Monday, December 29, 2008

The Orthodox Answer-man

(This is a revision and expansion of a real, slightly tongue in cheek email posted on an Orthodox discussion list...)

Dear Subdeacon S-P,
There are so many Orthodox people on the internet with agendas these days, I think I need one too! What are my options? Help me find a good one because I'll just end up picking something lame and uninteresting.
Through the prayers of Ven. Melania of Rome, Ven. Chiriacos of Bisericani, New Heiromartyrs Thaddeus Upensky, Archbishop of Tver, Archbishop Velekii Ustiug, commemorated this day, and Barsanuphius, patron saint of me the greatest of sinners and bowing before you in all humility (but not kissing your right hand because you don't have the grace of the priesthood),

Dear xxxx,
Welcome to "Orthodoxy on the Internet"! You obviously have experienced the illumination of internet spirituality and have realized you need help in attaining blogotheosis. However, be forewarned if you are new to this: the only ultimate recognition for your efforts will be to be canonized as a martyr on the www Ortho-sphere. So if you are prepared to lay down your life for an agenda, there are several things you need to consider when picking an Orthodox agenda to give your life to.

F'rinstance, if you are constitutionally lazy you don't want to pick one that requires a lot of research, learning a dead language so no one can argue with you about your translations, or learning even a new language so you can read rare documents about your area of expertise. Also you wouldn't want to enter an area where you have no innate talents, like chanting, if you can't sight read and sing photocopies of 12th century Byzantine notation in dim candle light already. You also need to consider how much spare time you have to go through 1.4 billion google search results to know enough to sound authoritative for at least a few email rounds of arguing with someone who inevitably will have an opposing agenda before you bail out of a discussion in a huff. I would recommend that you have enough esoteric knowledge buried at LEAST past the 40 million search results so no normal Ortho-net person can challenge you readily.

But, the reality is, most newbies to agendas get passionate and excited and start tossing their newfound knowledge into discussion lists before they are well prepared. If you find yourself being Patristics-Tazed by some Ortho-geek out there who takes you on, here is what I teach the "catechumens to Ortho-agendas" as the proper way to extricate yourself from the discussion. You say something like: "This passionate discussion is not good for my soul...The Fathers were obviously illumined by "xxxxx" which I am trying to present to you. I should be praying instead of trying to PROVE my point to the uninitiated who are in bondage to the western phronema and need rational intellectual proof that I am correct. " Then lay low for a few days and post safe stuff like from the Philokalia or put up Youtube links to hidden camera videos of services on Mt. Athos and add smiley face emoticons to as much stuff as you can. This will disarm people and make them less suspicious of you later.

You might also consider that some agendas will make you look smart, some will make you seem pious, but some will just make you look goofy. It is difficult to find one that makes you look smart AND pious without knowing a dead language that only monks used. Piety and goofy are often confused, but as long as you stick with any pious praxis, dress, customs or liturgical prayer forms from an "old country" that is at least pre-1700 you are pretty safe. It is even better if the group you are imitating was oppressed by some "Orthodox emporer" or Patriarch.

A good way to beta- test an agenda is talk passionately about it with a couple visitors and one member of your parish council at coffee hour and watch for their reactions. If the priest comes and talks to you about it, you know you might be on to something. But, you want to google your agenda and see who else is on the bandwagon. If all the websites are in foreign languages, you have a good instant niche among English only converts. If all the websites/blogs/lists are in English, check out the profiles of the owners. If they are former/current members of the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA), Star Trek Fan Club, or have a picture of Yoda, Sir Gallahad, Batman, or the Sith Warrior as their avatar, you might not want to take up the cause.

Anyway, just some suggestions. Good luck finding an agenda!


The O A-m


-C said...

I cannot count the ways that this post made me laugh!
Thanks for a Monday giggle.

Fr. Christian Mathis said...

Hey! I like Yoda!

You continue to make me smile when I read your blog. I hope that you are well.

James the Thickheaded said...

Dude... Yoda's like in my meditation class... sun sign's Aquarius, likes Pilates and he's searching for.... whatever... but he hasn't had a date since like 234 B.C. Okay... so he's had pruned out or so...but give the guy a break. I mean.. okay... so he's something of a bean sprout New Ager... and tends to talk backwards... but last week's class he like leans over and says to me.... "Orthodoxy... look into it, I might." So the dude could end up our parish's next catechumen.... and we never naysay the "new guy"... specially when he can make space ships float around with brain waves.

But like I'm puzzled: does speaking the language of a dead guy count... someone like "The Frankster" aka "The Voice"... and what do you do when you hear voices...threatening to break my knees if I keep singing off key? What do you do with a guy whose version cutting you some slack, and going "halfsies" means breaking only one knee? What's that do to your prostrations? Does that make the other knee a protestant?

And what about California Surfer Dude Speak.. y'know.. 'cuz where I come from brain dead counts for at least partial credit. And then there's Hot Black Desiato... "spending a year dead for tax purposes"? I covered that one in Spanish class... only it was like three years... and talk about prayer... foxholes and Spanish class... seem 'bout the same. But I digress.

There's of course Esperanto, right? I mean... it's like its not even living or anything... so maybe that's like a potential automatic Brown Belt - Level Three status... where you're just so way far along in the whole intercession kind of a deal.... dead guy... deal language...brain dead... a virtual triffecta of international, inter-species, and intergallatic.

All of which leaves me with a note to self: S-P's wise to the M.O.... like what's a flake to do? Seriously... no fair... guess that makes it time to work more on that snail darter e-voe-loo-shun deal. Five cards straight up.

All I can say is... keep at it, man. Looks like the ol' nail gun's bagged another... just like Danny Glover.

s-p said...

JtTH, Bottle that stuff, man...we'll build Hagia Sophia in America with the proceeds! Only you can reference Lethal Weapon and Orthodoxy in the same blog post. LOL!

Grace said...

Blogotheosis. Patristics-tazed. Honestly, this is just brilliant.

I'm betting the people who really need to read it probably won't -- or else won't think it's funny *at* **all**. But I think it's a riot.