Sunday, November 29, 2015

Review: Acedia & Me: A Marriage, Monks, and A Writer's Life by Kathleen Norris

Synopsis: Kathleen Norris had written several much loved books, yet she couldn't drag herself out of bed in the morning, couldn't summon the energy for her daily tasks. Even as she struggled, Norris recognized her familiar battle with acedia, a word she had discovered in early Church text years earlier. Fascinated by this "noonday demon", so familiar to those in the early and medieval Church, Norris knew she must restore this forgotten but important concept to the modern world's vernacular. An examination of acedia in the light of psychology, spirituality, the healing powers of religious practice, and Norris's own experience, Acedia & Me is both intimate and historically sweeping, brimming with exasperation and reverence, sometimes funny, often provocative, and always insightful. (from the online description)

Review: I understood this book to be about depression and marriage and God. It was so much more. Acedia is not depression; it is much more insidious. Norris once again wields her words with amazing dexterity. I might write ad nauseum about how much I adored this book and home much is helped my understanding of my own struggles. Instead, I offer a selection of my favorite quotes from the book.

"At its Greek root, the word acedia means the absence of care. The person afflicted by acedia refuses to care or is incapable of doing so. When life becomes too challenging and engagement with others too demanding, acedia offers a kind of spiritual morphine; you know the pain is there, yet can't rouse yourself to give a damn." (page 3)

"Whatever age we live in our perspective is always much more limited than we believe, and even as we progress in our understanding, blind spots remain that astonish and appall those who come after us." (page 35)

"“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.” (page ?)

"Because we are made in God's image, in fleeing from a relationship with a loving God, we are also running from being our most authentic selves.” (page ?)

"To quote Merton, "It takes real courage to recognize that we ourselves are the cause of our own unhappiness.” (page ?)

"To people schooled in a religon that has often seemed to define sin as a grocery list of dos and don'ts, these monks can seem, as Dominican Simon Tugwell explains in Ways of Imperfection "rather casual about morality". They were not concerned, he writes, "that people should behave correctly according to the rules, but rather that people should be able to see their situation clearly for what it is, and so become free from the distorting perspective which underlies all our sins" (page 135)

"When I saw the film I was reminded of the helpful distinction that Thomas Merton makes regarding Cassian's differentiation between acedia and sadness. Merton comments that the "sadness caused by adversity and trial in social life" generally comes from "a lack of peace with others" But acedia is far more insidious; it is "the sadness, the disgust of life, which comes fro a much deeper source - our inability to get along with ourselves, our disunion with God." (page 148)

Bookmarks: 8 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-1-59448-996-9
Date Finished: 11-15-2015
Pages: 334

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