Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Sloth and Everybody

It is an adage well known to theology: Before God chooses a man for an office, he prepares him for it. Thus, as I slide a little more toward a career as a book reviewer, I look back, with fresh understanding, I think, on the hints the Holy Ghost was dropping my path over the past few months. "Unconscious" has been a major mantra, for one. Then, there was the image of the school teacher's desk. And, perhaps most important, the inspiration to dig mindfully through John of the Cross' first two books, the Ascent and the Dark Night. Finally - at least for the purpose of getting the argument started - the intimation that 2009, at least at the beginning, was going to be the year of stern measures and unflinching severity.
For all of that, I had no explicit warnings that the New York Times might have to file for bankruptcy protection, as my beloved heard from her listening to early morning news yesterday. I mean, that best seller list is always suspect, but is it really evil, a handmaid of the devil? Lord, how can this be, especially as it was the Times, so many decades ago in the Sloan House, that was the occasion of no small divine vision and religious experience?
But such, I suppose, is the free market, and the results of those who abuse it. In my own small way, I tried to forestall the free fall on the Dow and the TSE, over the deregulation of the delivery of natural gas. First, I got sucked in, to my own personal amazement, thus inspiring a lot of loud mental muttering at Providence. Then I realized that God had tricked his contemplative because he wanted me to go to work and warn the media. And I tried, as much as I hate having to think about economics and finance beyond the point of charitable donations, to persuade CanWest Global to be intelligent, because I realized that the fiddling with other people's money was getting to the pusher and addiction stage. (Interesting, how much a young, attractive, white, educated, female can sound like a bloody communist when she's trying to persuade you that gas is going to go through the roof. Please God she doesn't decide to become a nun.) I knew, from all the frenzy that hit our front door, that the passion for skimming was getting out of hand, and the government and the media - sell those ads, sell those ads - was going along with it. I didn't follow the mortgage market, of course, because no one would have listened to me anyway.
And that might be the case now, but here we go anyway.
The first and last thing I want to say is that I'm very happy that Kathleen Norris wrote "Acedia and Me". No matter how much I might be found to disagree with her assertions and conclusions,
I firmly believe that she was genuinely inspired to take the subject on, by her Creator and Saviour, as well as the writer's Muse, that Holy Spirit who prompts and provokes in every culture, even those who are actually quite assinine about the Creator, and wouldn't know the Saviour if he showed up with a division of infantry wearing the robes and wings of angels. The very fact that, as a Protestant, she has tucked in with the monks, and reads the fathers and the doctors of the Church, for the purpose of an honest look at herself, makes her a worthy interlocutor for any theologian, and something of a touchstone for my own personal history.
She stands beside our bishop and his addresses, in the pulpit, or at that recent prayer breakfast, giving an account of his own relationship with faith.
But, after the delight in seeing her account of her own history with music, as it so cleanly justified the purpose of my researches, I ran into her quibbling over Gregory the Great and his dealings with the subject of her thesis, acedia, and I realized that although she had quoted Aquinas and John of the Cross, she had not actually been able to apply them as she should. At this point, there was a startling display of light, which in its first blush reminded me of the light I had enountered in Lord Lloyd's translation of the Koran: most definitely indicative of a genuine search for God, or Allah, or Brahman, but not the light of Christ. The Lord is kind and merciful, as the psalm says, but He doesn't take wooden nickles.
Now this might seem a bit harsh, and disrespectful of the searching mentality in others. But what else can the Seventh Mansion say? I've arrived. Where in the hell are you in your eagerness to teach, to proclaim, to "agonize" with the philosophers of the post-Modern era?
If you read Aquinas on the subject of sloth, you see, all so clearly, how it all fits together. Sloth is a sin against joy, and joy is the fruit of charity. What is charity? Love of God, love of neighbour, love of all things God has created.
So sloth is the enemy of love, and acedia is the prize of love failed, or love gone wrong.
And this is precisely where the battle is joined.
As I said to John Paul, back in the days when I was his offshore spiritual director, I don't read Aquinas as regularly as in the formative years. John of the Cross, Teresa, de Montfort, and the fathers of the Church as they turn up in the breviary are the more regular fodder now. But it is always a thundering adventure to get the grace to go back to the man from Rocca Secca, and bask in that incomparable mind. The drawbridges go down, the cavalry of the intellect roar out for battle, and the enemy scatters like the leaves in the wind.
Can reorganization save the Times? Or the reputation of the musical authorities in New York?
Man, you should see what the mighty Tim McDaniel came up with at yesterday's class. Triads, as they've never been studied before. Ah, Julliard, how much thou hast to learn.

6 comments:

cabbage ears said...

Sloth is apart from acedia. Acedia afflicts many who have no truck with sloth. Those who are slothful never get to the vicinity of acedia. Acedia afflicts those with familiarity into insight, education, eruditness, consciousness,faith and more faith. Acedia bites into the soul deeper than sloth. Sloth can easily be shrugged off should the consciousness change, acedia is an entirely different matter. I remember you and Aristotle.

eastsilica said...

Irene,
My God, how you've put me back in the classroom. The real professor's dream, the student who will fight back and turn all that potentially dry theory into more real drama than the stage has time and space to equal. You are utterly justifying my concerns with Kathleen's mistakes, on this, the feast day of Saint Thomas Aquinas, nine months after the Ranger was conceived. Chapter 10 of Contemplatives is not out there yet, but when it is, and you have read it, you will see how I have been kept from finishing it until you caught up with me again.
Much love,
Ken

cabbage ears said...

There is something indeed wonderful that you continue to write your novel. I will certainly read Chapter 10 when posted. Why do I remember that Aristotle (oh, how difficult and demanding was he)remarked at the end of his life..."it is all straw in my lap". Am I remembering correctly?I know that in Aristotle's case that it was likely not a matter of Acedia. regards...Irene

eastsilica said...

I'm not aware of any remark about straw from Aristotle, but I do know that Aquinas said that all he had written was straw, after he had a vision of Christ. How are Donny and David? I have been remembering that Donny helped us move into this, our last house.
And there is a humourous note to this exchange, unless your work has you travelling a lot. I think the Ranger has had cabbage ears hits from Lumby, Castlegar, Kelowna, and Victoria at least. Interesting, as Sitemeter just put out a survey.

cabbage ears said...

Alive and well. You are right. Not Aristotle but Aquinas. I await your next posting on the "Ranger" I find them much better than any artificial stimulant or relaxant. I look forward to the next one. My regards to all in your household. I wonder how difficult it must have been to take under your household wing the many young who had very little respect or tempered understanding. Yet, the uninformed are also immanently redeemable. No? Respectfully...Irene

eastsilica said...

Irene,
I'm wondering if my half-skills with the computer have tripped me up again. I do not see the note I wrote yesterday, in answer to your question about the "difficulties" of Elwyn Street. I was writing about my parents and grandmother having helped train me from the very beginning to deal with those who did not always see things the way God saw them from inside his little punk of a mystic. Did you get the note?