To care or not to care

Acedia and MeI bought this book when it first came out. I was just newly divorced, depressed, not really sure where I would go. If you’re not familiar with Kathleen Norris, you should pick up one or more of her books. She is an insightful writer, and so many of her themes ring true to my middle-class life.

The book in a nutshell: Acedia is one of the original “bad thoughts” that later morphed into the 7 Deadly Sins. It refers to the malaise that sucks action from a person’s life. I know these things need attention, but I just can’t bring myself to care enough to do anything.

I don’t think that’s been my problem. It’s not that I don’t care. It’s that I care so much that I find myself unable to act. I don’t know what to do first. I’m overwhelmed with caring. The government is utterly corrupted by corporate money, media ignores the real problems that might inspire voters to act (Charlie Sheen? Really?), the people around me are utterly absorbed by their own daily issues and ignore the real problems they could solve. Example: a teacher at my daughter’s school is facing real personal crises in the form of family illness. When I asked in the office how she was coping, and if anyone was organizing to help her out, the response was, oh, that was last week. Not only was no one helping, no one seemed to want to help at all. Or to even notice that the problem was not going to just go away. And my offers to contact her and OFFER help were met with polite indifference. No one needs your help, dear. Just go away.

How does a moral person respond to that? So much is so wrong, and no one seems to do want to anything about it. And so I sit in my chair and wait for the lightning bolt, and THINK with so much intensity, as if the mere force of my will could manipulate the universe into meeting my expectations.

How do I make people WANT to care enough to act? Especially when they block me from acting myself? How does one person counter the cultural acedia that’s become the accepted norm? It’s not a rhetorical question, I could use some advice.

When I look at the actual political struggles that are happening right now, here in Wisconsin, and in the Middle East and North Africa, I see people who have found their own responses. They are looking at their situations – dissolution of collective bargaining and general political and economic oppression – and they’ve decided to work together to change things. From my chair, the only way I can think of to change the world is to rechannel my too-much-care. I don’t have power or money to make things happen directly. All I can think of is keep on knitting, keep publishing my works, restart this blog and feed you all with my subversive ideas.

Maybe god put me on earth not to act directly, but to inspire others who have greater ability than I, to act for me.

Knitting, to me, is a deeply spiritual act. A moving meditation. The pictoral designs I use in my patterns hold symbolic meaning that points to a reality that is greater than the thing they appear to represent. This is how I put my thoughts Out There and try to make the universe listen to me.

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4 Responses to To care or not to care

  1. Joanne says:

    Terri, I’ve missed hearing how you are. I’m glad to see you back on the web, communicating with us! I must say that I know how you feel about all these big issues. My solution, my small one, is to pick one real thing to do to make a difference in the small every day things that worry me. For instance, in the case of the teacher, I’d maybe bake some bread or knit something small and send it along. Just so the teacher knows someone is thinking of her and cares. I’d include a note asking if there is anything I could do to help. You’d be amazed how few people really do reach out in these times of difficulty…and how meaningful it is, even if the person with difficulties doesn’t need your help at that precise moment. He or she knows that “help is out there” and that is HUGE. I know I cannot fix earthquakes or civil unrest…but I can try to help in small ways. That is my solution. Like knitting, it is something I can do to send my concern/love/care into the ether, one stitch, one person at a time.

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