Over the Father’s day weekend I went to meet some friends and visit their parish for Vespers and Liturgy. It’s odd when you get to the chance to visit and really improve your understanding of their lives, along side the fact that these are the people that listen to you and what you do content wise. I tend to keep my online life very, very separate from my offline self, although I suppose in some sense you can’t truly separate the two. However I’ll enjoy the amphibious mask I wear for now, although given that I’ve shown my face maybe meeting people and networking wouldn’t be a half bad idea in the future, but I digress.
Yet, I will be clear and honest up front, as the post title entails it was also a humbling experience, and a realization that there are better lives that we could be living even at the expense of material comforts because there are always greater joys to be had, especially within a religious community. More on that in a bit, but first some blursed imagery.
Courtesy of that mini DALL-E thing going around, a friend had sent this to me without knowing what had taken place that weekend.
A funny meme, sure, but I found myself in one of those weird parasocial paradoxes, while anecdotal it makes me wonder about the slice of life and humanity of one’s audience. After all, I do spend a lot of time arguing about humanizing myself and why that’s important with any political project, intellectual or otherwise to avoid some of the pitfalls of digital-only existences or dehumanization. So I met with a man, whose name (Christian or Otherwise) I won’t use out of respect, who was kind enough to offer lodgings and bring me into the area, show me around, and his parish. And yeah, here’s the crazy thing about it, we hadn’t met before. The interactions had begun on twitter, and a simple “come to our parish” as a reply. So odds are when my eventual dox comes around, it’s not going to come from any political adversary, it’ll probably be because Orthodoxy in America is such a small pond it’s kind of inevitable.
On a whim, I went with it, we set up arrangements, found out we weren’t too far from each other, and set the date. The town was nice, a place I hadn’t visited in quite some time, and got to know the man behind the profile picture. We had exchanged some details about ourselves, plus seeing a photo of him beforehand so I knew what he looked like. (Trust but verify kids, plus concealed carry.) We both looked like well together people, or so was the initial expectation, although the usage of online lingo in a man about a decade or so older than me is always a weird thing, but I imagine that comes with the territory of being online.
My story of coming to the faith has always been about my kidney failure and the struggles that came with it, being near death a few times is a very literal come to Jesus meeting in a lot of ways. The trip however, was the first time I got to hear a story that was far more wild than the usual ones I’ve heard from my parish yet I wasn’t taken aback or surprised. Whether one finds comfort through the church after a loss, on in this case a mental break. Reassuring words (and I mean this with all sincerity,) of “don’t worry, they baptized me when I was crazy, I think you’ll be fine.” It was nice to chat with someone, who, while not fully capable of relating to my own experience, had also found God through the ups and downs of life that bring us to our lowest points. Then again, that’s how God finds us, no?
I was blown away by the parish and the Church, much larger than my own, with little alcoves with benches for prayer and those who need to sit adorned with icons. Visiting another parish, even though the service is the same wherever you go, is a lot like being a fish who has just been put into a new tank, you know what you’re supposed to do but it doesn’t stop from feeling ever so slightly foreign. After all, you are a visitor, even if you know the liturgy by heart you may not know the parish traditions as well. But Vespers was wonderful, and I felt particularly spoiled by experiencing a choir with a choir director much larger than at my parish. Yet after Vespers my friend and I went to meet up with some of his friends (and the parents of his godchildren) who just happen to know me as The Prudentialist as well. Again, my eventual dox will come from the fact Orthodoxy in America is such a small and tight knitted community. Nevertheless, we went to play some DnD for a few hours.
Have you seen this image?
Odds are you have, and I’m being a bit hyperbolic with the reaction. After all, it’s not every day you get to meet people who listen to you, share your faith, and living the very life many on the right advocate for, which is self sufficiency and having a large family. These guys certainly do live that way. Much more than my pampered middle class self can attest to. Hell I’m just getting back on my feet financially from transplant surgery and medical bills, and I sometimes feel like a hypocrite with what I advocate for, especially as I find myself raging and getting mad at myself for not making more money or being able to do the things I want in the materialist sense of things.
But boy was I fucking humbled. (I know, I swear too much and it’s a vice I really need to work on.) I didn’t say a word, as allusions to what I’ve been working on online or other personalities were discussed, it faded away as we dealt with an xp grinder of a dungeon section, myself playing someone else’s druid and just casting spells at a strategic chokepoint. It was nice to let the online for once, fade away into the ether as we gamed and got to learn a little bit about our lives and such. After all I was but a visitor, but a guest that had already a bit of reputation to precede him. Needless to say, it was a wonderful night. To meet their many kids, hear about their homeschooling efforts, what they do for work, all of which made my initial impressions bleed away as I had a cocked brow the further and further into a seemingly bad neighborhood we went to get there.
I write all this now, trying to have as clear a head as I can in the midst of trying to find a new job and maintaining everything else, along with trying to be charitable. After all, I am writing about someone who was kind enough to entertain me as a guest, but I also wish to be fully honest about what I felt and observed. So I will go on noting that this is said without means to cause offense. But in that moment, I was given an opportunity to quit looking up and at these material flights of fancy that odds are I know I am never going to get. I’m realistic. I’m not going to be some elite or anything like that, so why not pursue something that’s actually going to give you some happiness while you’re on this earth?
And there, sitting in their homes and standing in the liturgy was the moment that sort of had it all click, another one of those silent revelations. Psalm 34:10, which along with many other parts of the Psalter, is sung during the liturgy.
The young lions do lack, and suffer hunger: but they that seek the LORD shall not want any good thing.
I’m using the King James translation for this piece.
Yet there I was, watching the try their best to stay still and around their parents, often times running towards their Godfather in the choir. A congregation, like any other social gathering, does have that backdrop of class consciousness that is always there but many try to ignore. The South is infamous for this, at least with the many Baptists that I know. Yet as I’m standing not too far behind them, it comes to me in full force. The happiest people in this entire congregation are people that would be dismissed by many as white trash.
And the things that I want, these earthly comforts and delights, what good is it if I’m alone, bitter, and seething at the conditions that I have put myself in for the sake of resentment? And like that, a wave of calm.
I drove home that day, about three hours or so getting back home, much of it with serene countryside that had little to no phone service. Driving through another part of Texas, with one road towns, dozens of churches, and people just trying to make a living. I often find myself enraged by my own material conditions in life, thinking about things that I extrapolate to be within my control but being told by others that they’re usually almost never.
So maybe I should just humble myself for a minute here. And ponder the fact that my directions and goals in life should have a little less flailing. I don’t have too much more to offer here in the summer heat, or in the midst of my own job hunt, but maybe there’s a better life, and one that doesn’t require a mansion that would become my own mausoleum.
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This month I plan to have two paywalled articles, one on geopolitics, and longer essays that I plan to have as a collection for a book to be published later this year.