I blog–therefore I am?

Folks may have noticed that I have been blogging less over the past year than in previous years. The change is easy to explain. I have been reading challenging material (like Aquinas and Bonaventure) that really is beyond my training, capabilities, and competence. And because it is new and difficult, it takes me considerably longer to read and assimilate (to the extent I can assimilate it)–and even longer to write about. Four years ago I could pump out a new article every few days. Today it takes me one or two weeks.

There is also another difficulty: my brain does not work nearly as well as it used to. My intelligent days seem to be gone. Today I sit down to read and do not remember what I have read, and so have to read and reread the same material over and over. Even then comprehension of the material may not be achieved. My doctor assures me that this is not uncommon for a man in his mid-sixties, but it’s still worrisome. I fear the onset of dementia. I have dozens and dozens of unread books in my library. I hate to think they will remain unread because of the loss of mental ability. Getting old is a bitch. Where are those darn car keys?

I do not know what the future of Eclectic Orthodoxy may be. I know that the blog is attracting less people than it once did. This may suggest that readers are not interested in the topics I am now writing on. It may suggest that readers have noticed the deterioration in the quality of my writing. It doesn’t really matter. I blog principally for my own benefit. I write to try to understand what I have read. If others find my articles interesting and helpful, well and good; if not, well and good. That probably means that I will continue to blog into 2018 but at a slower pace.

There was a time when I enjoyed theological and ecclesiastical debate. Today it interests me very little. The contention disturbs my equanmity. Since the death of my son, I find that I am shedding my opinions on a whole host of matters. Most of my opinions are grounded in bias and prejudice, and if I am honest, they always have been. They ain’t worth arguing about and certainly not worth defending. I am an ignorant man. Today I think of opinions–my opinions, your opinions–as rooted in passion and disordered desire. They do not draw me closer to God, and they certainly do not help my fellow man. Do I really need to trumpet my views on the political, cultural, ecclesiastical, and moral issues of the day, especially when I am uninformed about most of them and will likely never know what I am talking about? Is the world made a better place by me tweeting my ignorance? Is democracy strengthened or undermined by all the strident opining? Do your opinions become better informed having been informed by mine? As Dirty Harry quipped: “Opinions are like ass-holes. Everybody has one.” Of course, that’s just my opinion.

I am finding that at this point of my life I want to read more fiction. I want to reread the Iliad. Yes, I’ve already read it at least five times, but I want to read it yet again. Perhaps this time I can persuade Hector not to wait for Achilles outside the gates of Troy. I want to reread the Silmarilion. I want to read and reread the fantasy fiction of George MacDonald (Phantastes is next up). I want to read at least one William Faulkner novel. I read some Faulkner back in my college days. I didn’t really enjoy him then. Perhaps I wasn’t mature enough. Perhaps it was all the reefer I was smoking. Regardless, I want to revisit Yoknapatawpha County. I want to read a novel or two by Walker Percy. God willing, I will definitely read Dante’s Paradiso. I tried once and quickly gave up. This time, though, I’m going to have a commentary at hand. And of course, there is still Moby DickI have tried to tackle it twice in the past five years. Each time I found it impossible. Perhaps that simply means it will always be beyond my sympathies. “Towards thee I roll, thou all-destroying but unconquering whale; to the last I grapple with thee; from hell’s heart I stab at thee; for hate’s sake I spit my last breath at thee.” Needless to say, the more time I spend reading fiction, the less time I’ll have for blogging.

Yet as blogging becomes more difficult for me, my prayer life is changing, for the better …

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26 Responses to I blog–therefore I am?

  1. Stephanie says:

    Me too. I took my blog livinginthemonasterywithoutwalls down last week after 5 years. My feelings were exactly the same as yours.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Robert Newsome says:

    Father Aidan, your words in this blog remind me of me! Very similar fears and unhappiness over the difficulties that come with age. But your reading materials are STILL more sophisticated thanb mine ever were.

    Thank you for being honest honest enough to share these thoughts. You’ve provided me with great comfort on an otherwise cloudy, chilly December day. Lord bless you this December as we approach the Feast of His Nativity!

    Seraphim N.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. God bless you, and thanks for all your offerings-to-date. Good luck with your whales, and don’t worry about us in internet land. You just do what needs to be done.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Robert Fortuin says:

    Keep going Fr Aidan – you have touched, encouraged, influenced and challenged a lot of people. I, for one, am the better for it.

    Liked by 4 people

  5. Jonathan says:

    Eclectic Orthodoxy has played an important role in my entry into the Christian faith. I will always be grateful for the work you have done here. I say this even though I share your opinions about opinion. So that means you have done (and opened a space for others to do) much more than simply opine.

    That said, I encourage your turn to fiction. I hope you will consider blogging about the fiction you read. I know — and I am definitely in a position to say this — that any such blogging you were to do would be far more interesting than the vast majority of what professional literary types have to say about their craft or field of study these days.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. jamesbradfordpate says:

    Reblogged this on James' Ramblings and commented:
    This is a reblog, not me. I’ll still be blogging regularly. But I can identify with a lot of what the author is saying.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. brian says:

    So much energy wasted on debate. The mind is led by the heart which sees.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Patrick Halferty says:

    “They will soar on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.” We soar in youth, run in middle-age, and walk in the twilight of life. I thank God for Eclectic Orthodoxy! Please do what you can, when you can, if you can. We will relish every morsel.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Dallas Wolf says:

    As one who just turned 68, I can assure you that the trends in life you describe will continue their current trajectory. As I age, I am surprised to find more and more things that I once thought topical and important are now relegated to my ever-expanding gehenna of ἀδιάφορα.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Ed says:

    Dear Father,
    I love Eclectic Orthodoxy. It is one of the few blogs that I frequent on a daily basis. If I have not contributed very much in the way of responses to your entries, it is only because I’ve felt that I didn’t have much of value to say. But I have always learned much from what you and your other contributors (especially Brian and Robert) have written. Thank you so much.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Dale Crakes says:

    Fr you seem to yearn for weighty novels. I prefer good English/British mysteries. Something to attempt to figure out but not heavy writings on the human condition. I just go to Mass or in my case Greek Divine Liturgy as it’s what’s available.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

      Actually, I have for the most part avoided weighty novels since I graduated college. I was an English major and burned out on weighty novels. But I think I’m finally ready for one or two, as well as some good poetry. 🙂

      Like

  12. Kim Fabricius says:

    A truly stunning post. And as a 69-year old, I feel you, brother.

    As for your comments on fiction, before I ask a minister whom I don’t know what theologians he reads, I ask him what novels he has read. If he reads novels, I go on to poetry. If he doesn’t read novels, I lose interest in the conversation. Then, for my nightly devotions, I pray for those who listen to his sermons and experience his pastoral care.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Matthew Hryniewicz says:

    Whether you write 5 times a week or twice a year, I’m staying on the bandwagon. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I’m an avid fiction reader. If I might make a recommendation should you turn back to Faulkner – The Sound and the Fury is excellent, very challenging but equally rewarding. If you are going the sci-fi route, Dan Simmons Hyperion series is hard to beat.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Chuck Wright says:

    I have been reading your blog for a few years now. I am 67 and pastor a small non-denominational fellowship and have for almost 30 years. I have had no formal theological schooling or training; trial and error and trying to follow the Spirit’s leading. I have for years sought some sources for inspiration and understanding and a few years ago I began to find a wide range of scholarship and writing that began to answer or at least address questions l’ve had for years. Your blog has been a mine of diverse treasures for me regarding subjects l’ve had virtually no exposure to in the context of history, philosophy, patristics, etc. If the pace of your writing slows, know that there a guy out there who is reading what you write sometimes 2,3, or even 4 times and the pace will be good for him. Thank you for enlarging my cosmos.

    Liked by 3 people

  16. Online debate requires too much thinking nowadays and people mostly have their minds made up as well.

    Like

  17. William says:

    I’ve enjoyed reading you for years. The only thing that I didn’t enjoy was my inability to keep up. If you’re adopting a more relaxed pace, that’ll allow slowpokes like me to go back through some of the many posts we’ve missed without falling behind on the new stuff.

    I used to love debating online, until I realized how miserable it made me.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Robert says:

    I believe one of the reasons the fear of dementia (almost always unfounded) starts to arise in the 50s, 60s, and beyond is not often because at those ages we begin to experience an real, pathological increase in the frequency of “forgetting events”. Rather it’s because it takes us that many years of life to build up a large enough set of memories about such events —- i.e. the regular, everyday, non-demented memory failures everyone experiences from the day they are born —- that we notice the pattern.

    In other words, in most cases the worrying observation that we are forgetting things is a sign that our memory is in perfectly good shape. It is evidence of self-knowledge, not of Alzheimer’s! But of course any residual fear that this mundane and reassuring explanation is true is then amplified in a vicious circle created by our natural cognitive bias in the form of the availability heuristic whereby we remember scary things more easily than mundane things. Thus fear of memory loss leads to memory of the same, which adds more data to support the conclusion that we are losing our minds. Before you know it, what may still be a steel trap is convinced, precisely because it *is* still a steel trap, that it is a leaky sieve.

    Well… that’s my story and I’m sticking to it for now!

    Like

    • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

      There’s another reason one might fear dementia. Ten years watching one’s father disappear into nothingness due to Ahlzheimer’s. But I sure hope you’re right that my concern is overblown and irrational.

      Like

  19. Robert says:

    Also, on finding it harder to read heavy books; it’s not you, it’s everyone. Consider looking at Nick Carr’s book, “The Shallows” in which he argues that such such difficulties are increasing across all age groups, and that a major part of the problem is the assault on our attention by an Internet-borne tsunami of information. Or if you want a quicker read (cuz, ye know, of your dementia an’ stuff 🙂), check out the earlier article he wrote that spawned the subsequent book: “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” (The Atlantic, July/August 2008). Google it; it’s online. Indicative quote:

    ‘Bruce Friedman, who blogs regularly about the use of computers in medicine, also has described how the Internet has altered his mental habits. “I now have almost totally lost the ability to read and absorb a longish article on the web or in print,” he wrote earlier this year. A pathologist who has long been on the faculty of the University of Michigan Medical School, Friedman elaborated on his comment in a telephone conversation with me. His thinking, he said, has taken on a “staccato” quality, reflecting the way he quickly scans short passages of text from many sources online. “I can’t read War and Peace anymore,” he admitted. “I’ve lost the ability to do that. Even a blog post of more than three or four paragraphs is too much to absorb. I skim it.” ‘

    Like

    • brian says:

      Well, that kind of incapacity requires ascesis and silence. It is a pathology of our age, but one is not fated to succumb to it. Collectively, however, folk tend to live in the shallows and even when confronted with what Hans Urs von Balthasar calls “relative absolutes”, eg. death, great art, and a great love, we lack the developed sensitivity to receive and articulate the wisdom that is offered. In its place there is bathos and banality, ersatz profundity and much malice and crudity. Plenty of material for a jeremiad were one so inclined.

      Like

  20. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    I devoured Dorothy Sayers’ Inferno translation in school, bogged down somehow part of the way through her Purgatory one, but am very glad I eventually resumed and read on through the Sayers/Reynolds Paradiso: I don’t know how good a translation it is, but it, and all its notes, are delightful! The impression she/they give(s) is that Dante, astonishingly, just goes on getting better throughout the Comedy.

    In my undergraduate days, I enjoyed Absalom, Absalom, though it was heavy going in more than one sense.

    I (paradoxically?) loved whales and reading about whaling as a boy, and the story of Moby Dick (not the book) in various retellings was dear to me – but I was (am) such a slow reader, I only got through half as an undergrad, and then skimmed the rest for the test (successfully) – but even that was marvellous (so why have I let decades pass without ever yet reading every word?) – the 1998 film with Patrick Stewart as Ahab seemed true to my sampling-savoring reading of the book, so I’d recommend that, if you don’t know it – it may encourage you through the thing itself, too.

    I’ve come in recent years (the last decade?) more and more to audiobooks – I’ve gotten acquainted with a lot of Trollope that way, and am now up to Pierre joining the Masons in Alexander Scourby’s fine War and Peace… (usually followable while preparing dinner, doing dishes, etc.).

    A really enjoyable MacDonald to recommend here is, The Princess and the Goblin at LibriVox.org read by the late Andy Minter. (I’ve never met an audiobook of his I didn’t like immensely, though I haven’t ‘tackled’ his Bennett or Ainsworth, yet.)

    My new delights of this past year are starting C.P. Snow and Margery Allingham – both very readable yet substantial.

    I remember when I was in my 20s and President Reagan was widely mocked for supposed aged forgetfulness, thinking how similarly forgetful I seemed, already – I think it may be much the same, but not much worse, now.

    My encouraging noises for the moment – with deep thanks for your blog!

    Liked by 1 person

  21. danaames says:

    Dear Fr Aidan,
    I agree that debate is overrated 🙂 Nonetheless, I hope you keep writing about whatever you wish, whenever you want to chart your thoughts. It would be great to hear you on those books you want to read, or read again. Like the others who wrote above, you have been a help to me with your writings and highlighting the writings of others, particularly the Fathers, and of course, your own journeys – and the artistic works you find to illustrate the posts are often deeply moving for me. I have lots copied and pasted into my word processing files…. I’m grateful to the Lord for you, and of course if it is needful for you to take a long break or stop writing, I will deal with it… and I hope you keep on, even irregularly. May the Lord reveal Himself to you more and more.

    Dana

    Like

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