An incoming link drew my attention to a wonderful series at Patristics and Philosophy, entitled Eight Evil Thoughts. The summaries of each Evil Thought are marvellous! The material is drawn from Evagrius.
Particularly interesting to me was the Sixth Evil Thought. It is:
…a type of restlessness that comes upon the monk around noon. What generally happens is this. First, the monk begins to feel that the day is just dragging along or that the task set before him is too difficult. Then, the monk searches to see if any of the other monks are coming to visit him. If not, he returns to his task. However, soon there grows dissatisfaction with where he is at in his life and that none of the other monks care about him. If anyone has done him wrong, he begins to think on that which then leads to anger. Since where he is at now is so terrible, he dwells on thoughts of foreign places and thinks about how wonderful they would be. He then begins to rationalize the need to leave his current location…
I was tempted to replace the word “monk” with “programmer”. I’ve worked in places like that, in truth!
One of the very nice elements of the series is the references, which include “ET” (which I think means “English translation”). Far more blog posts should have these. It is, in my opinion, a failing of WordPress and other blogging software that it is actually rather awkward to add footnotes.
Returning to the subject, however, I think we need to be a little wary. Asceticism is not the way that Christ preached, but is really borrowed from the world, I think. But there is much practical wisdom to be found in these ideas for the Christian.
And for the programmer.
6 thoughts on “Eight Evil Thoughts”
That’s lovely, Roger. Thanks! I sent it to my programmer son. I disagree with you, though, about Christ and asceticism. His time in the desert was surely intended to model Christian behavior. Elsewhere, he assumes his hearers will fast (6:16-18). The apostles certainly understood that to be the way he preached (Acts 13:2-3, 14:23). Paul gives more examples of renunciation (shaving his head, for example, pummeling his body, etc.).
I thought it was good when I saw it — do have a look at those posts!
On asceticism, a man who eats as many crisps as I do is perhaps not the best critic! But I do feel that it is a blind alley. I don’t disagree about prayer and fasting, but the step to monasticism and ascetism is a further step and — I mean no offence — I think it is a mistake.
Glad you enjoyed them! Ironically, I suffered much from akedia while writing the paper. 🙂
And yes, ET stands for “English translation.”
I’m with you on the crisps, so I feel a certain sheepishness as the defender of asceticism. But I don’t think monasticism is a step in any direction from forty days of fasting in the wilderness. This makes me hungry …
Need crisps now…
Well, obviously not everybody needs to do everything ascetic; and I wouldn’t think you personally would discern any need to be an ascetic. But if certain things can only be dealt with “by prayer and fasting”, it’s nice to have people doing it all the time, as well as some of us doing it occasionally!
More than that, though, I suspect that you’re the kind of person who has a fairly strong determination to get things done. (Given how much work and scanning and research you get through.) But there are a lot of us who really need help working on impulse control, and on trust in God.
There are a good many things in this world that I always thought were pointless, the point of which I have found out later on. (Sometimes by needing to ask the people who do them for help, in precisely that seemingly pointless area.) 🙂