Some days we may be dragging, or sad, or lonely. I remember one day in 1986 where I felt burdened, and overwhelmed, and even a little bit sad. My University of Dallas faculty, classmates, and I were in our Rome semester and on a 10 day trip to Greece. The day is seared into memory because when I dove into the Argolic Gulf all of the stress immediately washed off of me as my body hit the water. It was the most amazing swim of my life. I have thought of this swim often in the context of baptism.
However, I was also reminded of this swim when I stumbled across St. Thomas Aquinas teaching on 5 remedies for sadness (Summa Theologiae, I–II, q. 38):
- Give yourself something you like. Why do you think so many folks turn to chocolate as an antidepressant? St. Thomas said, “Therefore just as all repose of the body brings relief to any kind of weariness, ensuing from any non-natural cause; so every pleasure brings relief by assuaging any kind of sorrow, due to any cause whatever.”
- Weep. Wow, a good cry? St. Thomas said, “First, because a hurtful thing hurts yet more if we keep it shut up, because the soul is more intent on it: whereas if it be allowed to escape, the soul’s intention is dispersed as it were on outward things, so that the inward sorrow is lessened.”
- Share your sorrow with a friend. “Because when a man’s friends condole with him, he sees that he is loved by them, and this affords him pleasure…. [It] follows that sorrow is mitigated by a sympathizing friend.”
- Contemplate Truth. “The greatest of all pleasures consists in the contemplation of truth. Now every pleasure assuages pain as stated above (#1): hence the contemplation of truth assuages pain or sorrow, and the more so, the more perfectly one is a lover of wisdom.”
- Take a nap or bath! “Moreover such remedies, from the very fact that they bring nature back to its normal state, are causes of pleasure; for this is precisely in what pleasure consists…. Therefore, since every pleasure assuages sorrow, sorrow is assuaged by such like bodily remedies.”
Maybe my restorative swim was a combination of #1 and #5…. but fatigue and sadness are a part of our human condition, and it was surprising to find St. Thomas with such practical remedies!
Enjoy your summer swims as a way to restore and refresh you!
Father John Mosimann