Tuesday, October 14, 2008

More words I don't know...Rumplestiltskin

Remember those words I don't know? The list continues.

Sure I'd heard Rumplestiltskin before... but I couldn't remember if it was the story about the giant and large green stalk or a girl who let her hair down or maybe it's that story of the gnome on stilts.

Wrong, wrong and wrong again.

Why am I thinking about Rumpelstiltskin? (if I had a nickel for everytime I asked myself that one!)

Here's the thing: in myrecent conversation with author Kathleen Norris she mentioned Rumpelstiltskin.

She talked about first finding out what the term acedia meant... she said that "just knowing the name of something gives you power over it....like Rumplestiltskin."

"Yes, like Rumplestiltskin", I said.

To myself I said, "what does the girl with the long hair in the tower have to do with the word I only recently learned, acedia?"

Turns out Rumplestiltskin is a Grimm little story about a girl weaving gold and a little gnome or manikin (a what?) who makes her promise to give up her first born child. When the mean manikin offers her a plea bargain of finding out HIS name in 3 days time, hilarity ensues. Maybe I'm getting that mixed up with an episode of the Mary Tyler Moore show...

But anyway, Kathleen Norris was getting at the idea that if we know our problem, if we can name something, we can deal with it.

In our conversation, Kathleen and I talked about Merton's quote, "It takes real courage to recognize that we ourselves are the cause of our own unhappiness." For Kathleen, realizing that having acedia - or finding oneself in a state of not caring or being unable to care - is as destructive as pride and anger. She described acedia like this:
"spiraling thoughts - one following right after the other of boredom and restlessness and irritation and fear of the future. Depression and acedia share some of the same symptoms, but are different.... Back in the 4th century the monk Evagrius said that none of us can control whether the thoughts come to us - but we might be able to exercise over how we respond to them. "
Kathleen Norris' new book is "Acedia and Me: A Marriage, Monks and A Writer's Life". Tune in for my conversation this week - or check the archives!

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