The acedia of Charles

The acedia of Charles

There is a time to spin, and a time to sprawl.

A time to toil, and a time to turn into a tide-pool of molasses.

A time to care, and a time to care less.

A time for acid rock, and a time for acedia…feline edition.

(I have been sternly informed that there is not a time for acid-wash denim. Take it up with Charles, our resident authority on dungarees, Dunkaroos, and deconstructionist epistemology. Also sausage.)

As everyone knows, cats are fluent in English, metal, cheesewegian, and ancient Greek. This has equipped them to shout about both Asiago and acedia.

Acedia has traditionally been connected with the deadly sin of sloth. Woodenly translated “without care or grief,” acedia was the “noonday demon” feared by gnarly old desert monks.

But deadly sins are in the eye of the instigator, and no less an authority than Charles says: acedia is underrated.

Make no mistake: Charles and the full Greek choir of cats do not want you and I to sink into acedia, not if it means we forget to put squeeze cheese on the shopping list.

But Charles is not so convinced that acedia is all awful. With one eye open and every orange stripe balanced in a state of perfect jellied coma, Charles studies our species. As Socrates of the sea mammals, he would be anxious to share his wisdom, if he were capable of anxiety.

But what Charles lacks, we oversupply. We are acidic, frenetic, breathless, as we bat every tetherball. We paddle for purpose, hounding the hours for reassurance that it’s all somehow enough.

All that acid is enough to dissolve your delight.

That would be the real Greek tragedy.

Meanwhile, Charles has chosen the greater virtue. It’s true: he need not earn a living wage or fold his laundry. He has a seashore of serfs to bring him shrimp and homage.

But he is not without “good reason” for grief and care. This is, after all, a cat living with the disease some misconstrue as a death sentence, feline leukemia virus (FeLV). This is the golden child who was undesired by almost-adopters. This is the gingerbread potentate who has, at times, had to wait until 4:15 for fish mush, only to find that it is of inferior quality, entirely lacking in cheddar shreds.

Charles has known pain.

But Charles has never known a day worth worry.

And perhaps that’s the difference between feline acedia and ours. While we may not aspire to an aqueous state of semi-coma (then again, we may; I judge no one), we can learn a thing from the big cat with the big peace.

Charles gets his work done, with verve and drive and debonair style. He does not neglect the duties of head-bonkage or treat annihilation. But he does not get worked up. He does not work himself over.

He does not wonder if life is working out the way it ought.

He simply lives.

If Charles and the rest of our Greek chorus are pro-acedia, they feel differently about anhedonia. Meaning “without pleasure,” this is the one state cats cannot abide. Be careless; be carefree; be a Ball jar of mammalian jelly.

But don’t you dare give up on pleasure. Pleasure is every cat’s birthright, and every cat is certain that you and I are every bit as “cat” as they are.

(OK, this is a slight overstatement. They know that we are lower life forms, somewhere between congresspersons and mollusks. But they believe in us, and they glimpse the stirrings of catliness in us.)

And, maybe, a certain holy hedonia is the answer to acedia.

If you’re panting after purpose, think about your pleasure. I don’t mean eating nougat or listening to Willie Nelson, although these are both excellent uses of your time.

I mean the thing that fills your jam jar to the brim, that gets you on your feet even when you’re tired down to your toenails, the work that doesn’t feel like toil, the task that tells you who you are.

For Charles, this is giving and receiving love and poultry. (Merriam-Webster has yet to list these as synonyms, but give it time.)

For you and me, this is loving without calculation.

This is seeking someone to cherish.

This is telling another living being — via sausage or song, provolone or presence — that everything is going to be okay.

This is finding yourself by losing yourself, saving your life by giving it away.

This is the pandemonium of mercy, the purpose of our lives, the escape hatch from acidic angst.

There is always time for this.

There’s nothing to fear here.

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