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Ennui, entropy and apathy

15 October 2009

Today is Blog Action Day

More than 7000 bloggers have registered to participate and thousands more will join in the next 24 hours. There’s already buzz growing across the blogosphere and on Twitter in anticipation, with updates from around the world every minute about the upcoming event.

If you haven’t signed up, it’s not too late.

We will have a live stream of all posts on the Blog Action Day homepage all day long tomorrow, so make sure to include the words “Blog Action Day” in your posts to have them pulled in. If you are on Twitter, you can use the hashtag #BAD09.

And if you’re still wondering about what to write, we have a new list of resources to give you ideas and inspiration. We’ve also updated our list of opportunities to take action with our nonprofit partners.

I suggested that the Synchrobloggers join in with this, as no one had made any suggestions for an October synchroblog, and several people said they would, but so far only one has. That’s Liz Dyer at the Grace Rules blog. As for me, I can’t think of a single thing that I want to say about climate change that hasn’t been said before and better by others, so why add to the torrent of words? So I’ll sit this one out, and this is my post in lieu of a contribution to the Synchroblog on climate change.

This post is a real ragbag of odd thoughts and comments on various things, and excuses for inaction. But it’s going to be a busy weekend so perhaps I’ll have something more positive to blog about next week after some stimilating interaction with other people.

This weekend is the patronal festival of St Thomas’s Serbian Orthodox Church in Sunninghill Park, north of Johannesburg. There is a visiting bishop from Serbia coming for the celebrations, and they will be having Vespers at 4:30 pm on Saturday 17th, with a film show on the life of St Nikolai Velimirovic.

On Monday there’s a visiting speaker, Frank Viola, speaking on Reimagining Church somewhere in Pretoria, but I think I’ll give that one a miss too, partly because one has to pay to get in, and also because there is too much other stuff going on. I’ve been quite curious about what some of the “emerging church” people have to say, but I’m not sure that I want to “reimagine” church. In the first place it begs the question about what one imagined in the first place, and also I’m not sure that imagination is what is needed. As I see it, the problem is not to imagine or reimagine church, but to be the church that God has already given us. When I hear things like “reimagining church” I am reminded of the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Innumerable times a whole Christian community has broken down because it had sprung from a wish dream… He who loves his dream of a community more than the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter, even though his personal intentions may be ever so honest and ernest and sacrificial.

God hates visionary dreaming; it makes the dreamer proud and pretentious. The man who fashions the visionary ideal of a community demands that it be realized by God, by others, and by himself. He enters the community of Christians with his demands, sets up his own law, and judges the brethren and himself accordingly. He stands adamant, a living reproach to all others in the circle of brethren. He acts as if he is the creator of the Christian community, as if his dream binds men together. When things do not go his way, he calls the effort a failure. When his ideal picture is destroyed, he sees the community going to smash. So he becomes, first an accuser of his brethren, then an accuser of God, and finally the despairing accuser of  himself. Because God has already laid the only foundation of our fellowship, because God has bound us together in one body with other Christians in Jesus Christ, long before we entered into common life with them, we enter that common life not as demanders but as thankful recipients.

But I’m also suffering from a kind of ennui, an inertia, which is why I’m writing this post on a ragbag of topics, because I have nothing much to say. But that in itself suggest a topic, which is the way in which Orthodox Christians and Western Christians use terms with different meanings, and sometimes even opposite meanings. In Western terminology, the ennui that I am suffering from might also be called apathy, because I’m not feeling particularly passionate about anything. In Western thought, passion is seen as something good and desirable, and apathy as something bad. But in Orthodox theology one of the main features of spiritual growth is bringing the passions under control and achieving a state of dispassion, apatheia. And ennui is itself a passion, if I am suffering from it, because a passion, in the Orthodox theological definition, is something you suffer from, it is something that controls you and pushes you around, and ennui can be one of those things. It may not sound very passionate, but if it is something you passively suffer from, it is a passion. So ennui is a characteristic of a passionate life.

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