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Good Morning Nanty Glo!
Thursday, July 12 2001

Controversialist 2

My life as stirrer of controversy had to be re-evaluated when two significant changes in my thinking occurred after age 50: My "plunge" into the thought of evangelical Christian author C.S. Lewis and my conversion from evangelical Protestant to Eastern Orthodox. Both processes are described elsewhere as linked here, and won't be rehashed now. Instead, I'll now address some of the changes in my thinking vis a vis being a controversialist.

Lewis, first, opened my perception to the then-new and -revolutionary proposition that newspaper and magazine journalism and following world, national, and regional news are dispensible features of modern life. Orthodoxy, as I later studied it, strongly re-enforced that tentative conclusion. When I read Lewis's profession that he never read newspapers, my initial reaction was, "how can he be a well informed and -rounded man of his times"? I also knew he read literally thousands of books rather than news media, and although his reading didn't tend to what was trendy, it was that reading that kept him even better informed than news media could possibly do. Furthermore, he was a critical reader who brought a fresh point of view to just about everything he encountered.

Already disenchanted with the San Jose daily newspaper, I cancelled my subscription and decided to try substituting books for my major reading. I also eschewed network broadcast news programs. Of course I'm keyed into how to get information, having been a journalist most of my life, so I don't miss any major developments, but now unless it is personally relevant (like a plane crash in which someone I knew was involved), I resist the temptation to become better informed. Almost laughably, I say I get my headlines from Jay Leno's monologues and any details I need from websites.

The role of Orthodoxy in this was two-fold (and I'm resisting the temptation to discuss the theological ramifications). The two teachings are, 1. being nonjudgmental when it comes to other people's sins and shortcomings is a major impediment to our own spiritual growth. 2. Passion ("hot pursuit" of anything), despite its popularity in Western popular thinking, is basically bad rather than good. The implications for journalism and controversialism are that, 1. the more you know about an individual's shortcomings (Bill Clinton's sexual piccadillos, to take the most glaring example from the past decade) makes it more difficult to refrain from judging the other's relationship to God, which in turn impedes your own. 2. To be free from passion it helps to be ignorant of things that may stir them. As a controversialist, I spent literally years devoting literally hours every day looking for things that could stir my passions enough to write about them. But Orthodox teaching showed me there are innumerable topics about which I can do nothing (except write with passion, perhaps) and would be better not knowing.

Is this saying "ignorance is bliss"? Not exactly, but driving that point home would take another essay...perhaps some other time.

Webmaster Jon Kennedy

Will the Real Dummy Please Stand?

1. A man spoke frantically into the phone: "My wife is pregnant and her contractions are only two minutes apart!"

"Is this her first child?" the doctor asked.

"No, you idiot!" the man shouted. "This is her husband!"

2. In Modesto, Calif., a man was arrested for trying to hold up a bank without a weapon. He used a thumb and a finger to simulate a gun, but unfortunately for him, he failed to keep his hand in his pocket. Wonder what he uses for a knife?

Sent by Mike Harrison

The arroganct heart

"...the heart of an arrogant person cannot humble itself; the more one says to help him, the greater his self-inflation. Corrected or admonished, he reacts violently; and when praised or encouraged, his exultation knows no bounds."

—St. Symeon the New Theologian (10th century)

Sent by Rdr. Andrew

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