Here’s a thought from my new favorite author, Kathleen Norris, in Acedia & me: A Marriage, Monks, and A Writer’s Life:
Acedia* is a danger to anyone whose work requires great concentration and discipline yet is considered by many to be of little practical value. The world does not care if I write another word, and if I am to care, I have to summon all my interior motivation and strength….Acedia’s genius is to seize us precisely where our hope lies, to tear away at the heart of who we are, and mock that which sustains us.
Acedia & me has been groundbreaking in my struggle to find my purpose in the world of words. I’ve had a great deal of inertia to overcome because I have no formal education and very little to give me a reason to write other than my own desires. I was very fearful when beginning this blog because I am always amazed and humbled by the number of gifted, skilled writers and thinkers in bloggerspace and our Western culture in general. I don’t count myself one of the skilled and gifted. I am constantly aware that “the world does not care if I write” and I have been seeking a reason for writing that comes from outside of myself. Kathleen Norris has shown me what that reason is.
I need to write. Regardless of my level of ability, I need to write. It is, I think, a God-placed desire. So I will write, and I will write with the understanding that I am fulfilling, in my own rather bumbling manner, a divine intention. Somehow the writing process (and acedia) is a part of my becoming, and in that process I am part of God’s bigger purpose.
*A note of explanation since acedia is an old-cum-new again idea, and most of this is my summary of Norris’ thought. Acedia is a difficult concept to define, and Norris describes the struggle to identify it as “like trying to define a negative or grab a shadow”. There are many words to describe this: torpor, the inability to care, listlessness, languor, lassitude, indolence, the Noonday Demon, boredom, despair, sloth. Acedia began as one of the early monastics’ “eight bad thoughts” and was considered the biggest struggle in the spiritual life. Evagrius Ponticus (345-399) says of acedia in The Praktikos, “No other demon follows close upon the heels of this one (when he is defeated) but only a state of deep peace and inexpressible joy arise out of this struggle.” Norris states that acedia went out of style as the Church changed and grew over the centuries until it “went into hiding” completely. She sees acedia as an insidious and very real problem in our culture that can only be dealt with by “naming it” – seeking to understand it. Acedia & me is Norris’ look at her own life and the struggle to live with and defeat acedia. I’m not done it yet, but it’s a good read – substantial enough to sink one’s teeth and heart into, but relaxed enough to be read quickly and easily. I highly recommend it!
- Pondering Pentecost (cantleaveunsaid.wordpress.com)