It’s hardly fair to write a book review on a book I haven’t yet read; but since I recently attended a book reading where Kathleen Norris gave the background of <A href="http://www.xanga.com/private/Acedia and Me and read from it, perhaps I can introduce the book.
Let’s get one thing out of the way: Acedia is pronounced uh-SEE-DEE-uh. It means boredom, listlessness, lack of caring. Acedia is something Norris has struggled with all her life. She said this book has been percolating for over twenty years. She believes that it is a struggle common to humanity.
Back when (1000 years ago) the major sins were categorized, there were first eight. Acedia was telescoped into sloth and the deadly sins were seven instead of eight. Norris is careful to distinguish acedia from depression by calling acedia a spiritual condition and depression a medical condition. She also sees sloth as physical laziness and acedia more a state of the mind. It can exhibit itself both as torpor and frenetic activity.
Fresh from a series of caretaking roles (Norris’ father and husband died after long illnesses) and still caring for her 91 year old mother, Norris spoke of times when she was so numb that she couldn’t pray. She wasn’t so worried because she knew how many others were praying for her. Much of the book is memoir, recounting what she has learned in the last difficult season of her life.
One feature of the book which insures I will read it is the commonplace entries in the back: quotes Norris has been collecting about acedia all her life.
Kathleen Norris came across as a person of integrity, a woman comfortable in her own skin. She was neither pretentious, condescending, or arrogant. She is a person I would delight in inviting to my house for dinner. The Q & A was most interesting, especially because the Portland audience was across the spectrum. Because my theology is more conservative than hers, some of her answers caused me some inward wincing (e.g. her off-the-cuff definition of a Christian in response to a question had more to do with community than with Christ).
Why I call Kathleen Norris L’English.
Previous post about acedia here.
A nugget on the subject of pride from Norris’ Cloister Walk.