So I am back online. And I am no longer positive for Covid-19 and starting to return to my awkward self.
I have decided to start walking again – for exercise. Today I walked to the shops to buy chocolate! The irony!!!!
Emotionally I think I am improving. Being sick really did not suit me. But I think it gave me space to look at things. There is no need to be too legalistic about things: I am not recreating a medieval form of life but trying to borrow some of the insights for a modern age. And I do actually enjoy the life.
I have been praying the 15 oes in the afternoon. Very English! Also very personal.
I am sick! I took a Covid test yesterday that was negative but today’s test was positive. Nothing much will change in my life – I remain alone, looking after myself, with only Fred for company.
Many people have offered help. I am so very thankful. I knew I would get sick sometime and I have been wondering how I might cope. While I have not been able to pray as much as I like, I am going okay.
I have moved, I have settled in, I have no internet! That is about the situation. I am using the data on my phone. On a positive. I am not endlessly browsing the net to look up random facts. (Yes, I do that all the time.)
Beside that (and to be honest, it is the only problem I have) life is very nice. I pray, I read, I meditate. I have gone to two sessions of meditation a day that brings me almost to an hour a day. I have settled into a routine with food – no sugary drinks for two weeks.
I have a session of silence each day and two days of complete silence. I sit and listen to the birds on the roof and read a book. I am trying to be as environmentally sensitive as I can. Simplicity is maybe the third ‘S’ of solitary.
I guess the real victory (if there is such a thing) is that I am sleeping really well. I still wake in the night. But now I use that time to pray for people. Maybe it is God’s way to move me to pray for particular people?
I was prayed for by the parish last Sunday and then The Anchorage was blessed. It was very overwhelming. So I will have to write about it another day. It felt so right!
So a small update has become an essay! I am planning a podcast – Sunday Night @ The Anchorage. Anyway …
One of the issues I have struggled with most of my life is “who is this ‘me’?”. I tried (for many years) to take clues from culture, religion, and family. That just caused depression and anxiety. Here is one example:
The person on the right is Bill Goldberg – sometime NFL player, sometime WCW and WWE wrestler. I used to have a toy of him on my desk. It was the running joke that I have the complete opposite of me on my desk to inspire me – he is everything I am not. And I think I really brought into that view. I have always wanted to change “me” and this was the model that was placed before me. And, of course, a model I could never live up to!
It is very hard to escape the cultural and religious models forced on us from the outside. “This is what a man is!” I looked for models that I could live with but they are still “outside” of me. All of which is an escape from personal responsibility into the “crowd”. (Yes, an SK reference!) I am never ever going to look like Bill Goldberg – and neither do I really want to. I am always going to be awkward and a little (!!) on the weird side of life. I often really feel that weirdness – not in a good sense. Is that wrong? No! But I have to stop listening to the voices from outside that call it wrong. I have a choice to listen.
I wrote this a couple of days ago. I have not had the energy to publish – I have struggled to get out of bed for the last two days. Now I have a headache (again) and feel completely overwhelmed! I have done the things I need to for today but I have not said the Office. But I wanted to publish something today.
I was reflecting on this past week and what it has meant for me.
Sunday I preached. I would very much like to do more, but that is beyond my control. Somehow it is part of my vocation. How that will work out I am not sure?! In one sense it is the “future” for me which is not clear at the moment.
But there is always the past. I need to get control in the sense that I need to get it straight in my head and heart. I have had some battles to fight, which I hope are over, and so I can get back to the heartbreak. The past has this incredible pull on my life.
I feel overwhelmed. I have gone back a year. I feel stuck.
All the discussion has shown a fundamental problem with most modern theology: orthopraxy has replaced orthodoxy. To use SK’s language, we talk about duty while ignoring relationship. Some of the rhetoric suggests that I need to get to a place where God can love me. Religion has been transformed into a moral code.
So today has been a plodding start. I did say Morning Prayer. I have had breakfast and a cup or two of tea. But apart from that, I have done very little. I watched some videos on TikTok about religious life in Anglicanism. It must be a TikTok thing but all the videos are about nuns – men are not smart enough to use social media. If you are interested, follow me @anchoriteexperiment. I have had an issue with my eyes that makes reading a little more complicated than usual. Yes, I should simply wear my glasses but, you know, where are they?!
I woke up this morning thinking about the Rule of St Augustine, especially the opening sentence:
Before all else, dear brothers, love God and then your neighbor, because these are the chief commandments given to us.
Augustine wrote for a group of men (who were unable to use social media!) so forgive the opening. My thoughts, this morning, were wondering if the sentence should not say, “love Jesus and then your neighbour”. I have been called a “Jesus only Christian” before and I am never sure what that means. I often feel that we hide behind a coverall term, God, to escape the responsibility of facing that God in the life and death of Jesus. Jesus says, “Follow ME”, and not “Follow God”.
I watched a series yesterday about “Becoming a Mystic”. Maybe a better title would be “How to live more like a follower of Jesus”? One of the things suggested is to do the hard work of self-discovery. (Like, for example, live like an anchorite for a time and read lots of books.) So this morning, in an attempt to meet “me”, I did the Enneagram test, which I have not done previously, and I am Type Nine.
Now all of that means nothing to me. So I went where I normally go for insight, Amazon. I found some books that I can read for some more insight. I even found one that discusses vocation.
1430 Jesus’ call to conversion and penance, like that of the prophets before him, does not aim first at outward works, “sackcloth and ashes,” fasting and mortification, but at the conversion of the heart, interior conversion. Without this, such penances remain sterile and false; however, interior conversion urges expression in visible signs, gestures and works of penance.
1431 Interior repentance is a radical reorientation of our whole life, a return, a conversion to God with all our heart, an end of sin, a turning away from evil, with repugnance toward the evil actions we have committed. At the same time it entails the desire and resolution to change one’s life, with hope in God’s mercy and trust in the help of his grace. This conversion of heart is accompanied by a salutary pain and sadness which the Fathers called animi cruciatus (affliction of spirit) and compunctio cordis (repentance of heart)
There is so much of the above to think about and meditate on. I like that penitence is interior looking for an external sign. So, being Anglican, “all may, some should, none most”. The importance is the conversion of the heart – the wholehearted turning to Jesus.