I’ve discovered a new word lately. That is not really exceptional, I’m always interested in finding a new word (I wish I was as interested in being able to spell the words I do know..).
However, this word was very insightful for me and I’ve been examining it and rolling it around in my brain for some time now. It has direct application to the way I do things, and I think maybe it could have some application for you too. So what’s the word?
Akrasia
Well I just found out I’ve been pronouncing it wrong. I’ve been saying a-cra-see-a. But evidently that’s how a lisper would pronounce it. The Internet says it’s more like a-cra-zia or a-cra-ja. I think it would end like amnesia, but I can’t remember.
I guess it’s not so important how it sounds as what it means. It means: “lacking command (of oneself)” or, to make that less cryptic … doing something against your own self interest.
So why pick such a weird old word like akrasia, when you could just say stupid? Well hold up there, I resemble that remark…
Akrasia is a topic that is dealt with in the writings of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle – so it must be important, or at least worthy of our consideration. So what was the big deal? Why all the fuss about this weird little word?
Well, the thing is – it’s a part of our shared human experience. We all suffer, at one time or another, with this malady. We all have, do, or will succumb to akrasia. Basically we do something that, if we thought about it we wouldn’t. And this of course includes inaction. So “procrastination” is one form of akrasia. Tax day was yesterday, here are my forms (signed and in the envelops… come on, I’m not completely behind – well, I guess as of today I officially am) on my desk. I know better, I know there could be dire (and financial) consequences to not making the (graciously extended) deadline. But still here they sit – why?? Akrasia my friend, it’s an attack of akrasia.
I did not get in this situation because I’m stupid. If I were to sit down and weigh out my options and think about the consequences and rewards of the different course of action – I would clearly reason myself into a different course. But, see, I didn’t. Why? It really is a fascinating thing to wonder about. What is the cause? And more practically – is there a cure?
Well we’ll pick up more on this next time, but for now your assignment is to become more aware of your akratic behavior. When do you do something and you think D’oh! (<< that is the theme word for the akratic! Homer is riddled with it (yeah, not the Greek author Homer, that other one)). There was a better way, if only I would’ve thought things through. And right there, that regret, makes me 2nd guess next time and while I dither and consider, the opportunity to act is past and I’ve done nothing when I should’ve done something. Oh, another victory for akrasia. Do you see how involved this concept is to everything you do (or don’t do)? Think about that for next time.