20 June 2009
Kathleen Norris: Acedia and Me
I am reading Kathleen Norris's Acedia and Me: A Marriage, Monks, and a Writer's Life. It is convicting and comforting, challenging and calming. I will be writing more on it when I have read further and understand better some of the distinctions she draws between acedia (one of the seven deadly sins -- sloth, or ennui: weariness in well-doing) and depression (the clinical condition). It is one of those books in which the non-underlined portions will, I fear, be less than the underlined and commented on; in other words, I'll just have to re-read the entire thing again and again, instead of selected passages. Which may be just as well.
The final chapter is a commonplace book of quotations on her subject, and I was struck by this one as I browsed it this evening:
"When the holy Abba Anthony lived in the desert he was beset by accidie [acedia] and attacked by many sinful thoughts. He said to God, 'Lord, I want to be saved but these thoughts do not leave me alone, what shall I do in my affliction? How can I be saved?' A short while afterwards, when he got up to go out, Anthony saw a man like himself sitting at his work, getting up from his work to pray, then sitting down and plaiting a rope, then getting up again to pray. It was an angel of the Lord sent to correct and reassure him. He heard the angel saying to him, 'Do this and you will be saved.' At these words, Anthony was filled with joy and courage. He did this, and he was saved."
Reminds me of my life's mantra: Do the next thing. Then do the next thing. And at some point you will find that you are living again, not perhaps knowing quite when or how it happened.