Potential Connections (aka “What I’m Reading”)

I wonder sometimes what our reading habits might say about our spiritual lives. What did it say about 7th grade me, for instance, that during that year I began to voraciously consume Stephen King novels? (I had read most of them by the time I finished Jr High!) Or that in 5th grade I was inhaling Douglas Adams (Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) and Harry Harrison (Stainless Steel Rat)?

As I type this, I contemplate that perhaps all these really say about me is that I enjoy easily read novels and stories (neither Adams nor King challenged my reading level as C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity would!) – evidenced by my current penchant to “kick back” reading one of the Dresden Files novels by Jim Butcher…

I digress. I am sitting here wondering today about the connections between a few other current readings. (Which, by the way – for anyone who is curious enough! – can be followed at my Good Reads page via Facebook.) As I walked into Barnes & Noble (my office) today to do a bit of devotional reading and then begin some worship planning, I picked up a new book to read (Acedia & me by Kathleen Nrris) that directly connects to at least one of my other readings (The Sayings of the Desert Fathers, translated by Benedicta Ward)…

For those unfamiliar with the term, acedia (which is Greek; there is also a Latin version of accidie) refers to a mental/emotional state somewhat akin to a combination of despair and sloth. For some early monastics, it was originally identified as one of the most insidious of the 8 great sins to be avoided and/or overcome (oddly, when the listing went from the monastic world into the “regular” world, accedia was eventually combined with sloth as one of the “7 deadly sins”). Personified / anthropomorphized as a demon in some early writings (such as Evagrius Ponticus), it details a spiritual state of despair, nihilism, loss of hope… in modern parlance, we might consider it “spiritual depression.”

I had seen Kathleen Norris’ book before, and when the local B&N had it on sale for $4.98 last year post-Christmas, I thought I should buy it… but at the time I chose to wait (I have too many books on my to-be-read shelf already!), and it disappeared from their discount and remainder shelves until just recently. During last week’s session at the Academy, the notion of acedia returned to me, and I thought about the book again.

So, after a week of Roberta Bondi’s insightful and “folksy” teaching about the early fathers, I ordered Ward’s book on The Sayings of the Desert Fathers, the very first of which is Abba Antony teaching about accidie! (I opened it this morning before leaving home.) When I walk into B&N today I look to my left and see Norris’ Accedia & me

There may just be some divine inspiration in my notice of these things at this time; the Holy Spirit drawing my attention to some insights and learnings from others that I need to consider. (Granted, it may be as simple as the psychological reality that, because I began to be tuned in to the notion I was more observant of it.) So I’ll begin to read.

And in her introduction, Norris indicates that she will be drawing from… the desert fathers! Those who had “attained wisdom in the spiritual life and could offer good counsel.”

Did I mention that my current personal devotional reading is in Proverbs, which seek to help those seeking God to attain “wisdom”?

So, I suspect that in these Academy-inspired but non-required readings there is some depth of insight the Spirit is hoping to bring my attention to…

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