Tuesday, January 15, 2013

My Year of Living Reclusively #2

I don't really have an outline prepared, nor do I have any real clear idea where I am going with this series of posts.  I was sick to death with the flu for ten days over Christmas.  I had nothing to do but lay in bed and consider my life.

I came to a sense that my life is like a spider web. It seemed to me to have some structure and elegance and purpose to it (I could possibly even catch God in it!), then this past couple years was a big hand that swept it away, tore its fabric, tangled and crumpled it and now I have to try to pull it apart and make some sense of it. But life is like spider webs: it is impossible to pull the strands apart and examine them as independent pieces because they are stuck to each other and impossibly intertwined. So this may be as frustrating to read as it is to write because there will always be a loose strand flapping in a breeze blowing in a direction that tangles up the whole mess even more. 

I got an email from someone who is kind of a "recovering Christian" and just discovered the blog a couple days ago.  I won't quote his email, but my reply (edited for the blog) is probably as good a starting place as any to talk about some of the things I've been thinking about.

"I know what you mean about the "haunting of conversion experiences". The longer I live and see people convert to stuff (religions, Argentinian cabernets, fair trade coffees, political causes, or even just to themselves) I think most of us are haunted by the need for a conversion experience so we can manufacture some false passion in our existence. Without some kind of passion to distract us we are left to only look into ourselves and our own failure as a human being. Once we see our own failure we begin to see other people as human beings who are really failures too and trying to cover it up, most of the time not too elegantly. It is so much easier to categorize, differentiate, hate, 'love' and label than it is to just 'see clearly' and not react or judge. The worst false passion is a religious one."

"You nailed it: true conversion can only be to authentic humility and I am no longer one to judge how God gets someone there whose heart He knows is pointed in that direction. You are correct, the blog and all the Orthographs are really about my realizations of my own failures but also my longing to know a 'true conversion' some day. "

 So, that is that.  A beginning.

I've lived over a year merely as a "Christian" among business co-workers and at large in the world (though I tell no one I am a Christian).  I have no "defacto honor" because I wear a gold dress or any discernable signs at my office. I earned and continue to earn respect from nothing with my co-workers and every new hire, and I am judged solely on how I act as a human being from day to day.  (Though, within the Church, I am very aware that the honor of wearing holy vestments can be seen as the garb of a hypocrite in a twinkling of a public sin).

As I mentioned before, I don't advertise my faith nor do I evangelize in my office nor in any other context.  I have lived for about 18 moths without my past immersion in Church (parish, local, national and global) politics and Orthodox (and even just Christian) apologetics.  My un-sought for conversations with co-workers and random people were filled with regular, every day people's inner pain, family problems, spiritual anxieties, despondency and wrestlings with God, themselves, man and mortality.   But "un-sought for conversations" isn't quite accurate.

I think more accurately I would say "attempted avoided conversations". That is a loose end flapping in a breeze.  I have and do avoid conversations.  I have and do avoid people and obvious "train wrecks".  I don't respond to everyone who asks something of me. Sometimes I say "no", sometimes I say nothing. Sometimes I just turn off the phone, don't check or read my email, don't listen to messages, don't click "confirm", etc.  I have no "spiritual trick" that tells me who to avoid or what to say or not to say, etc.

I've found, in general, I like not speaking, not responding, not engaging, not replying, not seeking, and not fishing in people's lives.  It is work to speak up whereas it used to be work to find a place to speak.  But it is a different kind of work, and harder.  But that is for another post later.   

Sunday, January 13, 2013

My Year of Living Reclusively

About a year and a half ago my life took some turns.  Many years ago I learned that Life takes detours from our imagined path, so I have no illusions of stability, visions nor accomplishment anymore.  "Turns" and detours are part of the big picture of Life that we don't have the capability to see. We can intellectually acknowledge their existence but we have no concept of the effect they may have on our life nor where we must go when the detour sign shows up on our path.  In the past couple years I've encountered some detours.

My immortal parents became undeniably mortal.

My thirty year stable work/income that had survived three recessions was pillaged by economic forces.

My "ministry" demanded that I not minister so our Mission Church could heal and new leadership could find its voice and vision.

The "detour signs" of my life ended up pointing somewhat in the same direction. I had to finally give up on construction 18 months ago.  I got a job as a school guidance counselor.  Ironically, as soon as I got the school job, construction picked up... but not enough for a full time income.  I have worked virtually every evening after "work", every Saturday and Sunday for the past 18 months.  At the intersection of needing to be absent from our Mission and needing to pay the IRS, Bank of America, Nissan, Capital One, Home Depot, Chase Bank etc. etc. etc. for the three  years of living off their credit extensions, it has all worked out elegantly.  The Mission Church is moving forward, I've paid off the majority of our debt and I'm able to keep tabs on my parents (though the hard decisions are yet to come).

Those are only the pragmatics, however.

Some of the other things that have happened spiritually and existentially were unanticipated.  I'm still not sure if I understand it all yet.  I'm sure ten years from now I will tell a different story.  But, this is the story right now.

Over the past year because of my work schedule (and some other things I'll discuss later), I've virtually given up my "internet presence".  I haven't done a podcast, video or blogged regularly for over a year.  Even though I kind of knew it existed, I guess I really didn't have a true grasp of my status as an "Ortho-celeb" until I disappeared.  That said, I am also VERY aware that "Orthodox internet celeb status" is a VERY small pond (much smaller than the egos of most newbies to the Ortho-net realize), so I don't have to be a very big fish in the grand scheme of ponds and fish.  The reality is I've just been around for about 15 years now and pure presence and longevity in itself gathers "hits and stats".

The bottom line is, I have disappeared from most things "Orthodox" in the past year or more. But I have also disappeared from most things I have always sought for affirmation and fulfillment as a human being.  I've realized over this past year that I have not missed them.  In fact, I like the peace I've found not pursuing "personal fulfillment" either in my job or my spiritual life.

So, what has happened over the past 18 months?  I've found that I've learned to love being a recluse.  But, I am not sure whether that is a good thing or not.

That, Dear Readers, will be what I try to parse for the next undetermined number of posts here whenever I get the time to write.