Thursday, December 29, 2011

Off the Grid

NASA image of light pollution on earth.  Everything lit up is "on-the-grid."

There is something appealing to the rustic man in all of us about living off-the-grid.  Today, that phrase indicates a lifestyle of not being hooked up to modern amenities, a freedom from reliance on the system, a DIY attitude with maverick style.  I don't fully intend to live that kind of off-the-grid life, though, believe me, I'm tempted.

What I do want to do is to live, in some ways, spiritually off-the-grid.  Now, don't get me wrong.  I'm not a spiritual isolationist.  We are all a part of the Church, apart from which we cannot function as or even be Christian.  I don't want to be off that grid.  What I want to be, spiritually, is off the worldly grid.

I've always had a fascination with two particular religious orders: the Franciscans and the Carmelites.  Both take very seriously the way of detachment.  St. Francis desired no wealth, and yet frequently was surrounded by it.  His detachment allowed him to take ordinate pleasure in the goods of the world, but not to be seduced by them. The Carmelites, likewise, desire nothing more than total attachment to God, and that requires that nothing, even the greatest of the world's goods, stands in their way.  Attracted though I may be to the Dominican goal of understanding the Christian Mysteries, I would rather be in love with them than understand them (yes, I realize my Dominican friends will correct me here).  To love them so to understand them, and to understand them so to love them, these are our spiritual goals, and ultimately, to love God.

So what does it mean to be spiritually off-the-grid, detached from the world?  This is one of the things I hope country wisdom will teach me.  Although I am a teacher, when I come home, I will be too far from civilization to bother with it.  The country will be my daily retreat, my place of refuge from the storm of hurried city life.

I suspect that it includes not relying so much on the world, being able to go peacefully about one's life even if the world is crashing down around us, not taking our cues from the world, and being self-sufficient.

God bless,


Wednesday, December 28, 2011

House & Family: Living Memory

Back in November, I spent half of my Thanksgiving Break cleaning the house. This place was home to 3 generations (soon to be 4) of my wife's family. It shows. Yes, there is some wear and tear, but I don't mean that. Those issues should all be relatively easy to fix. What I mean is that there is a treasure trove in the house of items my wife's family would find meaningful. I found photographs, not only of my wife as a little girl (which my 2-year-old daughter insists are pictures of herself), but of several generations.

There were, I think, hundreds of photos. There were also little meaningful trinkets: my father-in-law's spurs from his very early years of cowboy work, countless tools that had accummulated over decades of hard work, self-sufficiency, and manual labor, a high school letter jacket from a family friend so close my wife calls her a sister (a degree of familial closeness I envy).

There's a lot of cleaning and restoring left to do, but today, on my anniversary, I cherish the thought that part of what I'm doing is restoring the living memory of my wife's family and the heritage of my children.

God bless,


Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Sapientia Rustica

I love the Wisdom literature of the Old Testament.  My favorite verse of O Come, O Come, Emmanuel is "Veni, O Sapientia."  My favorite book of the Old Testament is Ecclesiastes.  I love philosophy (although I tend to hate the systematization of it).

I absolutely love the pursuit of wisdom.

When I was in high school, I thought transcendentalism was a joyless waste.  Those readings about a man giving up society for life in the country, in a cabin, no, a shack by Walden Pond, what a horrible story!  I just wanted to pass my days in whatever pleasure could keep me occupied from one moment to the other.  I was a television addict.  The year I went off to the seminary, I was forced to lose my dependency on the fleeting pleasures of entertainment (3 televisions divided by 120 students = 4 hours of television viewing all year).  It was not, as I had suspected, a boring year.  In fact, it was a great year!  I enjoyed the companionship of many new friends. I spent long hours in quiet contemplation of God. I even lost a lot of weight, I mean, like 50 lbs.!  When I visited my family for Christmas break, I sat down to watch an episode of that relatively tame sitcom, Everybody Loves Raymond, and realized that I had wasted a half hour of my life watching a family bicker.  Finally, at that moment, it all began to click.  I started a semester of my life where I went through much the same thought process as the author of Ecclesiastes.  Vanity of Vanities!  All things are vanity!  Transcendentalism made some sense.  My materialistic lifestyle did not.  The book we had read in English, Technopoly (because at seminary, every class is philosophical!), suddenly made sense.  We really had created a whole new list of chores for ourselves with each new invention, and made life vastly more complicated than it had to be.  Materialism be damned!  I wanted no more of it.  I began to live simply.  I allowed others to have their way first.  I fasted from food and entertainment.  I found myself joyful when others would be bored.

I also left the seminary (on good terms, no worries) and eventually got married.  It's easy not to be a materialist when you're a seminarian in the middle of nowhere.  It's much more difficult when you're a married man with a family, living in a city.  Slowly, I've found myself returning to this materialism.  It doesn't make me happy to admit that I have become what I once tried so hard not to be.

This is all serving the purpose of providing some much needed background.  You see, I have long desired to return to a simple life.  Not the simplicity of the seminary, of course, but the simplicity of a holy husband and father.  I discovered that I longed to return to learning the wisdom of the country, the wisdom of living in a simple home, perhaps not far from my own Walden Pond, where I can live off the land a bit, read my books, play with my children, and commune with the God of Creation.

A few months ago, my beloved father-in-law passed away, and my wife's family was left with his home and acreage.  After some sorting, it seems my wife and I will take the house and front acre, while the rest of the family will share the acreage behind (though we will still have full use of it).  Though I am very sorry to have lost a good, holy man, whom I admired greatly (he was, in many ways, what I want to be), I am pleased to have the opportunity to pursue this simple life in the country wisdom.

I am starting this blog to seize the opportunity to keep a diary of our journey on the way of wisdom.  If you read it, please enjoy it and learn from my mistakes in learning wisdom.

God bless,