New Year's Day (well, the day after, to be precise)
I have been thinking for two days about how possessed I've become by current events -- unable to make myself stop writing about what's happening now, this very instant, even though the political now has crowded out the post on adoption I've been meaning to write for a month; the exploration of religious metaphors that has ground to a halt purely because of my own preoccupation; the series of posts I wanted to write in which I would try my hand at making a single logical fallacy (the fallacy of hypostasization) seem fascinating and entertaining and inspiring and in the end, paradoxically, possibly not a fallacy at all but a foretaste of transcendental reality ...continue reading...; the discipline of writing a tiny meditation each week on the coming Sunday's readings; pulling together an article arguing for my own personal theory that I Corinthians 11:10 is a sarcastic quotation from the Corinthians' letter to Paul, or for that matter finishing the translation of and commentary on I Corinthians that I wandered away from after the eleventh chapter -- and that's just stuff I want to blog about. I haven't even talked about how long it's been since I added any new Scripture to my memory banks, or how rusty my Spanish has gotten and how I've forgotten all the Kazakh I had temporarily learnt, or how for the first time in three years I've completely abandoned the adoptive parents at PAKK (where I do immeasurably more good than I will ever do in any political discussion) and somehow keep meaning to go back but never managing to. I haven't mentioned how much good it would do my kids for me to spend as much time praying for them as I have spent wrapped up in conversation about politics -- and if there's one conversation that doesn't need my help, one conversation in which every possible viewpoint is already in play by people with far more eloquence and wisdom than I possess, it's the American political conversation. Meanwhile, if I don't pray for my kids, who's going to?
And all of that has only to do with the things I could do with the time I spend perforce alone in Houston (though, at least, I have for the last couple of months spent practically no time on-line at home during the weekends when I can be with my family).
I sat next to the altar yesterday at church doing some thinking during my second time through the sermon -- when you're on chalice-bearing duty for a Sunday at St. Luke's you hear the same sermon two or even three times, giving you after the first time a good chance to help out the priest because you know at precisely what points in the sermon a not-quite-so-strong-as-usual joke will need some help from somebody willing to encourage congregational laughter by example. But I digress.
At any rate, Sunday began the new Christian year, at least in the West. The old year came to its triumphant close the week before, on the Sunday of Christ the King, looking forward to the final and eternal consummation of human history. And this Sunday, we started back over with the waiting.
Fr. Phillip spoke of the difficulty we have in waiting, and of the difficulty he has in remembering that when he asks God for something, God's answer is frequently neither a yes nor a no, but often simply, "Wait." I thought of how I've spent the last year waiting -- waiting for an adoption to happen, waiting for a house to sell, waiting for things to get better -- and yet how unlike a godly, peaceful waiting it has been. How do you manage to be constantly going a frantic hundred miles an hour while you are, nominally, waiting? But that has been my whole last year.
All the way to Houston on my weekly commute two hours later, I thought of how all the things that really matter that have been crowded out. I find intoxicating the conversation of the internet, its unpredictable twists and turns, its vigor and brawn and hurly-burly. But politics is not where my heart really longs to be, and yet other than my sixty hours per week at work, politics has been where my spare time has gone for months. I felt the conviction growing that I wanted to return to where my heart is instead of where the noise is.
Then, just a moment ago, right before sitting down to talk about the flowering of our family's relationship with the two newest Pierces, I stepped over to The Anchoress, one of the three blogs whose every single post I make sure to read each day (the others being All Things Beautiful and Vodkapundit). I've been worried about Her Anchorship because her health has clearly taken a turn deeply for the worse. And here, in part, is what she has come back from her hospital stay to say, this first Sunday of Advent, about the snare of the virtual conversation:
Enlarged and enhanced within your 17 inch boundaries - enchanted - you don’t realize that your entire world is shrinking - your view is narrowing, as are your interests, until they may be illumined by the smallest of spotlights...A spotlight, or a telescope, or a square-shaped monitor - they disturb your focus. They encourage you to take your eyes off of what is all around, in favor of what is somewhere else. They help you to take your eyes off of love, both in the world and beyond it, for the created and the Creator. And that is never a good thing.
While in the clutches of an idol we cannot see beyond it. Once free we understand that while it is a good and wise thing to keep an eye on the world and all it’s spinning, and to pray for those who spin and are spun, we must not allow ourselves to get caught up in any of it. In this way we remain free, not trapped by an unwieldly force, nor entranced by a flickering light. And in that freedom is contemplation, and in contemplation - detatched, formless and full of wonder - we can tap into what is real and lasting.
In this season of Advent - this wonderful season of preparation and expectation - having been thrust from the spinning capsule, I have decided to remain outside of it. Decided, too, to take my eyes off of “the world,” to shut down the spotlight and close the telescope - to consider not whether the Associated Press predicts a gloomy shopping season or the Bloomberg press sees something sunnier but that all of the commercial madness is simply a sidestory to the real story that is love.
My dear Anchoress, I don't know your name and have no intention of ever learning it; yet here we two are, in the communion of the saints, walking the same road. It is one of the glories of the Christian year, that as the year shapes and directs the rhythm of our individual experiences in Christ, it helps to turn them into a communal experience -- the body of Christ, experiencing Advent together just as we will in a few months rejoice together in the Resurrection. In coming to the decision to step out of the political conversation during this season of waiting and preparation, I am sharply aware that I will sacrifice much of the great pleasure I take from the give-and-take with Alexandra and the regulars in her quite remarkable comments section...not that anything will get posted at ATB without my reading it, and not that Alexandra doesn't post on topics other than politics, but still she is a warrior and a gladiator at heart, carrying on the fight her father fought, and carrying on a fight I passionately believe she has been called to fight. But that fight is a fight I find myself called out of, at least for a season.
So it is a most unexpected grace to find that I step somewhat unwillingly away from Alexandra's side only to find myself shoulder to shoulder with my other beloved Lady of the Net -- or, rather, perhaps in the cell next to hers in the cloister. (Though my own cell has a back door that I'll slip out every now and then for a nip with Vodkapundit.)
My world, like Her Anchorship's, has become too narrow.
So for this penitential season of Advent, the purely political blogs are out -- no Instapundit, no Molly Ivins, no Daily Kos, no Ann Coulter, no Captain Ed. And no commenting on the political threads at ATB. I don't pretend to be a virgin, but it's time to trim my lamp all the same. To be still, and know that He is God. To hear again, to find again, the voice of love.