Tuesday, September 02, 2008

It's Half-Past Twelve Somewhere

Acedia [uh-see-dee-uh] Laziness or indifference in religious matters.

A significant part of Norris' agenda is to distinguish acedia from depression: two intersecting sets that have some features in common but differ in significant ways. Here, she suggests, "an informed understanding of sin" helps. [S]he is concerned that the church long ago began to define sin primarily in terms of acts rather than something like Evagrius' "thoughts," which are part of the human condition and which we must identify before they become harmful actions and stifle the work of grace in our lives. Put more simply, Norris' "most basic definition of sin" is "to comprehend that something is wrong, and choose to do it anyway." The danger of a sin like acedia is that it can become "mortal"--that is, it can prevent God's grace from transforming our lives: "When we are convinced that we are beyond the reach of grace, acedia has done its work."

We urgently need such reminders amid the "restless boredom, frantic escapism, commitment phobia, and enervating despair" of contemporary life, particularly in the context of a marriage such as the one that unfolds in this book. In a society where acedia results in relationships that are recycled more often than aluminum cans, Norris insists that what is most likely to maintain a marriage is not giddy romance, but discipline, martyrdom, and obedience (which, at its etymological root, refers to hearing): "The very nature of marriage means saying yes before you know what it will cost. You may say the 'I do' of the wedding ritual in all sincerity, but it is the testing of that vow over time that makes you married."

This post references the book review by Dennis Okholm. [I have no idea what the title of the review or this post means.] The book being reviewed is Acedia & Me: A Marriage, Monks, and a Writer's Life by Kathleen Norris.

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