Acedia: intellectual hunger without appetite

Many people have experienced the phenomenon of being hungry while
having no appetite for food; you know you need the food to continue
living — you may feel it in your stomach, or have a sense of low
blood sugar, but nothing sounds appealing. At times like this, I make
a peanut butter sandwich or something equally bland, and eat it as
fast as I can. Sometimes the peanut butter sandwich acts as an
appetizer and reboots my appetite.

Right now I’m experiencing intellectual hunger, but nothing I read,
watch, or listen to, let alone summon from my own dry brain, appeals.
This condition has been known for millennia, and is often called

As part of the research for Mindhacker a couple of years ago, I bought
a book called Acedia & Me: A Marriage, Monks, and a Writer’s Life, but
the author’s strong Roman Catholic bias is not helping me. I turn to
the last chapter for the author’s lessons learned, and read, “A way
where there is no way; this is what God, and only God, can provide.”
Alas, God and I are no longer on speaking terms; another way where
there is no way must be found.

Writing this blog post has helped a bit. I think part of my problem is
a week at work of practically enforced inaction. I work at home, so I
have plenty to divert me during down time, but constantly refreshing
my email client to see if I have any new feedback from the team is
enervating. I feel I must be on alert, always ready to respond to an
important email, yet when nothing happens, I feel as if I’m in a tiger
cage, which never lets me either stand up (and act) or lie down (and

So now I’ve pinned down the reason for my acedia, it seems to be
receding — I’ve not only pinned it down, perhaps, but pinned it in a
wrestling hold. Released from the tiger cage, which I myself have
made, I feel free to either act or relax — probably the latter,
because the past 40 hours of crouching have tired me out.

The great and terrible Bucket of Truth

I have the feeling from reading reviews and criticism that when I
finally get around to reading Nausea by Jean-Paul Sartre, it will be
like Captain James T. Lunatic on The Upright Citizens Brigade finally
looking into the Bucket of Truth: “DON’T YOU THINK I KNOW THAT?”…

I have been dipping into The Conspiracy Against the Human Race: A
Contrivance of Horror by Thomas Ligotti, and while Ligotti is one of
my favorite horror writers — subtle and innovative — I’m not
particularly horrified by his personal philosophy, let alone persuaded
to commit suicide just to get it over with, already.

If anything, I’d say I find existentialists and absurdists like Sartre
and Camus a comfort while reading nihilists like Ligotti. One must
imagine Sisyphus happy.