I have not written here in four years. The blog has been effectively dead for that time. Recently, someone asked me in social media why I stopped writing. I’d like to explain why and say a bit about where things are going.
I stopped writing for a number of reasons. Some of them were practical and some existential. The practical will be easier for readers to grasp, while the existential can only really be grasped if you have had a relevantly similar experience. Some things can only be grasped from the inside out. All I can do is put it out there.
Practically, I tried to divvy up the workload on the blog. I tried to create a more “team” blog. If I only had to post six times a year, that would allow me to do some more substantial work when I posted. It would also give me a break from a few things. I would not have to baby the blog. I would not have to keep an eye on the comments every minute of the day. I also would not have to be arguing all the time, whether that was producing actual arguments all the time, or ferreting out trolls. That is very taxing and draining. I’d rather spend time with a big fat BLT, a cold beer and some good fishing with my good buddies. I just got tired of fighting…all the time. And the blog did not evolve in the way that I had envisioned.
Added to this was the fact that I would have to respond to critics. Not always, but often enough, this would require me to go to the university library, do a ton of reading, and essentially write a paper. That too is a lot of work. It became expensive after I lost my position. Brill, Ashgate, and Oxford are not cheap dates. I’d have to drop $500 on journal articles and monographs to write something up adequately. Given my financial situation in Saint Louis, I just could not justify that. After all, it wasn’t like I was making any money doing it. I was essentially teaching for free. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy teaching and I enjoy helping people see things, but I have a family also and they come first. Besides, if you’re good at something, never do it for free.
Another problem was that I was accruing fangirl toadies, and I do not mean females when I say fangirls either. I have been in a personality cult before. I detest them. I try as much as I can to push people to the sources, to do their own homework so that they can see things for themselves and make their own decisions. In the long run, it is better for
them. And I am not responsible for everyone’s lives. I am not the guru of their life fulfillment narrative. People started acting as if reading the blog long enough would make them glow in the dark. I don’t think these people meant me any harm, nevertheless I had to do something to throw them off. Ceasing to write was a way to accomplish that goal.
Some things I know very well. Other things I have competence in. And there is a whole bunch of stuff I have no idea other than what my intuitions tell me. I am not an expert in everything, no more an expert than lots of other people, less than plenty of others and for most things, a layman. I try to read good literature and then think through and talk about it. I am simply pointing people what is already out there. Very little of what I have ever written is unique to me. So people hit me up for a book about this or what I think about this other issue and so on. After a while, people hit you up for answers to everything. Sorry, I just don’t know. Go to a university library and educate yourself. And of course people would ask me the same questions over and over again. Well the blog has a search bar-use it! Beyond that, if you are in the western world you likely have access to a
university library. Use that as well. (One of the most important skills in academia is how to use a library, databases and all.) People will just suck up all your time and energy. I am not signing up for that. So sorry, I am not here to be your “Orthodox Answer Man.” Besides, no one can tell you about the Matrix, you have to see it for yourself.
Another reason why I stopped writing was that I was in despair. I don’t mean depression. I mean despair. My whole life I had a particular identity crafted over time. Doing philosophy, theology, church history, and apologetics. It is was who I was since I was a teenager. It was in my bones. To have that all taken away from me was absolutely soul destroying. I was so close to making it. But I was undone when I lost my position because of the acts of another who plagiarized my work. Honestly, I woke up every morning and went to bed every night thinking of murder or suicide (or both). I wasn’t angry. I was enraged. It was in my bones. You can feel it, balls to bones, though and through. For three years, every day I lived the same day over and over again, stuck in that moment and never able to move forward or go back. I lived there.
The existential paralysis was nearly complete. I know what people said. Get over it. Move on. You’ll find another job. They “understand” and so forth. But they don’t. And you can’t. You don’t know why you can’t. There is no switch in your soul you can flip. If you could, you would. So you just learn to smile and fake it. You just muddle through the day. One day bleeds into the next. Weeks turn to months and months to years. And no one can help you. You are in every way simply alone. You exist, but you are not living. You’re the walking dead.
I never used to understand how someone could murder someone else. I could understand crimes of passion. You walk in on your spouse with someone else and you lose it. I could get that. That doesn’t excuse it, but it is understandable. But the plotting, premeditated stuff I just didn’t understand. But after, oh, I understood it then though that’s for sure.
But I have kids and I could not leave them no matter what. But for three years, that is where I was. That is where I lived. In a very dark hole of existential brooding. Like a caged tiger who paces back and forth all day. He knows he can’t get through the bars, but he paces, waiting for that moment that never comes. Back and forth. I realized that three years had passed. I had to get out of Saint Louis. I could not get better with that university looming over me everywhere I went. Not after what happened. I had to get out.
So we made plans to move back to California. I would have to figure out a new career path to support my family. We put our house on the market and moved in with our in-laws. This of course was ever so much fun as I am sure, you dear reader, can imagine. It took us a year just to sell the house there after the move. And things got really dicey for a while. But we made it work and things turned out OK. After three years, we were able to buy a house. Housing in southern California being a wee bit more expensive than south Saint Louis, it took us that long to save up with both of us working full time. I am not whole, but I am better. Fishing helps.
That said, I didn’t have either the time or the inclination to write. I was tired of arguing and fighting. And frankly it became not a little boring. I was eating out of habit and not out of hunger. T-Rex doesn’t want to be fed, he wants to hunt. And I was tired of even that. I didn’t read much for a long time. I did get pretty good at conquering Europe and real time tank warfare though, but that is another story. So for four years I haven’t done
much, not even with church. I attend as much as is necessary. It keeps me from getting into trouble anyway. I do some apologetics once in a while locally with some longtime friends, but that is about it.
But the desire never really goes away. It lingers on, waxes and wanes. And once again I feel a desire to write and to learn a few things a long the way. This has been coming for a while. Recent events have spurred me even more to return to EP. (More on this to follow, of course). So I am in the slow process of giving the blog a face lift, checking for dead links, scoping out what I want to do and so on. I have a few projects in mind and they may turn into books (or they may not). I plan to post when I feel like I have something worthwhile to say, something that will be helpful to others. I also have a few scores to settle in the blogsphere. In the past, there were a few lengthy responses that I wanted to respond to. I could see why they were wrong, but I either didn’t have the funds, time or inclination to do so. And I thought some of them would take care of themselves. But in certain cases, this turned out not to be the case. They keep getting thrown at me from time to time on social media. And along with General Patton, I don’t like to pay for the same real estate twice. So it is time I took a few people out to the theological woodshed.
Generally, comments will be off, unless I open them up for a particular post. People can take what I have to say or leave it. They can write their own critiques and have their own discussion in their own venues. For me, the writing is something I enjoy. I am a teacher. It is what I do and when I do it, I feel His pleasure. If I choose to respond, then I will. If not, then not. This blog is not my life. Besides, there is too much fishing to do.
I have also removed all the other contributors save one, Harvey the Rabbit, the real owner of the blog or rather, the person who set it up for me. I pay to keep the lights on and he just watches. I have also removed the donate button. I am grateful to those who made contributions. It helped but I don’t need it anymore. I am not interested in selling EP Coffee mugs, T-shirts and the like. That said, the other contributors had a long time to put up anything they wanted within reason for four years. They didn’t. And that is fine. I had envisioned creating a space where there was wiggle room, space to discuss and work things out for Orthodox grad students, faculty and the like, but it never really materialized. I gave it a shot.
Moreover, in the short term there are some things I must do. I am likely to make some new powerful enemies and/or catch the eye of some older ones or both. Though, at the rate events are progressing, this might just become a moot issue. In any case, I don’t want my friends to be harmed. So removing all the other blog contributors is a way to help keep that from happening. Ecclesiastically, I am not looking to become a priest. I am not looking for my own podcast or to make a name for myself. I could have done that many times over already. I have had plenty of opportunities and offers. For the most part, I turned them down. I am grateful for them, but I doubt it would be good for me, and frankly I am just not that interested in it. And of course, I don’t teach in the church anymore. I have no position of any kind. I am just a layman. I suppose, it is ironic in some ways given the focus on Maximus. (Hopefully they won’t take my hand and tongue!) Some of the contributors may choose to come with me and they can post if they wish. That is a judgment they will have to make for themselves. I can’t make it for them. But this is something I have to do.
After the current mess is handled, I plan on writing some material. One of my former instructors, Dr. Charron, a true gentleman and scholar if ever there was one, once remarked in our Kant seminar when speaking of preparing to write, “Always identify your enemies first.” I have a good number already picked out. So there are a few long term projects I have in mind. But as I said previously, this will go at my own pace. Don’t expect to read EP with your morning coffee every morning.
One of the things I had hoped to accomplish with the blog when I first started writing was to help create a group of people who were competent, who would explore and learn on their own. There was no way I could possibly do it all apologetically speaking. So I could drop breadcrumbs and gesture at directions and paths to follow. In time, they would choose paths in academia and help to bring an Orthodox vision to the academic table. I am glad to see that some have done so and that my endeavors bore some good fruit.