Struggling With A Bad Thought

April 6, 2010 by  
Filed under Featured

By Kathleen Norris, Special to CNN

April 6, 2010 8:16 a.m. EDT

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STORY HIGHLIGHTS

  • Author: Acedia is profound indifference and inability to care about things that matter
  • Early Christians recognized acedia as one of “eight bad thoughts”
  • Kathleen Norris: Like spiritual morphine; pain is there, but you can’t give a damn
  • No remedy, but you can learn to recognize it and resist it

Editor’s note: Kathleen Norris is a poet and the author of The New York Times bestsellers “The Cloister Walk”, “Dakota: A Spiritual Geography” and “Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith.” She recently finished a tour for her latest book, “Acedia and Me.”

(CNN) — On a recent trip across America, what surprised me most was the number of people — over 200 in one city, 80 to 150 elsewhere — who wanted to discuss this odd word, “acedia.”

It’s an ancient term signifying profound indifference and inability to care about things that matter, even to the extent that you no longer care that you can’t care.

I liken it to spiritual morphine: You know the pain is there but can’t rouse yourself to give a damn.

The concept of acedia was developed by Christians in the fourth century who had fled to the deserts of the Middle East, opting for a simple life in rebellion against a newly legal, wealthy and politically powerful church. Today, we would say that they went off the grid.

These men and women quickly discovered that although they had left material possessions behind, they hadn’t shed their inner demons. They developed a sophisticated psychology of the “eight bad thoughts” that commonly troubled them, the most spiritually devastating of which were acedia, anger and pride…Continued

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