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Since it has been three months since I have posted here, I need to make a decision about what I want to do here and what direction I want to go in. It astounds me that this blog still gets about 30 hits a day from all kinds of different places and that some of my oldest posts are the most popular.
Discussions of gender and sexuality I would like to retreat from. My views on humanity expressed in maleness and femaleness are not only objectionable to the vast majority of my fellow Christians, but lo and behold, they may not even be as Orthodox as I thought they were. Exposure to some of St. Maximus the Confessor’s thinking on man as male and female dislodged me from my dogmatic slumber.
The problem with binary solutions to everything – prickly Malacandrian Blog And Mabloggery over and against gooey Perelandran Sexual Existentialism – is that they foster that continual us-vs-them low-grade conflict that militates against our salvation. As Father Philotheos Faros points out in Functional And Dysfunctional Christianity, individuals define themselves over against, and in competition with, other individuals. Odio ergo sum. On the other hand, persons can only come into the fullness of their personhood in communion with other persons, who will supply what is lacking.
That’s a hard word for me. I am deeply invested in being right. I need to adopt the attitude of Matushka Elizabeth, the beloved virgin-wife of St. John of Kronstadt: “I am content to let God reveal who is right and who is wrong.”
After resisting the temptation for almost twenty years, I finally started reading Robert Jordan’s series The Wheel Of Time. I had heard a lot of things that were not good about this series; that it is over-written, that Jordan reuses the same female character over and over again, that it suffers from a lack of focus. Although it is hard to judge from reading the first volume of the series, The Eye Of The World, I can see justification for all of those criticisms.
One thing that annoys me is how often his characters chuckle. I have had to learn to un-notice this lest it distract me from the other virtues of Jordan’s storytelling. It is true that Jordan (actually pulp writer James Oliver Rigney, Jr) is wordy. If Joe Abercrombie had written this series, there would have been three or four sharply written battles by now. If George R.R. Martin had written it, half of the characters in whom I had invested my emotional capital would already have been killed off in unexpected ways. If JRR Tolkien had written it, I would already have been exposed to a half-dozen invented languages. Jordan has just moved me about two hundred miles down the road from the protagonists’ home turf, and nothing much has happened yet.
Jordan/Rigney is American, and rumor has reached me that a lot of the sturm und drang of postwar American life finds a reflection in The Wheel of Time. Having slogged through Stephen King’s Dark Tower series, and having unexpectedly enjoyed the experience, I am willing to give Jordan/Rigney the benefit of the doubt. I have also heard that his female characters get better and more full-orbed, although I don’t expect them to rise to level of Martin’s.
Anyone who expects the Orthodox observance of Lent to make them a better person or a better Christian is laboring under a severe delusion. We’re about halfway through now, and never have I felt more like human refuse than I feel right now. I have to admit my cowardice, my love of comfort and convenience, my propensity for judging others harshly and demanding special consideration for myself, my snippiness and shortness with my wife, my family and my fellow parishioners. What makes it worse is that I have to admit that even repentance and confession is not likely to make me any better. Maybe if I undertook some severe spiritual chemotherapy á la St. Mary of Egypt it might make some dent in my habitual solipsism…
When the fast ends, I will return to my normal self-indulgent lifestyle with a sigh of relief. The additional calories will be put to use not in service to God and others, but towards my ongoing project of self-delusion and self-justification, which project must necessarily end some day.
I need the mercies of God and the forgiveness and forbearance of others as much now, maybe even more, than I did when I began this Christian project.