One little word can save us

In ancient philosophy, there was something known as the argos logos, or the lazy argument. In essence, the lazy argument is a disorder of the mind, in which our thoughts play tricks on us, convincing us that nothing we do or will do matters at all. Though mocked by Cicero and others for its sophisty, its effects on a person can nevertheless be deadly. Using every thought at its disposal, the argos logos twists the mind into knots, convincing the person undergoing this intellectual seize, “What’s the use?” “Nothing I do matters” or “My life has no value.”

Ironically, the lazy argument is itself anything but lazy, and uses the tremendous energy of our minds to keep us running ragged from one thought to another, never allowing us to stop long enough to discern the truth. Intellectuals and keen thinkers are especially susceptible to the lazy argument for this reason, as their minds can race with tremendous speed. This is the gift of the intellectual, but it is also a danger. Depression and mania are both diseases of an unsettled and often racing mind.

The desert fathers and mothers of the eastern church knew the problem well, using frequently the Greek word for chatter, argologia. Sitting in their cells day after day, year after year, they perceived the mind at work and discerned that there was just as much danger as there was light to be found in the thoughts that swirled about them. One later writer in the desert tradition, Peter of Damaskos, contrasted the blooming confusion of his own thoughts with the penetrating simplicity of the divine word: “God’s speech is not chatter…for though we were all to speak at length, we still would not have uttered the equivalent of a single word of God.” As an example, Peter cited Deuteronomy 6:5: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your might.

If we made this briefest of divine words (theo-logia) truly resound in our lives, Peter marvelled, we would have the antidote to all of the useless chatter that distracts us from our highest callings. A single holy word, kept in the heart, carried about in our daily work, recited ‘when we lie down and when we arise,’ (Deut 6:7), is more than enough to guard the entryway to our heart-minds, protecting them from lazy arguments and useless words.

Resolve: For today, I will turn from the chatter both inside and outside my mind, and seek instead to hear and absorb the divine word of love in all of my activity and in all of my resting moments. When I am distracted by my mind, I will return gently to God’s word of loving mercy. Choose life. (Debut 30:19) {this post written in loving gratitude for Sister Cecilia who gave me this simple word)

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