Monthly Archives: June 2010

old rituals, new life

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Confession: I am afraid to start this post. (Why do commitment and fear seem to go hand in hand? There’s something dreadfully wrong with that.) This isn’t intended to be just one post, but the beginning of what I hope will be a series of posts; and this isn’t just a series of posts, but the beginning of what I hope will be a mindful, lifelong process of understanding, cherishing, and practicing the sacraments and traditions of the church.

I hope that didn’t sound too admirable or erudite. It shouldn’t; honestly translated, it means that I have not thoughtfully engaged practices such as communion, vocation, and confession, despite the fact that I have participated in these practices, in some form or another, for years. Years! Even now when I take communion, I wonder somewhere in the back of my mind, “Do I really understand what this is all about?”

A sacrament is sacred, consecrated, holy. But what is sacredness? Is it found only in the monumental cathedrals of the church, or can it be found in a field, or in a car? Would I err in restricting confession to a booth in a church? Would I be equally wrong in thinking that I’ve experienced holy communion around a dinner table with friends? Are we too hesitant to unite this wonderful, everyday life we’re living with the old, sacred practices of the church?

These are some of my questions. I hope they result in several posts, and maybe a few answers, and maybe s a few shrugs of the shoulders, or perhaps something to chew on for the next ten years.

I kind of wish sleep was a sacrament. Maybe it’s just a spiritual discipline. Either way, I’m going to go practice that one right now.

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i need more books in my life.

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Well, the truth is that I am reading five books right now, with three more in the works. I have more books to read than I have free time.

Even a year ago, this would not have been the case. It seems that the academic pursuit of my liberal arts education pushed all fun reading to the wayside; since graduation, I’ve had a hard time picking up anything other than Harry Potter. I’m being serious. I read Piper’s Don’t Waste Your Life, and as much as I enjoyed it and needed to read its message, I barely made it to the end. I mostly read NYT and BBC articles online. And I am assuming that my Cooking Light subscription doesn’t count as legitimate reading material.

So I don’t take for granted the fact that I am reading five books right now. This state of reading-overload is largely the product of some good influences in my life (in particular, an editor who thinks I am a much faster reader than I actually am). But after reading this interview with Nick Carr, these books have ceased to provide merely entertainment; could it be that they are also preserving my attention span, forcing me to think deeply, and sparing my ability to retain information from an unfortunate death? All that from one of these books?

(By the way, if you decide to read that article with Nick Carr, you might want to start reading at the subheading “Cloud, memory, capitalism, and The Shallows.” Not that I’m trying to cater to your short attention span.)

While writing The Shallows, Carr decided to cut back on his connectivity. He ditched Facebook and Twitter, cut back on internet usage, even moved to a place without a cell phone signal. When those things were absence, he seemed to regain his sanity, came back in touch with a sense of calmness. Says Carr:

I think it really underscored what I had begun to fear, which is that I and a lot of other people are really training our brains to skim and scan all the time, and along the way we’re forgetting how to slow down and read or think deeply and be contemplative.

I did recognize an inability to think deeply and fully express those thoughts earlier this year. Ironically (irony can be so fantastic, and so humbling), while Carr removed technological connectivity from his life, I actually turned toward another form of social media: this blog. My suede journal didn’t demand of me what this blog (and you, dear reader) requires: coherence, thoughtfulness, (generally) complete sentences. There’s an accountability in knowing that you’ll see through my weak arguments, my inconsistencies, and my false assumptions. But I don’t think I would have gotten this far without the Austens, Steinbecks, Wrights, and Robinsons in my life.

Do you have a Fitzgerald in your life? Or a Bronte, an O’Connor, or a Lewis? Maybe it’s time for a skimming and scanning fast. Maybe you should even stop reading my blog. But just for a while. =]