Rod Dreher needs to shut up.
[I] struggle. Here is my contemplative prayer life, in a nutshell. In the past, when I’ve been able to overcome my own “Squirrel!” tendencies, and give myself over to the meditative Jesus Prayer, I have made serious spiritual progress. I find the presence of God far easier to discern. I find talking to Him throughout the day more natural and fluid. And I find that I am a calmer person. But this is hard for me to maintain, because it goes against my natural tendencies.
I used to think I was spiritually lazy, but I don’t think that’s it at all. I think about the life of the spirit, and spiritual topics, often. What it is, rather, is a lack of discipline, and an inability to rein in my mind and to focus. Bob Wright writes, of his silent retreat:
You’d be surprised how unpleasant sitting around doing nothing can be.
I get that. Boy, do I get that. I hate being alone with my thoughts. But as Bob notes in an earlier post about the retreat, to have your mind freed from attachment and distraction is not something easily won, but it is invaluable. Of course what someone going on a Buddhist retreat is after is something different from what a contemplative, meditative Christian is after. But not so different. I hope Bob will go on a silent retreat at a Catholic or an Orthodox monastery, and write about the comparative experience.
Dreher two years ago:
My wife often accuses me of “having no unblogged thoughts.” It’s an interesting observation, and for me, kind of an embarrassing one. I love blogging, and built up a pretty large blog following over the years by constantly scanning for interesting information, and putting it on my daily bulletin board to facilitate discussion. I love this stuff! I’ve not had a blog hiatus in four years, until now … and it occurs to me that my wife reads books, but I just process printed information. You know? For me, it’s all part of the same infostream. Because she has no *blogged* thoughts, and doesn’t want to have, she has the self-control to give herself over completely to the books she reads. Even as I sat with her iPad reading “Freedom,” I fought the impulse to check my e-mail. If I had been able to answer e-mail easily on the thing, using a normal keyboard instead of hunting-and-pecking, I probably wouldn’t have been able to resist.
I was reading this morning something about the isle of Iona, in the Scottish Hebrides, and how St. Columba and his followers established a monastic community there. It would probably be a very good thing for me if I spent a year there, completely unplugged. Funny, but the compulsion to stop reading and write about what I’m reading, and to “talk” about it with my blog audience, probably results in me understanding less about what I’m reading than if I had simply held off until I finished the book in the normal way.
Fortunately for Rod, Tony Comstock has some advice for him:
Last May I spent two weeks sailing back from St. Croix to Montauk, and we had remarkably fair weather for most of the passage, and as a result, for the first time in my life I read a book a day more than one day in a row. I had never really appreciated how pleasurable reading could be until I had nothing more interesting to do.
I seem to remember Alan saying, about the Shirkey/Carr debate, something along the lines of “Yes, we can still work/live the way we did before the internet, but it takes a herculean amount of self-control.”
My own appreciation for how much ideas, ideas I once believed in fiercely, depended on “herculean self-control” has deepened in the past few years. Not enough to change my beliefs wholesale, but enough that they have been tempered. Probably this can happen without been couped up on a boat for two weeks, but some of us are more thick-headed than others.
And while we’re at it, how about some Ancient Wisdom from George Beuhler:
Believe it or not, the hardest part is just to stop talking and actually start.
Rod, with as much love and charity as I can muster: You’ve identified the problem. Now stop talking and start doing.
No more trips to Paris. No more sportfishing. No more blogging. Travelocity now. Iona. Monestary.