out of the habit

I’ve fallen out of the blog habit. That’s not just about being distracted or not having something to say. It’s a change from once noticing something and wanting to note it to noticing something and keeping it to myself. Which is a curious thing because this has coincided with a recent growth in traffic around here. Just when folks show up I go quiet. Go figure.

Being that I am, at my core, self-analytical I step back and notice my recent quiet and wonder what is happening with me. I don’t know off hand, and maybe writing it out might be just the blog Drano (Bloggo? “Able to clear out even your most persistent mental blocks”) that’s needed.

I think I can notice some of the contributory issues. The first came when I was discussing my trip last month to Duke. I had intended to discuss the various sessions I attended and add some thoughts. Moltmann was the primary speaker at the conference but I don’t have too many thoughts about his presentation. My mind was fairly muddled in the crowded evening sessions and honestly, I admit humbly, I didn’t really pick up what was being said. I was more into the culture of the moment than the context and all the words on science/theology slipped right by for the most part. The other sessions were significantly more stimulating and thought provoking.

So much so that I never got around to writing on them. That’s an odd thing to say, I know. But here me out–after a brief, related, tangent.

A little while back my friend Sonja nominated me for a subversive blogger award.

subversive bloggers unite!! “Subversive bloggers are unsatisfied with the status quo, whether in church, politics, economics or any other power-laden institution, and they are searching for (and blogging about) what is new (or a “return to”) – even though it may be labeled as sacrilege, dangerous, or subversive.”

See, I’m so subversive that I didn’t jump on the bandwagon right away but waited a while. I’ll be subversive on my own schedule, dagnabbit!

But I guess I am subversive. Powerless, so not nearly as potent in my subversion as real subversiveness should demand. But I’m not sure if the ability to actually subvert is necessary for the title of subversive. Authoritarian governments will act on even a hint or word of subversiveness in word, thought, or deed so I guess that’s the standard I’ll submit to in my subversivity.

I’m a little wary, however, about noting this fact–still in my tangent here, I’ll let you know when it’s over–because I’ve realized for a little while I’m the wrong kind of subversive. I’m the kind other subversives don’t like to have around because I find the biggest joy in being subversive of the subversives. I’m a traitor to the cause because I’m not attacking from the position of traditional stances. I’m no Reformed theologian seeking to dismiss challenges to my elegant mansion of cards. I’m the guy who doesn’t want reforming to stop once it gets moving and I tend to notice the distractions of those I think are on their way somewhere more than those who I think have already contributed what they have to contribute.

I get feisty when I see Quakers not being Quaker enough or emerging churches dancing around new terms while illustrating old patterns. Which makes me a little uncomfortable, with myself and with others around me. Because I’m liable to be critical just when everyone thinks they are safe from criticism, among their own kind.

You know how you can tell the real subversives? They all dress alike and like to gather in conferences, lit by the glow of their apple logoed laptops, to celebrate their shared subversivity, nominating leaders by popular acclaim to help them best understand where they might be most effective in subversion this coming year. They also don’t want to be nailed down on specific thoughts, lest those specific thoughts become unfashionable during the next subversion season. A real subversive reads the right books–now helpfully properly labeled as such by our subversive oriented mainstream publishers–and quotes the right thinkers and talks about old traditions and polyorthodoxy and neo-monasticism all while not having not really committed much at all to the actual writings of the past, thus doomed to repeat the establishment that cemented the subversion.

So, I’m wary about being labeled subversive because it takes a lot of money to be properly subversive in all the acceptable ways.

To be sure, it’s easy to be subversive now, what with the multi-million dollar subversive industry helping subversives and subversives-to-be ease into the role, mostly by teaching them how to be entirely traditional in use of power and influence and authority while using catchy lingo and scented candles and name tags slung around the neck.

What does subversive really mean?

According to wikipedia “Sub- is a prefix derived from Latin, meaning ‘under’, ‘below’, or ‘less than’.” So, ‘to subvert’ is to be less than versive or to be below versive. Clearly, we’re getting at something here (and yes, I’ve now made a tangent off the tangent).

Which leads us to think about what we’re below or less than. ‘Vert’, if by chance you have forgotten, is defined according to my Webster’s New World Dictionary as:

1 [Brit.] a) [Archaic] the green growth of a forest, as cover for deer b) [Historical] the right to cut green wood in a forest.

2 Heraldry the color green: indicated in engravings by diagonal lines downward from dexter to sinister

It derives from the Latin viridis which means ‘green’ and more specifically from the verb virere, ‘to be green’. So, literally, to be subversive means being “less than green” and so with that in mind I proudly accept the nomination of being a subversive blogger, because I probably am even more than I allow myself to be (just hinted back at the initial point of this post) and because, as the song says it’s not easy to be green, so I’m just as happy being somewhere below that.

And below that is where I’ve been for a little while, below most everything really, under the radar, temporarily distant from the blog conversation, not chopping at the wood of the forest, green or otherwise.

It’s because of my particular subversiveness I figure (and now I’m getting fully back to the main point I started way above there). I wrote a little on the Orthodox charismatic priest I heard speak at the conference, realizing one of my dear friends and regular readers is now a full member of the Orthodox Church, in love with its wisdom and feeling a spiritual depth that is so wonderful to hear about–she is also being immensely subversive in her context by doing this.

Why would I want to write about my various issues that have kept me off that trail? I wrote, but held back a bit, because I’m fine with being silent, when someone else is clearly finding God in a certain direction. I stopped, however, before I got to write on the session on pacifism, which included Stanley Hauerwas and Glen Stassen. Because I had it in my mind to write a terrible subversive post that brought out some of my particular thinking on the topic of pacifism that would have made not a single soul happy. It would have gone at some of the expressed thoughts of other dear friends, and the long held stance of my publisher. I sat on it for a while, never got around to writing it, restraining myself from subverting those who have been supportive. I subverted my own subversion in order to not offend the subversives who have been welcoming and inviting and friendly to me. I undermined my blogging to not undermine my belonging.

Which is at the root of it. I’m tired of isolating myself. I’m tired of being subversive even if I can’t help to be so in so many of my expressions. I don’t want to be subversive, you see. I want to be a good little Christian who is able to have a nice existential-angst-free job and a decent house on a bit of land, supportive of my hobbies and my burgeoning family. I’m tired of being provoked to theological education in order to find out the poverty-inducing answers myself for the questions that everyone else in my life dodged or didn’t know. I’m tired of making contacts and acquaintances only to be included just long enough for me to say what I really think and then being not included because I am, in essence, not conforming to acceptable subversivity. I don’t want to subvert. I want to belong.

I’m tired of subversiveness, but of course because it’s not my goal but my essence I’m not going to likely change. I can’t help it because it’s not something I’m trying to do, it’s my very self I’m trying to express. I learned at Wheaton that I see things differently than those around me, sometimes in helpful and sometimes in irritating ways. I’m not content with the establishment being established and I don’t feel any ability to let the subversives be free in their subversion. I poke and prod because that’s just how I think. It’s the one quality, I think, that has pushed me farther into theology. I’m not the brightest or the most diligent and certainly not the best at meeting all the right people. I see things in a different, creative, way and in my attempts to earnestly express my notions somehow find myself, again, being below the green and coming up with a unique connections that catch the ear of a a few established subversive theologians.

I very, very much want to belong. There’s rest and peace in that. But I guess I want more to be who I am. I’d rather subvert than conform, even if it means conforming to the subversivity. I’ll subvert the conformation, undermining in my wan way the great and mighty established subversives, in order to hold onto the perspective and pursuit of wholeness and stillness that seems to be the true Spirit sign of rightly located conforming. I will continue to subvert so that I might best conform, even as I temporarily stepped back from expressing my subversiveness because I’m weary of not conforming to the more immediate locations of established subversion.

I wish I could stay quiet more, but I want to speak and talk and interact. I want to conform but the subversion leaks out, just when I’m included I tend to be excluded. I don’t find rest in the establishment or the non-conformists, neither slave nor free, but somehow have this drive to keep saying what is deep within to say even as I often realize it’ll not be ingratiating. Sometimes I blame God for not letting me find peace and participation in any direction.

I resonate with Jeremiah.

Jeremiah 20:7ff:

O LORD, you deceived me, and I was deceived ;
you overpowered me and prevailed.
I am ridiculed all day long;
everyone mocks me.

Whenever I speak, I cry out
proclaiming violence and destruction.
So the word of the LORD has brought me
insult and reproach all day long.

But if I say, “I will not mention him
or speak any more in his name,”
his word is in my heart like a fire,
a fire shut up in my bones.
I am weary of holding it in;
indeed, I cannot.

Indeed, I cannot hold it in. Though, on a blog I can sometimes try for a little while. And that’s what I’ve done. To rest, to distract myself with happy realities, and to maybe somehow maybe play at being a part even if playing that role successfully means no lines for me.

I’m not sure why this has meant no pictures of birds or scenery or other random thoughts. I’ve gotten out the habit of blogging so the random things don’t immediately drive me to note them. I’ve been stuck, I suppose, between the depths and the shallows, caught on a crag. hanging out with the green.

I’m not sure if this post means a change in that. It all comes down to whether or not I muster up the fortitude to be free in my subversity once more, come what may. I suspect pictures of the birds, for whatever reason, go along with that. I also suspect the ravens that are hanging out near me right now could answer that for sure if I just knew the right way to ask. Otherwise, they’ll just laugh at me because I can’t, quite truthfully, fly.

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