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Acedia & Me: A Marriage, Monks, and a Writer's Life [Hardcover]

By Kathleen Norris (Author)
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Item Specifications...

Pages   352
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.3" Width: 5.8" Height: 1.4"
Weight:   1.23 lbs.
Binding  Hardcover
Release Date   Sep 1, 2008
Publisher   Riverhead Hardcover
ISBN  1594489963  
EAN  9781594489969  

Availability  0 units.

Item Description...
Kathleen Norris's masterpiece: 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.

Publishers Description
Kathleen Norriss masterpiece: 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.

Kathleen Norris had written several much loved books, yet she couldnt drag herself out of bed in the morning, couldnt summon the energy for daily tasks. Even as she struggled, Norris recognized her familiar battle with acedia. She had discovered the word in an early Church text when she was in her thirties. Having endured times of deep soul-weariness since she was a teenager, she immediately recognized that this passage described her affliction: sinking into a state of being unable to care. Fascinated by this noonday demon, so familiar to those in the early and medieval Church, Norris read intensively and knew she must restore this forgotten but utterly relevant and important concept to the modern worlds vernacular.

Like Norriss bestselling The Cloister Walk, Acedia & me is part memoir and part meditation. As in her bestselling Amazing Grace, here Norris explicates and demystifies a spiritual concept, exploring acedia through the geography of her life as a writer; her marriage and the challenges of commitment in the midst of grave illness; and her keen interest in the monastic tradition. Unlike her earlier books, this one features a poignant narrative throughout of Norriss and her husbands bouts with acedia and its clinical cousin, depression. Moreover, her analysis of acedia reveals its burden not just on individuals but on whole societies and that the restless boredom, frantic escapism, commitment phobia, and enervating despair that we struggle with today are the ancient demon of acedia in modern dress.

An examination of acedia in the light of theology, psychology, monastic spirituality, the healing powers of religious practice, and Norriss own experience, Acedia & me is both intimate and historically sweeping, brimming with exasperation and reverence, sometimes funny, often provocative, and always important.

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More About Kathleen Norris

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Kathleen Norris is the award-winning, bestselling author of The Cloister Walk and Dakota: A Spiritual Geography, among others. Her poems have appeared in The New Yorker, in various anthologies, and in her own three volumes of poetry. She divides her time between South Dakota and Hawaii.

Kathleen Norris currently resides in the state of South Dakota. Kathleen Norris was born in 1947.

Kathleen Norris has published or released items in the following series...
  1. 40-Day Journey
  2. Embracing
  3. Madeleva Lecture in Spirituality
  4. Pocket Canons

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Product Categories
1Books > Subjects > Biographies & Memoirs > Arts & Literature > Authors   [3562  similar products]
2Books > Subjects > Biographies & Memoirs > General   [38596  similar products]
3Books > Subjects > Biographies & Memoirs > Leaders & Notable People > Religious   [5128  similar products]
4Books > Subjects > Biographies & Memoirs > Memoirs   [10747  similar products]
5Books > Subjects > Health, Mind & Body > Mental Health > Depression   [521  similar products]
6Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Christian Living > General   [31520  similar products]

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
READ IT!!!  Nov 20, 2008
No lengthy treatise on this book - that's already been done. Very simply - Mighty good book, which is no surprise seeing that's it Norris - and on a much-ignored and forgotten topic. Read it - it's eye opening.
Acedia and me  Nov 19, 2008
Once again Kathleen Norris shares her life experiences and helps me see new possibilities in my own life.
Beautifully written and touching  Nov 16, 2008
Acedia may not be a word used often in secular society but most Catholics will be familiar with it. Acedia is that feeling that you simply cannot, cannot do this any more. It's boring. I'd rather do something--anything--else. It's too hard to be good every day. Being good requires a hero; not me. Acedia turns up in the spiritual life of anyone on the narrow road, and it's a deadly temptation.

Norris explores acedia, it's closely related cousin, depression, and the long history of her life and marriage in this book, and it makes for absorbing reading.

Problems in her marriage began "as we approached forty. David's habitual use of alcohol as a means of inspiration caught up with him. David...(would) drink anyone else under the table...He would then stay up half the night working...When he began to suffer from drunkenness...he panicked...he felt he would then lose his creativity" (67). He was a poet.

Norris was gradually being drawn into Catholicism, a religion David had long forsaken. A crisis ensued, a threat of suicide, and, at length, the sort of sifting that all marriages experience.

Yet another crisis occurs later on, as Norris and her husband must deal with a medical problem. She speaks of the "ravages of depression" (p 267) and "a ferocious temptation to doubt" (p 257). And yet...and yet..."I can look for the seed of hope in my despair" (p 275).
Good writing, but pieces are cobbled together and the seams show   Nov 15, 2008
The subtitle hints at a different direction for this interesting but overly-long book: a series or collection of essays on Acedia (Acedia & Me, Acedia & Writing, Monks on Acedia, Acedia & Marriage, etc.).
Why are we so depressed?  Nov 3, 2008
I have long harbored an intuition that the desert fathers and mothers have provided humanity with some of the keenest insights into the depths of the human conidion. Kathleen Norris in her newest book Acedia and Me: A Marriage, Monks and a Writer's Life, demonstrates a similar intuition, as she probes the little-known temptation acedia, which - although its usage has all but ceased in the English language - is alive and well in our consumer culture. What is acedia? Well, considering that Norris devotes a 40+ page appendix to laying out definitions and illustrations from historic and literary sources, one could say that acedia is hard to nail down. In brief, acedia comes from Greek roots that denote a lack of caring and could be described as a sapping of energy, motivation and focus that often leads to a restlessness culminating in "a hatred for the place, a hatred for [one's] very life [and] a hatred for manual labor" (xv) - to use the words of the fourth century monk Evagrius. The desert monks found that acedia often set in during the heat of the mid-day hours, which also led some to refer to it as "the noon-day demon."

Norris uses her own life, and particularly the story of her marriage to the late poet David Dwyer, as a framework to explore the multi-faceted temptations of acedia in the present age. Thus, her writing style follows in the pattern established in her previous autobiographical works including Dakota and The Cloister Walk. Her crystalline prose penetrates to the heart of the reader and her frequent illustrations from history (in this case, especially those from the monastic tradition) and literature draw the reader into a grand conversation about temptation, sin, desire, grace and hope - i.e., the fundamental elements of human nature. One of the key themes of this book is an exploration of the dynamics of the relationship between acedia and depression. From the definition given above, on can easily see the parallels, but Norris warns us early in the book that "It is an easy temptation to equate acedia and depression" (20). Thus, although frequently returning to her explorations of how the two interact, she is clear to draw the distinction between the spiritual experience (acedia) and the medical condition (depression). And therefore, she recognizes that sometimes one needs to treat the medical symptoms with therapy and/or pharmaceuticals in addition to addressing acedia with the three traditional monastic non-negotiables: community, stability and prayer. Norris's wisdom here should be taken to heart: let us first recognize and address the temptation of acedia by being rooted in community, stability and prayer. If then, the symptoms of depression are still unbearable, then let us explore medical therapies. How often do we jump to the pursuit of the latter, when we are unwilling to work through the real or perceived challenges of the former!

As we noted above in Evagrius's definition of acedia, one facet of acedia is the temptation to hate manual labor. As Norris is quick to point out, our middle-class American lifestyle is particularly vulnerable to this temptation. We have the capacity to pass off the daily work of life onto others or to "labor-saving" devices. Thus, Norris's chapter on the "quotidian mysteries" is perhaps one of the most pointed in the book. Here she asks the vital question: "Could we regard repetition as a saving grace, one that keeps returning us to essential understandings that we can discover in no other way?" (187). Norris goes on to observe that her experience is that the rhythm of repetitive actions lends itself well to contemplation and prayer. She would no doubt concur with the farmer and poet Liberty Hyde Bailey, who keenly observed that "to love and to work is to pray."

There is also a powerful undercurrent of cultural criticism in Acedia and Me, lurking ominously beneath the surface at every turn of Norris' narrative. For instance, one could ask the relevant question: "Why do so many people today experience depression-like symptoms?" While Norris does not directly answer this question, in exploring acedia, she reminds us how vulnerable we are to this temptation. The monastics, she notes, resisted acedia with three non-negotiable practices: community, stability and prayer. We, on the other hand, go to great extremes to resist these three practices. We resist community, instead glorifying individualism; our selfish ambitions and constant mobility shatter hopes of stability; in the increasing secularization of our culture and in our middle-class opposition to menial work, we find ourselves resistant to prayer. It is little wonder then that we have such little capacity for resisting the temptation of acedia!

Kathleen Norris has offered us here one of the finest books of 2008, deeply probing some of our cultural neuroses, and yet at the same time pointing us to the rooted wisdom of the monastics, which shines the light of hope in the midst of our individual and cultural brokenness. Indeed, the essence of the monastic tradition is to remind us that God is redeeming all of Creation through the formation of a contrast society. Acedia and Me is essential reading for the Church as we seek to understand the nature of Christian obedience in the present age, but it is especially important for those with a calling to (or at least a fascination with) new or traditional monasticism, in that it describes in depth one of the fundamental temptations that would shatter community and render as impotent our witness to the transforming Gospel of Christ.

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