Friday, May 14, 2010

Acedia and me

I was complaining to my husband that no one was writing about the experiences I wished to read about. I systematically picked up and put right back down books about ill-fated lovers, civil strife, war torn lands, historical romance and the immigrant experience.  I yearned to read about my particular quandaries...a life without dramatic events, lived in the day after day every day, confused by the futility of the never ending -  making my bed, picking up the mail, cooking - all things that had to be done again the next day.

My husband didn't have anything to suggest though he did promise to keep an eye out. Two days later, while I was doing the same while picking up and putting down titles at an SFO bookstore in the international terminal, I stumbled upon a new book, Acedia and me by an American author, Kathleen Norris (sometimes you have to go far to find what's right next to you.)

I had read and enjoyed Norris before.  Her deeply meditative approach in The Cloister Walk had done much to introduce to my essentially Protestant mind a more catholic appreciation of Catholic ritual. Her extended exploration in Acedia and me of acedia, the 8th of the 7 deadlies, gave me a better understanding of the peculiar perils of the everyday day after day day to day and weapons to fight back.

Acedia often occurs where "The rewards are slow to appear if they come at all", where we are "watering dead wood with tears and very little hope" that the wood becomes a tree. Acedia is a "weariness of soul". All human efforts are futile because we all die and this fact can be quite wearying. But Norris gives diamond faceted treatment to the weapons to fight back.
  • It's my soul that needs to change, not my life
  • My participation is key - become an agent/actor in my own life and live fully
  • Discern what sadness I have caused within myself and what is out of my control
  • Staunch persistence, or as a friend of mine likes to say, "persist until...."
  • Begin again, anew like a child, every day
  • Turn drudgery into play
  • Shortcuts (like this list of weapons rather than the experience of reading Norris' book) will short change you
More importantly,

"how I perform those often dispiriting duties, from the changes of a baby diaper, to the bathing of an aged parent, reveals what kind of God we worship....That faith and love operate best through humble means of boring everyday occupations is a thoroughly biblical perspective, for its stories repeatedly remind us God's attention is fixed on what we regard as unimportant and unworthy."

This exalting of the low and lowering of the exalted is the same chiastic or X shaped structure in Philippians 2. Christ, the exalted one, humbled himself even to becoming a man. He died for our sins and after his humbled duties he was exalted to the right hand of God. And we're made a little lower than angels, and humanly living the day after day, and later will take our place in heaven.

Norris administered the smelling salts of possibility and hope rises again within.

No comments: