Monday, February 2, 2009

Acedia, me, and Kathleen Norris

It is no secret to people who know me that the end of last year was a struggle for me. I owe writer Kathleen Norris, and deceased poet W.H.Auden, enormous debts of gratitude for helping to rescue me from myself. I posted something from Auden that so beautifully captures the anti-climactic feeling that end of the Christmas holiday always brings, even from the time of being very young.

More than Auden's poetry, Norris' book Acedia & Me was a life raft. At a very human level it helped to me to realize, yet again, that my situation is not as unique as I like to flatter myself by thinking that it is. I was familiar with some of her other books, like Cloister Walk and Amazing Grace. I have not read either book. I almost read Cloister Walk after reading about it in Donald Miller's lovely book Blue Like Jazz, but did not. I still have a copy on my shelf. I came across Acedia & Me quite providentially.

Anyway, yesterday afternoon I was listening to the radio, to the program To The Best of Our Knowledge. The title of this installment is Alone Time. It was a remarkable show and I especially liked the interview with John Cacioppo, author of Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection, wherein he explores how prevalent loneliness has become in the U.S. In the interview he discussed the distinction between solitude and loneliness.

The program also includes an interview with Kathleen Norris about acedia, which is well worth your time. It is in Realplayer format.


  1. A friend gave me, as a stay-at-home dad, a copy of Norris's The Quotidian Mysteries: Laundry, Liturgy and "Women's Work." That little book is a treasure and it also deals quite extensively with acedia.

  2. That window you're looking out of, needs to be cleaned. This will do the trick:


    There is a phrase, that is on eternal loop inside my head these days:

    "Be still, and know I am God."

    God bless you, and know your friends care and that you are in my prayers.


  3. Dcn. Scott...

    "The Cloister Walk" is a beautiful and beautifully accessible book -- a perfect companion for a monastic retreat! But be careful. Once inside the walls with that book, you may not want to come out. :-)



  4. How DOES one break out of that Arrogant, Woe is me, attitude?

    If you are to mention good reading, what would be THE read, besides the Good Book?

    I ask because as a Parent, time is not that accessible and quite costly.

    I am becoming a burden and I know it, but I feel when I read your Blog, I want to feel and find my way.

    I only Pray that you are willing to help...

  5. Reading alone, as Norris so pain-stakingly points out, won't do it- the Acedia and Me is a great book. Perhaps it sounds a little pedestrian, but only because it is such a challenge, but engaging with others, serving others, is the way out, as parents service to our children, really engaging them, like playing with them and abandoning ourselves to the game, the project, the moment works for me.

    Activity, like going for a vigorous walk, getting some work done, also help. At the end of the day, what we are expressing is a need, our need for meaning, for purpose, which only Christ can meet. So, these activities can't be distractions from what is bothering us, but ways of opening ourselves to Him through our engagement with and service of others.

    You're not a burden at all.


Heeding the most important call of all

Readings: Amos 7:12-15; Ps 8:9-14; Eph 1:3-14; Mark 6:7-13 Like Amos in our first reading, "the Twelve," as the inspired author...