessing.
I’m working on it.