The Slough of Sloth

In Dante’s haunting descent into the Inferno, he is led to the banks of a river made black by a stew of thick silt and mud. He looks down into the home of the submerged slothful but there are no tortured bodies to see. Only the bubbling mud of breath and the gurgling voices rise to the surface. He listens close to hear the morbid hymn they sing: “‘We were gloomy / in the sweet air made happy by the sun, / carrying within the smoke of sullenness. / Now we are smothered in the black slime.’ This hymn they gurgle in their throats, for they cannot speak with whole words” (Canto 7). Forever the slothful lament this debauchery. They failed to find pleasure in the sweet clean air of creation; they are now bound to breathe mud. They failed to enjoy the sweet warmth of the sun on their skin; they are now submerged in dark slime. This is a profound statement about sloth. Sloth is shrugging off anhedonia. Sloth, at its core, is negligence with the simple gifts of pleasure God pours over us every day.