Friday, November 7, 2014

Acedia and Me by Kathleen Norris

Acedia & Me: A Marriage, Monks, and a Writer's LifeAcedia & Me: A Marriage, Monks, and a Writer's Life by Kathleen Norris
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A Marriage, Monks, and A Writer’s Life
(3.5 stars if I could give half stars)

In this book, we are given glimpses into each, along with insight into the topic of acedia as well as depression.

In particular, I found myself challenged in the way I view daily chores, boredom, and my own restlessness. (See quotes below.) I also enjoyed peeking into her experiences with both monastic life and marriage.

She writes from a modern perspective, and a generally Roman Catholic understanding of sin (behaviors may be sin, but our desires to sin are not; they do not condemn us but inspire us to be better people.) In her wrestlings, though she draws strength from Scripture (especially the Psalms), I did not find a clear understanding of Christ, specifically his work on the cross. She also quotes heavily from Evagrius, a monk condemned as heretical by the RCC- she mentions this in an offhand way, as if the fact of it or the reason for it does not matter. This is telling in regards to her approach in matters of theology.

I would give this book 3.5 stars if I could- I am torn between the feelings of dislike of the academic slopiness and the appreciation for the poetic gems and insights skattered throughout.

That said, her book offered many valuable insights and challenging ideas regarding both spiritual sloth and depression. A few of my favorite quotes follow:

“If my pride recoils from endeavors that seem futile in the face of my world-weary despair, I have to remember that disdaining ordinary, mundane chores that come to nothing can lead to my discounting personal relationships as well. “

“In this hyped-up world, broadcast and Internet news media have emerged as acedia’s perfect vehicles, demanding that we care, all at once, about a suicide bombing, a celebrity divorce, and the latest advance in nanotechnology....the ceaseless bombardment of image and verbiage makes us impervious to caring.” 129

“The word menial derives from a Latin word meaning “dwelling” or “household.” It is thus a word about connections, about family and household ties. “ 197

“Technology had made a fool of me, for a few seconds of ‘waiting’ in computer time is no longer than seconds spent ‘waiting’ on a magnificent, rocky beach for the sun to rise over pearl-tinted ocean; is is only my perception that makes them seem different. And how I perceive such things is a matter of spiritual discipline.” 220

“The very nature of marriage means saying yes before you know what it will cost. Though you may say the “I do” of the wedding ritual in all sincerity, it is the testing of that vow over time that makes you married.”

“Might we consider boredom as not only necessary for our life but also as one of its greatest blessings? A gift, pure and simple, a precious chance to be alone with our thoughts and alone with God?”

“Like faith, marriage is a mystery. The person you’re committed to spending your life with is known and yet unknown, at the same time remarkably intimate and necessarily other. The classic seven-year itch may not be a case of familiarity breeding ennui and contempt, but the shock of having someone you thought you knew all too well suddenly seem a stranger. When that happens, you are compelled to either recommit to the relationship or get the hell out. There are many such times in a marriage.”

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