Recommended by my friends Danielle and Jessye
Read as the ChocLit Guild book selection for August
A slim book at only 88 pages
Menial derives from a Latin word meaning “to remain,” or “to dwell in a household.” It is thus a word about connections, about family and household ties.
God is a begetter, not a maker, and poets are makers, not begetters. Maker is what the word poet means at its Greek root, and I am all too acutely aware that what I make, the poems and the personae that fill them, are not creatures in the fullest sense, having life and breath.
And I see both the miracle of manna and incarnation of Jesus Christ as scandals. They suggest that God is intimately concerned with our very bodies and their needs, and I doubt that this is really what we want to hear. Our bodies fail us, they grow old, flabby and feeble, and eventually they lead us to the cross. How tempting it is to disdain what God has created, and to retreat into a comfortable gnosticism.
The ordinary activities I find most compatible with contemplation are walking, baking bread and doing laundry. My everyday experience of walking confirms the poet Donald Hall’s theory that poetic meter originates in the bodily rhythm of arms and legs in motion.
[W]hat ties these threads of biblical narrative together into a revelation of God’s love is that God has commanded us to refrain from grumbling about the dailiness of life. Instead we are meant to accept it gratefully, as a reality that humbles us even as it gives us cause for praise.
[I]f you’re like me, you take a kind of comfort in being busy. The danger is that we will come to feel too useful, so full of purpose and the necessity of fulfilling obligations that we lose sight of God’s play with creation, and with ourselves.
The poem, like housekeeping itself, is an attempt to bring order out of chaos. In the poem, by pulling many disparate things together, I tried to replicate the actual work of cleaning, sorting through the leftovers, the odd pieces of a life, in order to make a whole. I sense that striving for wholeness is, increasingly, a countercultural goal, as fragmented people make for better consumers…
I was slow to recognize that combating sloth, being willing to care for oneself and others on a daily basis, is not small part of what constitutes basic human sanity, a faith in the everyday… Benedict’s Rule for monasteries…characterizes sloth as disobedience.
But acedia seeks to hoard against the time when God is no longer present, and we can’t trust the nourishment that other people offer. It rejects the present moment in favor of a vainglorious and imaginary future in which we will do just fine, thank you, at providing for ourselves… In contemplating the “daily bread” that we ask for in the Lord’s Prayer, Simone Weil asserts that God has created us so that the present is all we have.
It is not in romance but in routine that the possibilities for transformation are made manifest. And that requires commitment.
I have come to believe that the true mystics of the quotidian are not those who contemplate holiness in isolation, reaching godlike illumination in serene silence, but those who mange to find God in a life filled with noise, the demands of other people and relentless daily duties that can consume the self.
Our desire is to love God and each other, in stable relationships that, like any good marriage, remain open to surprises and receptive to grace.
:: Laziness by Any Other Name by Angelina Stanford @ CiRCE [short article]
I read this article just after finishing Quotidian Mysteries, and it was a painful well-aimed arrow.
But laziness, like all sin, is a deceiver, and the first person it deceives is the sinner. Laziness loves to masquerade as work. It’s easy to deceive ourselves and others when we seem so busy and hard working. But, laziness is not inactivity; it’s doing something other than your duty.
I’ve found a contemplation of the word “leisure” to be a fascinating and fruitful endeavor, and it is interesting that the ideas of acedia and sloth are connected to the concept of leisure. So many words have lost their rich meaning in our modern culture [more about that in an upcoming post].
At the zenith of the Middle Ages, on the contrary, it was held that sloth and restlessness, "leisurelessness," the incapacity to enjoy leisure, were all closely connected; sloth was held to be the source of restlessness, and the ultimate cause of "work for work's sake."
[I am using Collect, Connect, Create as my process for Lectio Devina, as shared by Jenny Rallens. Often in my blog posts, the photograph at the header (and the blog post in general) is my resulting creation from the Lectio Divina process.]