Leaning on the waist-high fence – attempting to mentally blot out the uncomfortably close traffic rushing by behind me – I peered in the tiny cemetery shoehorned into the bustling city. Carved into a newer tombstone was the name, Jeannie Safos, with no date but with these words:
Oh, sparkling universe
Oh, what a heavenly show!
But yet to really know
I’m still unfathomable
Spotted from the New Mexico highway as a white spec on a high bluff, a single sign pointed to the narrow road that took me up to the Angel Fire Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Initially built by a father as a memorial to his son slain in Vietnam, it evolved to become a Congressionally-commissioned national memorial, even before The Wall in Washington, D.C. was built. The Executive Director told me of the hesitant, fearful footsteps of people entering the Memorial, the remembrances, frequently tearful, and the firmer footsteps as veterans left to return to their cars, and to their lives.
The next day, large repetitive highway signs announced the new Indian casino now operating. Wandering among the machines, I observed the unblinking eyes, expressionless faces and assembly-like fingers inserting, pushing –pausing for the spinning to end – and then fingers again inserting, pushing and pausing. Twice coins spilled forth with wins. No joy was evident as the coins were scooped into a bucket and then became part of the repetitive motion of inserting, pushing and pausing.
Acedia is one of the seven deadly sins identified by the medieval church. That Latin word is usually translated as ‘sloth’ but is better translated as ‘apathy.’ Acedia is uncaring boredom, the generic shoulder shrug of ‘no problem’ couldn’t care less indifference (perfected as a teenager and then frequently used the rest on one’s life, often without the shrug), and the expressionless tedium of those at the gambling machines.
Acedia points to death-in-the-midst-of life. Jeannie Safos and the
veterans’ firm steps help me draw the distinction.