Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed

Friday is for Friends

It’s easier to talk about depression and acedia than it is to live with either; and it’s a whole lot easier to talk about both than to free oneself from either. At the heart of dealing with acedia is to know it and to name it and to admit it. Kathleen Norris’s Acedia & Me: Marriage, Monks and the Writer’s Life opens her heart to us as she reveals her struggles. Chp 2, called “Tedium,” deals with acedia in her teenage years.
Question: For those who suffer from acedia, or depression, how much does the grace of repetition anchor your days or point the way out of acedia or depression?
In high school, with life and her future before her, she writes: “The bracing thought of adulthood as opportunity, as terra incognita that I might be glad to explore, was swept away by a burgeoning sense of helplessness, self-pity, and terror” (8). She avoided the normal and wanted to live outside the routine tediums of life. She learned to despise repetition while her mother was pushing upon her the meaningfulness of daily routines — like making her bed. But she had to learn: “Showering, shampooing, brushing the teeth, taking a multi-vitamin, going for a daily walk, as unremarkable as they seem, are acts of self-respect” (14).
She relates how she can escape into mindless reading: “My days are not lived so much as wasted in compulsive reading” (16). So she concludes: “It amazes me how quickly acedia can deaden what has long been a pleasure for me …If my torpor is left unchecked, I lose the ability to savor not only reading, but life itself” (16).
Something that helps Kathleen Norris: “I need help to learn to see again, and to reclaim my life through ordinary acts: washing my hair, as well as the dishes in the sink, and walking out of doors to enjoy the breeze on my neck” (17).
Which leads her to the good repetitions of the monastic life. “It took me years to discover,” she admits, “in the curious history of acedia a key to understanding myself and my work as a writer” (19).

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posted October 24, 2008 at 6:37 am

I would say I suffered from a similar “acedia” in my early adolescence, in which I rejected routine, but now I rely on routine to help organize my life. I can feel closer to Gpd when I can find a slower, simpler rhythm to life and routine helps with that. As we know, ours is a God of order.

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posted October 24, 2008 at 6:37 am

I would say I suffered from a similar “acedia” in my early adolescence, in which I rejected routine, but now I rely on routine to help organize my life. I can feel closer to God when I can find a slower, simpler rhythm to life and routine helps with that. As we know, ours is a God of order.

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posted October 24, 2008 at 7:30 am

I’ve been there, too, Diane. I hated routine, and sometimes still do. But I’m finding more and more that my spirit needs it in order to be sustained in the crazy life that I live. When I’m in rhythm, it reminds me to be still and know that God is God, that He is still Sovereign, and I can let things go. That doesn’t mean that I don’t care about them; it simply means that I don’t have to manipulate the results, but instead can trust that He will fulfill His plans for my life.

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posted October 24, 2008 at 9:56 am

I have just begun reading Kathleen Norris’ book. I have found the repetition of Celtic Daily Prayer from the Northumbria Community invaluable. For a long time had careened from discipline to the other. I still practice some of the other disciplines, but daily hours give me a stable foundation on which to build with those others.

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posted October 24, 2008 at 10:23 am

I find that repetition does not inhibit creativity or spontaneity, although I would confess that I bought the lie for a long time that formality, boundaries, planning, and the like would crush and extinguish any kind of possibility for imagination or freedom or both. Wow, was I wrong!
In this regard, then, I am a great fan of the Phyllis Tickle series, The Divine Hours. (Typo note: I just entered “Diving Hours”, and thought how true, how true) In short, the Divine Hours did for me the very thing I assumed it could never do: keep me invested in Scripture frequently throughout the day, and keep me oriented toward God in prayer. I have received some push-back from my younger friends and colleagues about this commitment, and while they may have a longer rudder- as I did- to change course in life, a few are taking me up on my suggestion regarding the long-term value of the Daily Offices, and repetition.
And, this whole idea of repetition has invaded other areas of life, so it seems to have some merit that I was heretofore unaware of.

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Dana Ames

posted October 24, 2008 at 10:31 am

I can identify with Norris’ compulsive reading. Oh yes.
I had a way of folding the Divine Hours and the Northumbria Community offices together, and praying the offices kept me sane in a very difficult several years of my life. I still keep the Northumbria Community offices, though what I am folding into them is changing.

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posted October 29, 2008 at 1:53 pm

Wow… This is remarkably illuminating. Thank you!

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