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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Is Acedia Really The Eighth Deadly Sin?

Tonight on KAXE 91.7FM, radio host and producer Heidi Holton interviewed author Kathleen Norris on her book- Acedia & Me: A Marriage, Monks, and a Writer's Life. Although it was brief interview- those interested in Psychology,Writing, Relationships, Christian monasticism, Prayer, and perhaps even that old nemisis Existentialism may find this of interest.

Kathleen’s book has been described as “a personal and moving memoir that resurrects the ancient term acedia, or soul-weariness, and brilliantly explores its relevancy to the modern individual and culture..” (Amazon)

Unfortunately I haven’t read the book yet but I did have few thoughts on the interview. No doubt these will evolve as I explore this topic futher.

["Great interview with Kathleen Norris. So many interesting little discussions and there was so much potential for sideboard discussion tangents as well.

Words are important.

I appreciate that you & Kathleen fleshed out the definition of acedia. It’s so important to know the origin of a word and it’s context.

Although there are similarities defined in modern psychology, it’s important to think about how early monastic Christian monks though about this state of mind. This continues even today. In fact, Mother Teresa experienced this state for much of her life. That might surprise many because outwardly- in her relationship with her sisters, in her amazing work with the poor- she was a radiant, loving human being. But in her book 'Come Be My Light' we get a deeper and more profound understanding of acedia I think.

I wouldn’t necessarily consider acedia on the same level as the seven deadly sins (including anger, pride, lust, etc.) although I could be wrong here. Still, Kathleen used words like dryness, apathy....a “spiritual morphine” to define acedia and these are very important. I’ve often heard the term the 'dark night of the soul.' Perhaps they’re similar or maybe I’m off on my own tangent.

For me, the discussion pointed directly to my relationship with God. Not that there isn’t a number of practical areas in my life where acedia might apply directly- negative thoughts & self-image, political apathy, family issues, work. But, I found myself considering how to deal with acedia in terms of prayer life rather than psychology. A grounded prayer life should focus on the Psalms and Gospels as a means for listening to the divine Word of God rather than simply memorizing passages to deal with daily situations. Christian Tradition calls it “Lectio Divina”-a slow, contemplative approach to reading and praying scripture. A means of opening ourselves to God.


I was hoping that the discussion of acedia could have touched upon that a little more, but I certainly understand the sensibility and broad direction of Kathleen’s approach to the subject.Your discussion of Merton’s quote, 'It takes real courage to recognize that we ourselves are the cause of our own unhappiness' .... was spot on."]


US Catholic
Penguin Group

Now... enjoy this from a gifted artist with a good dose of "ennui".

It is such a privilege for us to have such a dedicated radio producer as HH. You can listen to her interview at the Real Good Word’s archive.

On a side note-- the literature world continues to graple with the topic of sin as well. Listen to National Public Radio's October 18th interview with author Sharon Dolin on new book of poetry entitled Burn and Dodge. Less of an academic unfolding, Dolin's book lifts sin up to the light of the conscious allowing us a glimpse into the multitude of creative little narratives. Her poems are strikingly imaginative. Playful yet brave enough to look you straight in the eye.

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