Welcome to Book Club Mondays and our first post on the book “Time and Despondency” by Nicole Roccas. Glad you could stop by. If you have thoughts on this book or want to participate in discussion, please feel free to chime in below at the comments! I’d love to hear from you.
This is my third read of the Introduction. As I have mentioned in the past, I often start books but never finish them. Such is the case with this book. I have often felt though that this book is going to be one I read often and will glean from it for the rest of my life so a third reading will do me good!
Have you read this book? If so, I hope you will chime in to share with me! If not, maybe you will read something here today or in the weeks to come that will inspire you to pick it up and read it.
Today I thought I’d share some snippets of the introduction that really caught my attention. The introduction alone is quite eye-opening for me and finally has put names to feelings I’ve had forever.
Before reading this book I thought despondency was just another definition of depression. I just thought all these feelings I have been struggling with for as long as I can remember were those of a depressed person. This book has opened my eyes to see that most likely it wasn’t depression, or at least not exclusively, but rather despondency.
Early theologians thought of despondency as an absence of effort, particularly in the spiritual life—we exert ourselves for the things we care about, and when we don’t care about anything, we remain passive and inactive. Despondency is alternatively described as a slackness of the soul. Like a belt that has stretched with time, the soul grows loose with apathy and ceases to hold us up. From this kernel of disregard sprout restlessness, rumination, anxiety, despair, sadness, and distractibility—the common, albeit morose, bedfellows of despondency.
After reading just this much there seemed to be a great light shining onto my inner soul. Not so much the not caring part of this, but the “common bedfellows of despondency” were all too familiar to me.
And when Nicole later said, “For most of my life, I had no word for that strange fusion of sadness, restlessness, and distraction that sprang up whenever the awareness of life’s brevity became too overwhelming.” I felt like she took the words right out of my mouth.
“Strange fusion of sadness and restlessness.” I felt like this so much of my life and never understood it and just wanted to know what was wrong with me. It felt so incredibly freeing and quite a relief to have someone else describe these feelings. I wasn’t alone!
This book offers a series of reflections on the intertwined relationship of time and despondency.
Despondency—in all its complexity and cunningness—arises from a relationship to time that has become broken. It amounts to no less than a perpetual attempt by the mind to flee from the present moment, to disregard the gift of God’s presence at each juncture of time and space. The path to healing—paved and well trodden by steadfast souls who have gone before us—is one and the same as the path back to the present.
This makes so much sense to me. Sadness, restlessness, distraction…all meant to take from seeing, hearing, tasting, and enjoying this present moment. The only moment in time we truly have. Despondency is only meant to take from this moment of being in God’s presence. And I don’t want this in my life any longer. I need to work to fight away from this. I yearn to be in God’s presence and to take in this moment, here right now.
I am so excited to see what Nicole will teach me about how to do this.
She shares with us her introduction into Orthodoxy and why she found herself within it. I came across another description that was really yet another incredible connection with my own heart and mind. I felt Nicole taking the words right out of my mouth and again lifting the weight of “failure” right off my shoulders. I am not alone, and I am so grateful!
Among the first items we discussed was the intense, aimless boredom that afflicts me during prayer, not to mention life in general. Fr. Steven was adamant: boredom is no excuse to shirk off prayer, the lifeblood of faith and relationship. Giving in to aimlessness by switching to a more enticing activity, he told me, only intensifies the boredom over the course of our lives. Instead, he advised me to lean into the seeming monotony of life and prayer—to be as consistent in prayer as my broken human efforts allow, especially when I am bored.
It is always so hard fighting this “boredom” feeling and just knowing that there has got to be something wrong with me for feeling bored during prayer. When I am not taking time to focus on my prayers, when I am at church, when I am in nature, and other times, I long to spend time in prayer. I ache to feel close to Christ and spend time in prayer and reading. So to feel bored just feels so wrong and honestly, hard to admit because my inner soul deeply desires so much more.
But when I do pray…yawning takes over, my mind wonders, and I can’t stop thinking of other things.
I need to lean in! I need to rest in the hands of God and keep going, knowing I am fighting the evil one with the best tools.
Her book is divided into two sections. The first lays the groundwork and in chapter 3 (which I can’t wait to read) “introduces the principal argument of this book, namely that despondency boils down to a rejection of the present moment, which is a gift from God.”
Finally, the conclusion points to Christ as the substance of the present moment. His Resurrection—made possible through His Incarnation—fills the empty vessels of time. The ultimate antidote to despondency is heeding the call to “re-present” the Resurrection—the victory of life over death—on a continual basis: in our worship, in our lives, and in our world.
Being that I have never finished this book, it goes without saying that I have never read the conclusion. I think the conclusion is going to be the most important part of this book. Based on this one little paragraph, the conclusion is everything I hope to accomplish in my life by learning to become a Kindler of Joy. Never forgetting the Resurrection, living each day in search of beauty to see God everywhere, and intentionally focusing on this moment.
I started Kindler of Joy for the purpose of digging myself out of my despondency, I just didn’t know that was what it was when I started this journey. Putting a name to it helps to fight, it helps in intentionally work on the antidote to despondency, to heed the call to “re-present” the Resurrection in all I do. It truly is what I deeply desire!
I am so excited to read this book with you! I can’t wait to hear what you took from this Introduction.
There is a Discussion Guide in the back of the book. Here are the discussion questions for the Introduction:
- In the introduction, Nicole talks about an early experience she had with despondency. Do you remember moments of despondency as a child?
- Who were the Mrs. D’s in your life, the folks wo brought demons out into the healing light of conversation and honest struggle?
- How can you be a Mrs. D to someone else?
- How does despondency relate to our experience of time?
- What are some ways the carelessness of despondency surfaces in your life?
- At the close of the introduction, Nicole describes this book as an exercise in facing demons as co-suffering members of Christ’s body. What demons are you facing in your life? How can we struggle together in a meaningful, Christ-centered way?
I share these so that you may ponder them, or if you so choose, you may share some of your answers.
I’ve never done a book club online like this before so we can just make it up as we go.
One thing for sure, I would love to hear your thoughts on this introduction! Whether you share your thoughts in general or you answer one (or more) of the questions above or ask me to answer some questions above, It is up to us!
Thank you so much for joining me, I can’t wait to hear from you!
Have a blessed Monday!