Posted by: jamesthethickheaded | May 24, 2008

To Be or Not… Ain’t the Question

I’m told a common temptation among Orthodox converts – both clergy and layfolk – is to strive for the guru thing, to speak with the economy of language and depth of insight, to deliver the “one word”.. and in short, to be a staretz able to see into others hearts and strengthen their faith. This isn’t a new insight, but it’s not an especially Orthodox problem either.

In my former affiliation and one-time position as Sr. Warden there were some issues with the youth program for teens in our parish. Okay, the fact that we felt compelled to draft a State Trooper as an  “instructor” … even if he only had to call for backup from the SWAT team three or four times… might tell you something. So anyway, I remember asking to see the instruction manual… and after studying it a while (15 minutes), I recommended budgeting for some “training” ’cause it was clear the program placed an enormous burden on the instructors.. in effect expecting them to become something akin to youth gurus. I thought it was unrealistic.. but that was precisely what our instructors had concluded, too,  only they tended to try their best… I mean, being a youth hero and all that is kind of appealing on some level .. so each year and with each batch of teachers, they’d set out to transform themselves … only to spiral downward … into the same disastrous results.

So maybe it’s the nature of religion in America today that in order to justify spending the time, we fall into the trap of having to develop and project something of a spiritual “aura” – whatever that is.  We want people to look at us and say “Wow” or “Cool”  or “There goes the guru”. Problem is that we don’t have any examples in pop culture of what these folks are really like (“Might be the Dali llama?”) … but we’re always ready to re-invent ourselves… why not in this way? So the vulnerability of those of us geezers to aspiring to become a sort of religious guru or yogi or baghwan is just there lying on the floor, or maybe it’s by the curb and we bump into the double parked Rolls Royce as we go by. We’re even ready to settle for something less… like red Corvette with yellow pin stripes.

Okay then there’s blogging. Does it happen here? Sure. But I ask you…do we have to really need to have something to say? Do I ? I know…. it helps but maybe only in a minor way. Maybe  it’s enough to say nothing with  style. That’d be good, or at least it’d confuse the ol’ English teacher better than usual. FWIW, the stuffed animals – three toads, two frogs and penguin who still read this blog (the bears… well, they bailed).. I’m sure they’d all attest I’ve never felt compelled to link opening the trap or penning a word with such mundanities as “necessity” or “purpose”. Fact is, the mouth kind of works good as a fly trap and if I’m typing, at least I’m not messing up the rest of the house. Least that’s what my Dad used to say.

So I’m happy to report immunity from the guru factor. Certified. That’s the good news. The bad news is that perhaps I don’t have anything to say either… and the style tends to fall off a cliff every now and again. But I mean… blogging… it’s better than actually doing something, huh? And I’m not actually looking at my navel if I”m just writing about it.

P.S. I promise to “borrow” something more worth reading .. next time… lest the remaining “friendly” beasts start to get feisty.


  1. Who told you a thing like that… someone who was clairvoyant and can see into the hearts of converts? LOL! You mean someone with a 300 knot prayer rope, a year’s experience of ego driven partially kept prayer rule (or is that one day of experience 365 times?)… a few deluded thoughts that I’m THAT close to the uncreated light, all the while humbly denying any goodness and yep, ask me anything… I’ll half whisper and lisp an “Orthodox response”.
    Hmmmm… nope, never seen that happen. I have no idea where you’re getting this idea from. Seriously, dead on, Dude. Orthodoxy is both a cure for vainglory and the perfect vehicle for it in our culture that has no image or clue what a real “spiritual” person looks like. Nice post, I learned a lot. 🙂

  2. I have noticed this, too, James – it drives me fairly nuts. And I addressed in to some extent in my 2nd or third ever post on my blog. God help the person who comes to my blog hoping to learn anything …

    But when a church calls someone “newly enlightened” …


  3. Oops – I meant “newly illumined” –

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