Saturday, December 5, 2009


The hugely talented and insightful writer Kathleen Norris has a book (ACEDIA AND ME) in which she carefully and at length distinguishes between depression and *acedia. She knows both first-hand, and also by means of tons of research.

Yet one smug reader insists that Norris must be "in denial," because what's she describing, he asserts, is "clearly depression." Ignore this glibster's cotton-hay- and-rags brain-box. It's the psychobabble term "in denial" that interests me here.

In a brief response to the Strawman's comment, I stated that Norris was almost the perfect opposite of someone "in denial." But then I realized that our era HAS no word for the opposite of "in denial." Do we miss it?

If you're not "in denial," what are you? Cool with everything? In your dreams, pal. As a culture, we're so uncool even the palms of our feet are sweating.

Well, then "guilt-ridden." Surely that fits. Most of us feel guilty for everything from global warming to the lack of procreation among the pandas, for honest wrinkles at eighty to extra pounds on eight-year olds. And anorexia in teens.

No, not "guilt-ridden." Generalized guilt is the other swing of the pendulum, the arc of the other end of "denial." Accept everything and you take responsibility for nothing. Guilt is as far from the balance point as "It's not MY fault!"

The concepts of confession, remorse, and restitution went out of fashion the day after Bloomers came in. Those practices would seem to assure the logical balance point. With those in place, we don't deny, but neither do we cling to guilt and consider it a substitute for doing better.

But--the mythology of the human race would indicate that,"It wasn't MY fault" comes pretty naturally. Anyone who ever knew a three-year old can testify to that reality.
But outside of now rather suspect religious institutions, where do we learn, let alone practice, confession, remorse, and restitution? It is only in that tent, those many and multi-colored tents, that we can grow spiritually, or even in character?

* * * * *

*acedia is an interesting word that was almost lost to our culture, though the condition it describes has never been less than everywhere in evidence.
I recommend Norris' book on the subject. Meanwhile, a quick though unsatisfactory definition might be "spiritual torpor, a deep-seated sloth that robs one of any degree of caring, about any aspect of life."

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