Making It Up in America

HolyRusAs I noted in my previous article, stories are essential in the formation of character. We do not simply exist, we think about our existence and are driven to make sense of it. The sense we make takes the form of a story. For people in the contemporary world, this is simply problematic. Stanley Hauerwas states the essence of the problem:

The project of modernity was to produce people who believe they should have no story except the story they choose when they had no story. 

I will rephrase Hauerwas’ observation: In America, we have rejected the stories of tradition…so we have to make up our own stories.

Here is a tragic vision. Imagine a child who hears no stories from his/her parents. Instead, they have to play alone and invent their own tales.

The cultural phenomena of fashion and fad should be understood as a struggle to create stories. Modern culture is “branded.” The music we listen to, the clothes we buy, the slang and jargon we speak, the way we vote are all “brands” with which we identify. Together, such allegiances reveal stories we tell ourselves. They are our “identity.” But these stories are not handed down to us; they are not the stories of previous generations. The vacuum created by the absence of earlier stories (“they should have no story”) creates an existential emptiness. Human beings cannot exist without an identity. We need names and a sense of who we are in relation to other things.

It would seem obvious that most people are unable or unwilling to create their own stories from whole cloth. Despite all of our vaunted individualism, modern people still enjoy having shared stories and stories told to them. Quite often, however, those stories lack transcendent meaning. The sports fan can derive a deep sense of belonging and a story of shared sacrifice, victory or defeat. He may experience a deep catharsis when his team wins a championship. But as a story that gives meaning, sports are simply banal and empty. “Heroes” who are paid multi-millions to “sacrifice themselves” stretch the meaning of “heroic.”

We consume stories, or rather we approach stories like consumers. And like most consumer choices, the larger part of the “decision” is unconscious. And like a child at the dinner table, we rarely choose what is, in fact, good for us. Angry teenage angst has become a standard feature   of our cultural landscape. But many of the stories in our culture, generated by the music industry, game companies and other purveyors of cultural mythology, rarely offer anything useful. The anger and confusion endemic in our modern invention of adolescence is merely exploited for profit. The occasional addictions and suicides that may result are simply the price of doing business. It is a price paid by the customers.

Being human is not a task for amateurs. Throughout history, stories have been handed down; they are traditioned to us. The reasons the stories survive and continue to be told is that they work. Of course, some stories that are traditioned have a darkness within them, and the corrective of time and experience alters or eliminates them. But there are some stories that, rightly told, are transformative, both of people and of whole civilizations.

The story of Christ (which has the benefit of having actually taken place) changed the world. The notion of human dignity, individual worth, forgiveness and redemption, the solidarity of the human race are rooted in that story. The story of Christ elevated slaves and brought evil empires to their knees. In the darkest moments of subsequent history, those whose lives have been shaped by His story have whispered and kept faith and hope alive, and sometimes lived to see their hope vindicated and their oppressors swept into the dustbin of history.

The story of Christ, rightly told, creates beauty and raises civilizations and cultures to new heights. Those effects are simply collateral creations. In general, the whole of what we count as good in our present world is the fruit of such benefits.

It will be objected by some that Christianity has also been a source of evil – crusades, inquisitions, persecutions and pogroms. But those are the result of false stories, interjected in order to distort and misdirect. The Christian story is in no way one of endless, absolute triumph and perfection. It is the story of a deeply flawed and broken humanity that would destroy itself unless it was rescued. It is the story of repentance and forgiveness – and always the Good-Creating hand of God redirecting our false starts and deviations to return us to the path of wholeness and resurrection.

The greatest and truest fairy tales are those that “rhyme” with the story of Christ and His saving Pascha. For this is the primal story, told before the foundation of the world. It is the origin of all happy endings, including “happily ever after.” You can’t make up stories like this.

 

 

 

 

36 comments:

  1. The only thing worse for a child then his parents not telling him stories is those natural, human stories being replaced by artificial stories told by even generated by robots. All fluffed up and cute robots, but robots just the same. Or the ideological stories of Sesame Street that also harm attention span by the medium used.

  2. “We consume stories, or rather we approach stories like consumers. And like most consumer choices, the larger part of the “decision” is unconscious. And like a child at the dinner table, we rarely choose what is, in fact, good for us.”
    This got me to thinking about how we have come as a culture to “consume” our faith as well. Post Modern Christianity has become a-historical and people church shop to find one that provides the “help” they feel they need. This explains why I get so many blank stares when I try to explain the need of the Church Calendar and that our Judaeo Christian faith is a faith of remembrance. Thank you Father for this series of articles that have tied a lot of loose ends together.

  3. Thank you Fr. Freeman for this wonderful. I am sharing it with my librarian sister. This is a pivotal topic for me, and I have often tried to express, in my own faltering style, some of the points in this piece. Thank you for writing clearly on such a foundational truth.

  4. Even within our crazed culture there are little gems of hope from time to time. And I suppose we are attracted by a deep yearning within us. Like migrating birds, we seek goodness and ” life abundantly”. (Luke 6:38 2 Corinthians 9:8)

    There is a wonderful Star Trek episode where Captain Kirk is stranded somehow on a “desert planet” with another lost or stranded alien. They both combine their efforts to survive and must fight off this other evil alien presence or being to survive. The befriended alien keeps repetitively reciting some tale in his language to Kirk over and over again. We don’t know what he is saying in his “story”, but eventually it is the element that allows them to defeat the evil. You can sense the pleading and heartfelt devotion of the befriended being and his dedication to the truth of the hope he carries deep within him.
    Thank you Fr. plowing the deep soil that our souls need for sustenance and fruition. Thank you for pointing us to the much needed St. George to fight our dragons!

  5. Despite all of our vaunted individualism, modern people still enjoy having shared stories and stories told to them. Quite often, however, those stories lack transcendent meaning.

    I think this may be why we are so invested in our military heroes and first responders. Their’s are some of the few stories that appear to have transcendent meaning. Sacrifice for one’s country is considered a story of great, heroic value. It is the closest our society can come to a truly transcendent story. We still, as a society, grasp for this transcendent quality.

  6. Bravo, Father. Another excellent and insightful piece. Thank you.

    I attempted to “get at” some of these points in these two poems. Not as well as you, but at least some vague attempt:

    Grocery Store Check Out Line
    “A man is no such great lover of the truth, only for holding to it when there is none to lead him astray for it: to hold fast to the truth when many are drawing him away, this makes a proved man.” – St. John Chrysostom, On the Acts
    We feed ourselves
    Narrow dreams,
    Diets of
    New recipes
    Which can never fill;
    We drink from
    Dry wells
    & empty bottles,
    Top our shopping carts
    With self-help tips
    Drenched
    In artificial flavors
    & numbing preservatives
    Claiming to replace
    Truth
    But which in fact
    Can never
    Satisfy;
    We buy
    Titillating visions,
    Flip through pages
    Set in monthly installments
    Of idle curiosity;
    Take tempting bites
    Of paparazzi gossip which
    Gives no nourishment,
    Offers no sweet taste,
    We sell ourselves cheaply,
    For just a few dollars of
    Entangled color photo shots;
    Pages of fallen heroes,
    Empty role model bling,
    Stories of shallow fame,
    Private tragedies,
    Glorified
    Lies;
    We spend ourselves
    Caught in dust-filled winds
    Rather than bind hearts
    Ever more securely
    To bright gates
    Of heaven.

    22 May 2015 – Friday – Returning from Weekly Shopping – Pharr, Texas

    With All Traditions Fallen
    (The Abolition of Man)

    “I praise you for remembering me in everything and for holding to the traditions just as I passed them on to you.” – 1 Corinthians 11:2

    “A great many of those who ‘debunk’ traditional…values have in the background values of their own which they believe to be immune from the debunking process” – C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man

    What now
    Becomes of
    The souls of men
    In these broken times
    With all traditions fallen?

    Sacred days & seasons,
    Secular customs, ancient rituals
    which bind together soul & body & senses,
    Family roots, all gone, faded into fast life food
    & virtual reality, uprooted,

    Leaving us
    Men without chests, holding hollow hearts;
    Hollow chested humanity, defending shriveled hearts
    Filled more with darkness than the pulse
    Of True light.

    Holy Days, Hallowed Days
    Become holidays, become hollow days
    Become shopping days, become sport events,
    Decay into meaningless dust swirls
    & then disappear altogether.

    With no place, worthy worship offering,
    No saint or seasons considered sacred, nothing
    At all remains sanctified; no reasons exist
    For us to take off shoes & honor
    Hallowed ground.

    Traditional value-
    debunked truth-absent dystopian futures,
    Proclaim man as mere brain & body,
    Computer & consumer, absent soul,
    No nourishing traditions required.

    Intuitive knowledge which discerns
    Good & hates evil, holds human hearts to earth,
    Orients souls to heaven, defines beauty
    & truth. When holy images become
    Discarded,

    Mankind itself falls; debunked,
    Less than human, ruled by unreflected
    Whims, untempered passions & unrestrained
    Urge, making all life appear as
    Meaningless as death.

    26 May 2015 – Pharr, Texas – C.S. Lewis, “The Abolition of Man”

    “You cannot go on ‘explaining away’ forever: you will find that you have explained explanation itself away. You cannot go on ‘seeing through’ things for ever. The whole point of seeing through something is to see something through it.” ― C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man

  7. Perhaps also, Consumerism requires passive attention to stories. Professionals play sports, even armies and navies no longer conscript. We are entertained, more to be a consumer is to Be entertained. We are no longer participants but Observers. Story is extra nos

    The Story of Christ is the story which calls us into fundamental participation, for the sake of our souls and the world. In this regard if I might suggest a slight amendment to your words, Fr. Stephen, ‘being human is not a task for amateurs – in the contemporary sense of the word’???

    Amateur, I suspect might come from a root meaning ‘for the love of’, or ‘Lovers’. Being human in Christ is surely such a profound participation?

  8. Fr. Stephen,

    When are you going to record another of your posts as a podcast episode? It’s one of my favorite podcasts to listen to as I drive between places.

  9. “The sports fan can derive a deep sense of belonging and a story of shared sacrifice, victory or defeat. He may experience a deep catharsis when his team wins a championship. But as a story that gives meaning, sports are simply banal and empty. ”

    This is a bit off the thesis, but I’ve found no catharsis in sports. My family is originally from western Pennsylvania. The Steelers, Pirates & Penguins were as integrated into my life as eating and sleeping. The Steelers won the Super Bowl for the first time in my life in 2006. The Penguins won the Stanley Cup for the first time I could remember in 2009. I can think of fewer events in my life that were emptier. There is a massive amount of energy invested in these teams/games & when a Championship is achieved, my thoughts/feelings were “So that’s it? Losing is actually more exciting.”. It’s no wonder people riot when teams win championships. I think it comes from a lack of satisfaction in the event itself.

  10. …also, as a follow up to that last comment — I’ve actually felt more satisfaction in a rival’s team losing a regular season game than my own team winning a championship. That has always troubled me.

  11. Your comment about sports reminded me of my childhood (Eastern Catholic) parish priest, who used to call football stadiums the cathedrals of the modern age.

  12. Mark S — they (football stadiums) are Cathedrals and the Colosseum all rolled into one. As noted above, I grew up a vociferous Pittsburgh Steelers fan. But as we learn more about CTE and head trauma and all its long (and short term for some guys like Junior Seau) term damage, I wonder about the morality of it all: to be entertained by violence, a violence that reeks so much damage on so many families, damage that we are only beginning to hear about and probably never really get to see.

  13. Matushka Elizabeth,
    I’ve read your poems a couple of times now and will reread them. They beautifully put into words what I often have felt and thought…how they resonate with my heart. I know Pharr, TX. Used to go to McAllen years ago to renew our visas. Keep on writing! God bless.

  14. Quick disclaimer: I am a Protestant making my way to Orthodoxy.

    One of the developmental tasks of adolescents is to be able to tell their family history – the story of their family, the history of God’s family and the “big picture” of life. These stories enable them to create coherent and resilient identities.

    Perhaps this is why Protestants are in a kind of perpetual adolescence? Seeking novelty – redefining themselves, trying on identities for “fit”, church shopping…Perhaps they don’t know their story? The immaturity is, in a very real sense, not their fault. Either they have never been told their family story – the story of the Church, or they have been told and have concluded that there is nothing to be gained from 2000 years of Christian experience. Still, I believe that those who set themselves up as leaders will be held accountable.

    Popular and well-educated Protestant authors strike me as disingenuous when they attempt to teach the spiritual disciplines to other Protestants without adequately acknowledging their debt to the historical Churches both Roman Catholic and Orthodox. In fact, since I began my own journey to Orthodoxy I have often thought that if they acknowledged the debt, they would have to dismantle their own lives (and careers) because then they would become Orthodox and not write any more books!

    I am finding that I must pray for grace to view these leaders with grace, my anger is not dispassionate. I find that I grieve the many years during which I experienced the absence of an identity that comes from knowing my family story. Please pray for me.

  15. Welcome Sharon Joy.

    Either they have never been told their family story – the story of the Church, or they have been told and have concluded that there is nothing to be gained from 2000 years of Christian experience.

    I wonder: who is supposed to teach them in today’s society? Churches, as you note, rarely teach actual history. The closest would be teaching scripture but that is rarely (I hesitate to say “never” but my experience is that “never would be the appropriate word) taught with any historical context included.

    Families now take little or no time to actually teach the history of the Church or even to teach scripture. The World engages too much of their time and energy. (I marvel at homeschooling families; I have no idea how they do it).

    So, who is left to teach? I do see this as a failing in the Church–Orthodox, RCC, and Protestant(s). But I do not know how best to answer it.

  16. ““Being human is not a task for amateurs.”

    This statement is so true it hurts.”

    Very true (the truth in Father’s line and thruth that truth and “being human” hurts). My first thought was to consume it by making a bumper sticker out of it. Alas, it would be interpreted by the technocrats-without-chests through their lens (i.e. *they* are the professionals). Besides, Father Stephen does not approve of such consumption nor bumper stickers so I will never get permission from him-as-copyright-holder 😉

  17. Sharon Joy,
    This is very insightful – trying to reap the fruits of a plant that is not your own. I think I tried this for about 20 years in my life – my private Orthodox-like road to nowhere. The longer the road became, the more obvious it became to me that I was missing something far more essential. In the 17 years I’ve been Orthodox, this missing thing has become the very most important thing: context. “Context” to some extent is Tradition itself. And the fruit of Orthodoxy must be rooted in and have a living communion with the Tradition itself. For all of the fruit of the Tradition are only meant to be gateways to the Tradition. The Tradition is the point. And that Tradition is the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit that is the life of the Church. The Jesus Prayer takes us to that Tradition – it is the Tradition breathing and praying through us. But the Prayer, removed from the Tradition can almost mock its absence, asserting that I as an individual to not need the Tradition itself.

    But not knowing this is part of the very woof and weave of Protestantism. Its assumptions do not allow it to be seen and so some labor on in ignorance. But God is merciful to us all.

  18. Father Freeman thank you for your response; Byron thank you for the welcome.

    Byron, my critique is more directed towards the Protestant leadership. Many are uneducated, for sure, but most have attended some sort of educational program in the tenets at the very least of their denomination. I find it sad and frustrating that they are continually trying to reinvent the wheel, so to speak. A newer, better improved wheel.

  19. “Being human is not a task for amateurs.”

    In reply, Eric wrote (in part):

    “Amateur, I suspect might come from a root meaning ‘for the love of’, or ‘Lovers’. “

    That is, indeed the root of the word. Its current usage, with the connotations of a lack of skill, or a slapdash approach, deprives us of a vital concept. Because there are skilled amateurs, who do things out the love for the task at hand, and shine. And there are professionals who don’t give a rip about what they do, or who they do it for, as long as they are paid.

    There is something that a skilled amateur can bring to a task that will cause her to shine above a professional who brings nothing but skill (even if it may be somewhat greater skill), and our own willingness to defer to the professional robs us of much of the joy of simply being human. Too few of us play a sport, any sport. We watch the professionals. Too few of us actually make music. We listen to the professionals. Too few of us read to each other aloud, or engage in family or community theatricals. We sit and see the professionals on TV (or in the cinema, or over the internet). Too few of us prepare meals for family and friends. We leave the cooking to professionals, whether in restaurants, or take out stores, or the industrial kitchens in which frozen food products are concocted.

    Yes, I will see better tennis if I watch the finals of the U.S. Open. But I will probably benefit more if I actually play a set. I will see more thrilling basketball in the NBA, but playing a game at the Y will probably do more for my mind and my body. I thoroughly enjoy my collection of CDs. But what might happen if, instead of just listening to those great guitarists, I actually tried to learn to play a few chords, and really fell in love with the guitar? What conversations could my wife and I start, if, on a Friday night, we read aloud to each other, instead of pulling up a movie on Netflix?

    I don’t know for certain, but I have an idea, based upon my experience in the kitchen. I am a dedicated home cook—meaning that I have mucked around the kitchen long enough and often enough and with enough attention and love that I know how to use the ingredients I like to make the things that I like, and to achieve the results I aim for more often than not. For the most part, I use simple ingredients—I am no gourmet. I am, if you will, an amateur. But I have also worked in commercial kitchens (had to pay for college and law school), and I have, like everyone else, eaten in restaurants, especially when travelling, and I have been a guest in other people’s homes. And I know this: A skilled amateur will virtually always produce something more memorable, more satisfying, than a slick professional.

    Sure, there are some things that we will, of necessity, delegate to the professionals. I will not retain an amateur cardiologist if I require angioplasty. I will secure the services of a professional electrician to re-wire my house. I admire the professionalism of the men and women who pilot commercial jet-liners. (Although, I have to admit, that it would be nice to know that my cardiologist, my electrician and my pilot were each both fully professional and an amateur in the root sense of the word—that each had committed to their endeavor out of a real love for the task.)

    Here’s a hypothesis: The closer that something is to an essential human activity, the greater the reward for the dedicated amateur (both for the actor and those around him) and the more we lose when we delegate that task to professionals, to specialists. It is a very human thing to cook, and to gather family and friends around a table. It is a very human thing to exert one’s self in play, to sing and make music, to tell stories. And we do our friends, and our families, and our selves great service when we undertake such things with care and attention, with skill and with love. We do not need more professionals in these endeavors. We need better amateurs.

    “Being human is not a task for amateurs.” Perhaps. It certainly is not something that can be done without models, and without work or practice or patience. But neither is it something that I am willing to leave to the professionals.

  20. Understood, Fr. Stephen. It was just that Eric’s earlier comment started me mulling over the roots of the word “amateur,” and the poverty of our our current general usage, which prevents us from grasping, or even articulating, something about human endeavor that could enrich our lives.

  21. Fr. Stephen, or anyone else willing to expand on this:

    You mentioned games. It’s kinda silly but the most beautiful and meaningful stories that I, as a member of tradition-killing suburban familiar and social environment, have ever ‘lived’ were the ones from videogames, specially RPG’s.

    Well, kinda… I’m not counting mythology, religion, even literature. Dostoevsky remains being the one who introduced Orthodoxy to me.

    But it is not just that most phantasy-based games have influence from both religion and our commom western (or even eastern) religious ideas, the essence of these stories is permeated by traditional values. Maybe that’s because of a kind of historical setting…?

    I don’t know, I’m inclined to believe that if videogames are a type of art (and I’m sure they are), the same relationship literature and poetry have in relation to God and faith, might be present here.

    What astonishes me more than anything, though, is the nature of our experiencing of these stories. You LIVE them, you do not only read, hear, you live in the same, if not deeper, existential levels you do when reading a poem or a russian novel. It’s amazing because it is a completely different nature of experience.

    Needless to say there’s few room to deep mystical reflexions on games, since its industry is well to grounded in our secular way of life, but still… these priceless values of life, a humanism of the face, of the human encounter in the infinite, the value of life, of sacrifice for peace and truth, these kathartic moments and feelings… it is all there.

    Maybe that’s a good field for missionary work…

  22. Caio,

    I very much understand where you’re coming from and tend to agree with everything you said. I suspect these games were (unknowingly) created specifically because our real world has come to be a barren wasteland due to the dry emptiness of modernity and its focus on utility, economy instead of the true things like truth, beauty and goodness. Two caveats:

    1. Those games will never be a substitute for the real world. There are some incredible online worlds out there, but none of them will ever touch the one created by the Master. In the end those players – whose hearts are desperately searching for meaning and the true values mentioned above – will always be living a fantasy and never actually living. In fact after a certain %age of time spent in the game, those hours will begin to act as a poison to their “here and now” lives, encouraging them to ditch all responsibilities in this world and such.

    I should also note that media tends to supplant our creative abilities rather than enhance them, and the ability to create is one of the ways we were made in His image. It’s very important. When we stop creating as a race, we’re dead.

    2. When gaming is approached as a mission field, the gamer in question must never losing his footing in the real world. In fact I think God must give them the grace to enter that virtual space so that they don’t end up losing their salvation. They have to never forget why they’re there and what’s important.

    hope this helps, drewster

  23. Caio,

    Everything drewster said. I would only add that now that I think literature is better (such as Dostoevsky , or for children George MacDonald/Tolkien/Lewis/Homer etc.). I was a poor dungeon master myself, simply because I can not hold a light to those guys in the creativity dept. I also spent some time in video games (alot of time 😉 ) and again, not the same thing as the good literature (not even close) though I get where your coming from. As to these games being a place for missionary work, it is an interesting idea (i.e. one or more Christians inserting content that points more directly points to God), however the industry is a commercial enterprise and I don’t know how you could do it short of creating your own label and (with no small help from God) actually being a commercial success with it.

  24. Caio, et al,
    I have very little experience with computer games (I show my age, perhaps). They have more danger, I think, than we realize. Even literature has a certain danger. We live in our heads far too much and fail to learn how to simply live. There can be something quite addicting and all-encompassing about video games – their reality can be so much better than the one outside your head!

    Ultimately, we have to turn the computer off, and shut the book. We need to live. Breathe, eat, pray, see, etc. I do not want a virtual Jesus (whether generated by book or computer). And this is a difficult thing.

  25. I fully agree with the above caveats regarding video games.
    The key is this:
    whenever the senses rule the mind (nous) [as in TV, videogames, etc], then we are functioning ‘not according to our true nature’;
    whereas if the mind (nous) rules the senses [as it should during prayer for example], then the reverse starts being true…

  26. The ultimate problem with computer anything which even this blog suffers from to some extent is that computers are from the flat land and can be no more than binary even in sophisticated AI with fuzzy logic they are binary machines operating on complex “if/then functions.” Their value is also tied to their weakness. Computers change the manner in which we think.

    Life is not binary. A college professor of mine said that the difference between a machine and a tool is that the tool allows the user to set the rhythm of the work while a machine sets the rythmn for the operator.

    If machines add not set to human rythmn they dehumanize. Computers change the whole way we tend to perceive our environment. In many cases, especially role playing video games they distort in inhuman ways.

    How do we make computers a tool? That is the question. Can we?

  27. Caio,

    Video games have been a major tool in the murder of my marriage, and I’m sure my husband would 100% agree with this statement:

    “…the most beautiful and meaningful stories that I, as a member of tradition-killing suburban familiar and social environment, have ever ‘lived’ were the ones from videogames, specially RPG’s.”

    It’s been almost 15 years, and he has yet to give *our* story a fighting chance. I often wonder what 30 hours a week of concerted, intense effort directed towards one’s family would reap.

    But the conflict in video games is built to be managed and subdued– and you get to win! Easy endorphins. Love isn’t like that.

    I don’t know what your relationships or gaming habits are like, but I’d encourage you to do an experiment that my husband will not attempt: turn the damn thing off for the Christmas fast, or Great Lent. Or, if you’re brave, for longer. Maybe you don’t know what meaningful relationships you’re missing out on.

    Forgive me, a wounded sinner, if I have caused you offense.

  28. I am not offended. In fact, it is just the opposite, I thank you all for the good feedback.

    I’m not unaware of games’ dangers, really. I was quite addicted to it in my adolescence, lost great opportunities in life, ceased to live reality so I could live phantasy in them, through them. Yes, it was fun. Yes, I had a great time. Yes, I absorbed good lessons. But in the end, it was not well worth the ride ’cause the life was robbed of me. Self-sabotage might be a good name for this. It was addiction…

    I had to spend some good years out of it so I could understand what actually did happen to me, what I did wrong and specially I did NOT while I was being sucked by the TV screen. Curiously, it was around this time I had grateful and beautiful surprises with books, literature, the time I discovered Dostoevsky. I discovered other things as well, some sins and some virtues, but I could say I became a better person, someone more free.

    So I can really understand your concern, but the other fact is I discovered there are healthy ways of appreciating video games. Healthier, taking less time, and even turning its experience deeper, relating it to the experience of reality. It in in this sense I say that nature of connection could unravel very positive results in terms of… faerie? Maybe…

    I think games are really interesting, not unlike films in their own and proper language as media to uncover hidden truths. Not to escape reality, but to really face it, to read it in the context of different media and experiencing a different way of dealing with its issues, revealing in phantasy too that awe, that wonder we remember having felt with the fairy tales of our younger days, our childhood myth-hearing moments.

    Of course, maybe it is too risky. Maybe it is a kind of entertainment less likely to reveal something than to enslave our consciousnesses, to excite our passions, make us more blind to the Real. But then again, if that is the case, then, maybe we should exchange books for oral stories? It is such a shame that we lost not only the concept of orality and the material to make it work, as the own spirit of it, that demanded a certain consciousness of the world we no longer possess… but.
    Well, I think you should read something about Game Philosophy, here’s a link:

    http://gamephilosophy.org/

    It approaches the question kinda the way I’m trying to point out here. Who knows, maybe, with the indie games market growing and requiring less massive investments and more freedom to create, we could not even advance to a ‘Game Theology’, conveying the Gospel truths via role-playing stories? Why not? The majority of RPG’s convey an anthropology, a cosmology, a whole metaphysical viw of the world, even eschatologies. I see no reason why we should not at least hope such achievements to be possible.

    In general, I’m all for you about not losing our lives in games, books and TV. Life is to be lived, and must be lived outside, with real people. For more our modern and virtual world insists and imposes on us a virtuality of the relationship, we should, we must be firmly attached in the real ground of that real encounter of real persons. One is only a real person as a being-for-the-other. That is what Christ and the Gospel teached me. We need that encounter, that is the Church.

  29. Caio,

    I do think I see what you’re getting at, and the website you linked is quite interesting.

    Are you familiar with The Mythgard Institute? It’s a division of an online university called Signum University, and one of the professors there actually does a “guided tour” to Middle Earth through the Lord of the Rings Online game. Is this what you’re thinking about when you see games as a mission field?

    I’m glad to hear you have found a happy medium with regards to gaming. It gives me hope.

  30. I am not familiar with their work, widow, I’ll look into it.

    If they approach fantasy the same way many academics approach religious studies, then it is bound to give us hope. We have very committed and good christian, among other religious people, even mystics, with their share of responsibility in shaping these studies.

    As a big fan of The Lord of The Ring AND a reader of author like Mircea Eliade, I can only hope in God for future achievements like this in the university and industry alike.

    Glory to God for All Things, indeed!

    Let’s pray.

  31. Father Stephan writes very right about the lack of connection among generations in the US. It does not bring comfort in the souls of God’s children whether believers or not. The modern American contemporary church, as general fact, is not older than 120 to 130 years old, in best cases. The feeling that Christianity starts from now and with us is very broad spread piece of mind in the today’s American Christians. The ambiguous translation of the Bible, from second part of 20th century, and we’ll pumped and fed feeling of exceptionalism contribute well to the problem called lack of knowledge of roots and connections. But this is a part of the great experiment to manipulate human mind. Our land became the land of this great social experiment of globalism, similar to the Bolsheviks’ experiment in early 20th century. This can only bring heavier judgement upon us than real salvation.

  32. I am only very slowly reading through your work and will understand if you don’t approve this question at this late date. But I was wondering if you have any thoughts how can we best respond to the modern, secular understanding, or misunderstanding, of the Crusades, and… should we try? I seem to encounter these objections and false stories, often delivered with great passion, a great deal from secular family members who know that I’m Orthodox and speak as though they have their hands quite firmly on all the ropes, regarding the historical facts of early Christianity, (their main charge being “all the evils done by the Church”).
    I’m frustrated by my lack of power to dispel even the most basic myths or to put forth an intelligible counter history without going into a “fruitless discussion” especially regarding the spread of Islam, which seems to make it extra sensitive for them. It seems futile. So I remain quiet (all the while seething into my beer. May God help me as I war against these passions.) I have been looking for an Orthodox perspective on the Crusades, for my own benefit, if not for having conversations with others on the topic. Have you done any writing or speaking on this? Might there be a book or other resource you know of that you could recommend to me? I also beg you to crank up the podcasts again.

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