In Christian Century magazine, I came across an extract from Kathleen Norris’s new book, Acedia and me : a marriage, monks and a writer’s life. I had to look up acedia. It means spiritual sloth.
Her take on acedia is that it is a failure to find meaning in the ordinary, repetitious daily tasks and experiences of life. I identify so strongly with this. In my new novel, House of Zealots, one of the characters struggles against the feeling that eating, sitting, talking, gardening, washing up do not drive the revolution forward, and all that matters is changing the world. (It’s an exaggerated form of my own diseased thinking.)
I was a bratty kid who didn’t want to make her bed.
“Why bother?” I would ask my mother in a witheringly superior tone. “I’ll just have to unmake it again at night.” To me, the act was stupid repetition; to my mother, it was a meaningful expression of hospitality to oneself, and a humble acknowledgement of our creaturely need to make and remake our daily environments. “You will feel better,” she said, “if you come home to an orderly room.” She was far wiser than I, but I didn’t comprehend that for many years.
I have now made my bed two days in a row. And I intend to follow this through, this symptom of a deeper malaise.