Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Young People Today!

On this week's episode of Realgoodwords I talk with Kathleen Norris about the monastic traditions and Christianity in her life and in the contemplative world and I also tackle religion in a different sense. Documentary filmmaker and photograper Jona Frank joins me. She's just published a new book called "Right: Portraits from the Evangelical Ivy League". The Evangelical Ivy League is Patrick Henry College in Virginia

Published by Chronicle, this is the description from the publisher:

Right -- Patrick Henry College is the higher education institution of choice among politically far-right young people aspiring to enter the conservative power elite. The explicit mission of PHC is to cultivate leaders to take American politics and culture back to God, through careers in politics and entertainment. Acclaimed photographer Jona Frank presents an honest, intimate, and eye-opening portrait of the school and its students. Frank's photos eschew cultural politicking of the left or the right, allowing readers to draw their own conclusions about a school and a youth movement with the potential to produce many of tomorrow's leaders.

Jona Frank's photographs are in the permanent collection of the Getty and SFMOMA, among others.


Anonymous said...

Hey Heidi-

Great interview with Kathleen Norris. So many interesting little discussions and there was so much potential for sideboard discussion tangents as well.

Words are important.

I appreciate that you & Kathleen fleshed out the definition of acedia. It’s so important to know the origin of a word and it’s context. Although there are similarities defined in modern psychology, it’s important to think about how early monastic Christian monks though about this state of mind. This continues even today. In fact, Mother Teresa experienced this state for much of her life. That might surprise many because outwardly- in her relationship with her sisters, in her amazing work with the poor- she was a radiant, loving human being. But in her book “Come Be My Light” we get a deeper and more profound understanding of acedia I think.

I wouldn’t necessarily consider acedia on the same level as the seven deadly sins (including anger, pride, lust, etc.). Still, Kathleen used words like dryness, apathy....a “spiritual morphine” to define acedia and these are very important. I’ve often heard the term the “dark night of the soul.” Perhaps they’re similar or maybe I’m off on my own tangent.

For me, the discussion pointed directly to my relationship with God. Not that there isn’t a number of practical areas in my life where acedia might apply directly- negative thoughts & self-image, political apathy, family issues, work. But, I found myself considering how to deal with acedia in terms of prayer life rather than psychology. A grounded prayer life should focus on the Psalms and Gospels as a means for listening to the divine Word of God rather than simply memorizing passages to deal with daily situations. Christian Tradition calls it “Lectio Divina”-a slow, contemplative approach to reading and praying scripture. A means of opening ourselves to God. Humility.

I was hoping that the discussion of acedia could have touched upon that a little more, but I certainly understand the sensibility and broad direction of Kathleen’s approach to the subject.

Your discussion of Merton’s quote “"It takes real courage to recognize that we ourselves are the cause of our own unhappiness” was spot on.

Thanks again for this interview.


Heidi Holtan said...

Thanks Paul, for your thoughtful listening and your thoughtful comments.

This would have been a really good interview for you to be a part of.... I'd like your take/interests to be heard as well.

I would have liked to have gotten more specific with Kathleen - especially about how the Psalms have assisted her - how having these words not even so much memorized, but part of our unconscious - to go to for many reasons - in times of joy, sadness, acedia powerful these words are.

I would have liked to know specifics from her on this I think.

What would you have asked?