Archive for October, 2008

I am a drunk!

October 15, 2008

Hello, my name is John, and I am a drunk.

I want to be sober. I long for sobriety. This is how my therapist described it:silence of the heart, guarding of the mind, attention to oneself. Yes, all the things I am not.

I am drunk on feelings. They wash in and out of my heart and I revel in them. Sometimes, its joy and desire and passion and sometimes its depression, hate, and anger. Once I take the first sip, I cannot stop but want more and more and more. Even sadness and depression becomes quite intoxicating. And so, I stagger and roar from the bottom of my heart. There is no silence there.

Guard the mind? No, I am drunk on images and my mind is wide open. The media is my drink of choice. Once I take a mental sip, I want more and more. There are so many bars to drink in the images. The television is full of them and the internet is my best bottle. Movies and magazines all help to keep me drunk! My mind is so filled with images that I can hardly pray without them popping up and darkening my mind. The thing is, I’ve been an image drunk since I was a child. Mom put the bottle to our lips when we were children by sitting us in front of the television. (It was a great baby-sitter).My father kept pornography around the house, so sensuous images are a constant. Strangely, I often walk past the images of the Holy Ones that I have in my house and I barely notice them.

I pay no attention to myself because I’m too busy observing the faults and shortcomings of others. Spending all my time judging, I sit in on the bar stool of the scornful. My sins come and go with ease because in my judgmental and drunken haze, I rarely notice them. Therefore, I have no real idea who I am or what motivates me, but like strong liquor, my pride makes me swagger with the claim that I am a fine man and nothing like those other drunks. After all, unlike the others, I can quit anytime I like.

Sobriety! One day at a time – one step at a time – trust in the “Higher Power” – be accountable – ask for forgiveness from those you have offended – make no excuses for yourself – do the therapy – attend the Meetings – take the Medicine -read the Books – meet with your counselor – its all important.

Or…be a drunk!

Style over substance

October 11, 2008


It was 1960 and I was 8 years old. I can’t say that I was a precocious child, but for some reason I noticed that my mother was keenly interested in the presidential election. She was watching the debate which was an unusual activity for her. I asked if she was voting for Kennedy or Nixon and she replied that she was voting for JFK. When I asked why, she answered “because He’s so handsome!” Even at 8 years old, I found the answer surprising. I don’t mean to imply that JFK was devoid of substance, but my mother knew little about his political policies. His style appealed greatly to her sense of patriotism.

I grew older, I began to measure elections by the style-substance dynamic. I would observe how much depended on the appearance of maturity or youth, conservatism or liberalism, elitism or populism, experience or lack of experience, and so on. Some elections were worse than others, but no election was free from it. Certainly, candidates represented the platforms of their party, and they could have some personal convictions, but I wondered if style mattered more than substance to the electorate. How is the present election doing on this issue? I’ll let you make your own evaluation. Yet, I wonder if I will vote for a candidate because of his character and political platform, or because “I like the cut of his jib.”

To be honest, I realized that the dynamic of style over substance sums up a lot of my life. I look very pious all dressed up in my priestly ensemble. With my white robe, gold vestments, long hair, white beard and skufia, I certainly look the part of a spiritual elder. Is there any substance to support this image, or is it just style? Once again, the Bible is painfully precise:

This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, high minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.” 2 Timothy 3

“Having the form of godliness, but denying the power”– yes, that pretty much describes the situation. I don’t know if we are in the last days, but it is true that style is so much easier to attain than substance. It’s easier to build a cathedral than it is to build the Church. It’s much easier to pray all the prescribed prayers, but it’s harder to pray short ones with heart and attention. It’s easier to refrain from hamburgers during the fast and read the ingredients on every box to make sure that I am pure than to enter into the spirit of the fast and draw close to God. It’s easier to wear the robes of a priest than to wear the robes of righteousness. It so much easier to write and preach sermons (and even blogs) than to live what is preached. It’s even easier to stand through a 3 hour vigil, than to sit down for truth and humility and love.

The tragedy of all of this is that there is no religion that has more substance than Orthodoxy. Orthodoxy is the fullness of life, truth, and faith. Why then do I settle for style when there is so much substance? The truth is that I love God, but I love myself moreand I love pleasure more than I love God Therefore, I settle for the form and style of godliness, but I don’t have the power.

Though I am a shallow person, salvation is a journey, or a process, so God isn’t finished with me. St. Paul put it this way: “perfect holiness in the fear of God.” I want to do that, but often I’m not very motivated. What can move me from the form of godliness to its power; or how can I perfect what I have and engage in a sustained struggle for holiness?

St. Paul says that what motivates us is a promise. What kind of promise? “Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.” As we perfect holiness, we begin again to experience Paradise. “I will dwell in them and walk among them.” To walk with God is the perfection of Eden, the joy of relationship and there is nothing greater in the universe. Is that enough to motivate us or will it be style over substance?