Apathy - what does it mean for our emotional state?

So, apathy might not be the most positive sounding thing to be thinking about a few hours after landing back home after a divine three days away at my aunt’s retreat center in Cottonwood, Arizona. It definitely isn’t something I was thinking about or experiencing in any way during my time there. Quite the opposite, in fact. I was hyper-aware, hyper-engaged, hyper-present for three entire days, so I was a bit surprised when I sat down to write and this word just kept banging on inside my head. Apathy. And then I started to wonder,

Should we embrace apathy?

Sure, we’re just coming out of the Holiday season. We were probably a bit more engaged with our surroundings over the last six weeks or so, making the effort to travel and be present with family and friends, create experiences and choose gifts that meant something to our loved ones. Maybe we chose our words a bit more carefully, took a bit more time over our meals, or touched our children or spouse a little longer or with more intention or tenderness.

We’re all in the throes of the glorious days of a new year – and a new decade. Me included! I just slammed it out at the gym in a way I haven’t in months (and yes I had surgery but you get my point). I have grand plans to clean my apartment from top to bottom over the weekend, shop for my next Whole30 (starting Monday … or even before if I’m super motivated), set up an appointment with a friend who’s a professional organizer, and on and on and on. 

So why am I thinking about apathy and what it means in our lives in the modern world?

Because sooner or later – and, let’s be honest, probably sooner – we’ll all get back to it this year, just as we do every year to a certain degree. But beyond thinking that, I have been wondering what apathy actually means and what being apathetic can give and take from our lives? 

Lanterns leading into 2020...

Apathy is defined by indifference, lack of enthusiasm, disinterestedness, lack of interest, lack of concern, passivity. But far more fascinating than the definition, of course, is the etymology. The origin of the word dates back to the early 16th century French word, apathie, which came to us via Latin from the Greek word, apatheia, from apathēs, which means ‘without feeling,’ from a- ‘without’ + pathos ‘emotion, feeling, suffering’.

Without feeling. Without emotion. Without suffering. 

Holy cow! For realz? The “without suffering” part… I’m still working on getting that one straight in my head but these two: without feeling & without emotion almost stopped my dead in my tracks.

Without feeling and without emotion, who are we? If we allow ourselves to become apathetic about things in our lives, who do we become? How can we act in the world, make a difference, transfer our vision into a reality without feeling and without emotion? 

My belief – secured in every possible way these past three days in Arizona – is that the source of feeling and emotion is in our sensory experience of the world and those around us, and the way we are empowered to do this is through actively engaging our five senses.

They are our key to understanding, conceptualizing, inhabiting, harmonizing with and being a part of the world in which we live. It is my intention this year to increase the sense of beauty, joy, and discovery in people’s lives so that apathy is held at bay and is never allowed to own the day.

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