Sloth, Sin & Sorrow

Named after one of the Seven Deadly Sins, the sloth gets a bum rap. Yet, the sloth was tree-hanging upside-down and belly crawling three feet per minute well before the word sloth even formed from Middle English in the late twelfth century. It wasn’t until the seventeenth century when the Portuguese encountered the animal that it was named from a translation of preguiça, from the Latin pigritia meaning “laziness.” The original Latin for this Deadly Sin was acedia. Thomas Aquinas suggests that sloth is not a sin or vice but rather the passion of sorrow. This particular sorrow leads to a spiritual paralysis that causes people to shirk duties, such as charity to others. No doubt Aquinas understood that acedia meant literally “not-caring.” But the sloth’s slow motion is due not to sorrow but an adaptive response that allows it to conserve energy since its diet consists mainly of leaves, which provide very few nutrients. Plus, the sloth is quite charitable ecologically in that it’s host to all sorts of other living beings, including moths, beetles, and algae. The sloth not only exemplifies conservation and charity but also leisure and rest. In our world of technological instantaneity and progressive haste, we’d do well to follow the sloth’s example. There are times it’s better to move too slowly than too quickly, and “[if] you’re having a stressed out day, remember the sloth. They don’t do shit, and they haven’t gone extinct.”