Monday, July 18, 2005

Welcome to my Near Occasion of Sin

From the Old Oligarch, we learn that best wishes are in order to a young woman, identified only as "The Chevalier," who is author of the weblog The Return Curve. Barely six months into her authorship, she has decided thus:
Because of our courtship and engagement, I have been blogging a great deal less. Also, I intend to cease blogging upon entrance into the Sacrament of marriage. Renewing the culture only comes about through action in real life, from which blogging detracts. However, I must say I have received encouragement from encountering the many traditionalists out there in the "blogosphere."
Now, I'm happy for the young couple, don't get me wrong. My problem is with the statement:

"Renewing the culture only comes about through action in real life, from which blogging detracts."

Oh, it does, does it?

Is that just for her personally, which is within her capacity to judge for herself? Or is it equally problematic for the rest of us, in which case she can be especially grateful to all otherwise good Catholic "traditionalists" in the blogosphere who endangered their immortal souls while providing her with "encouragement." (Is this where the "double effect" comes in?)

Marriage changes everything, no question about that. But what are the things that constitute it? I presume they will (if they are like most) both continue to work for a living, until such time as her obligations require her to work within the home -- you know, childbearing, that sort of thing. Even then, it is more incumbent upon the Lucky Man to continue being potentially distracted by the demands of his work. (As I recall, Mom rarely spent time on the phone during the day with Dad while he was at the office. "When I'm at work, young man, I'm in another world," I often heard him say.) And let's not forget bowling on Friday nights, a round of golf on Saturday, or the many other things that could "detract" from a marriage.

When we marry, we bring who we are into the union. But the necessary dying to one's self is not to be confused with changing who we are, for it is who we are that the other party has embraced. Each party has interests and endeavors that form the whole person.

I'll give an example from my own "real life." I play the guitar. I've been playing for nearly forty years, and have no intention of stopping. When I played and sang ballads to my young son before bedtime, did my outside interest "detract" from my responsibility to him? If I spent an evening serenading his mother at the end of a hard day, did this outside interest not bear fruit in the marriage? (Not enough, apparently; see earlier entry today.) And so, the act of surrender takes that whole person, and in cleaving to the other, becomes greater than the sum of its parts -- a resultant state which, in German, can be translated as "gestalt." As it does, and given the grace-filled state of the union, God is truly there, thus reinforcing the "gestalt."

My act of typing on a page cannot be construed as being outside the bounds of "real life." It is by living one that I have something upon which to comment here. My discourse with other similarly engaged is an act of sharing that life, which bears fruit inasmuch as virtue or other goods may be derived from it. The same can be said of the workplace, or the bowling alley. This hardly "detracts" from anything.

Because, if it does, my colleague Ms Welborn is in more trouble than I am. The statement rendered by "The Chevalier," considered by itself as an absolute, presumes to speak for the rest of us. It shouldn't have to.


Mr. Nixter said...

So, "Chevalier" is going to give up blogging due to her upcoming marriage? Does she feel that her spouse-to-be actually wants her to stop? Was there a demand for her to cease and desist and spend all her waking hours with him as opposed to remaining true to her spirit?

I believe the theorist R. Buckminster Fuller used the term "synergy" to explain that sometimes the sum of the parts is greater than the whole (i.e., 1+1=3,4, or more). What a shame if Chevalier's muse is effectively squelched, whether by design or whim.

David L Alexander said...

I don't have a problem with her decision as applied to herself. My problem is with her choice of words, which suggest that she has made the decision for everyone else.

Anonymous said...

I cannot speak for the Chevalier herself, although I am a close friend, but here in a attempt at rendering the worldview . . .

The more actual an activity, the better it is for man as a human person. So instant messaging a friend (qua human communication, not speed or conveniance) is not as good as talking to him on the telephone, which in turn is not as good as talking to him "in real life." This usage of "in real life" does not imply that IMing or phoning occurs in some false life, but that the human persons are separated by electronic or other means, so they do not have a completely human experience of communication.

Are IMing, phoning, or blogging necessarily BAD, or occasions of sin? No. (Not any more than talking face-to-face can be!)

But blogging can take up a lot of time and energy that either should be directed elsewhere (family or work duties) or could be more profitably spent elsewhere. This is certainly true in my case. I spend time doing inane online surveys when I should be doing spiritual reading, playing with my little sisters, sewing clothing from my piles of material, or preparing for the upcoming schoolyear. Even when I'm posting on something edifying, it is way too easy for me to slip from that into three or four hours of skimming random blogs and searching for stuff on ebay. Yet I think at this point in my life the benefits outweigh the disadvantages.

The Chevalier's statement, then, is not made because her fiance is forcing her to give up a beloved hobby, or change who she is. It's also not a condemnation of blogging itself, or bloggers themselves. It is an attempt to focus her energy on persuing her vocation: on beginning her married life with her husband, starting to renovate their house, entering and getting to know a new community in a new town, and whatever else she is planning to do.

That's a small, insufficiant explanation, but I hope it helps.

David L Alexander said...


Thank you for taking the time to reply.

I don't have a problem with anything you have said, and I can admire anyone who comes to the defense of a friend. My commentary was concerned with the wording of the comment itself.

I can remember the days when I was caught up in my virtual world of e-mail pen pals. It can easily be a substitute for "real life;" that is, personal interaction with others. Then again, I didn't have much interaction with real people in those days anyway. I live in Washington, remember? You know what Harry Truman once said: "If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog."

My use of the term "near occasion of sin" was with tongue firmly in cheek. Anyone familiar with my weblog is not surprised to discover a flair for the irreverent. Being a Catholic who is basically a traditionalist at heart (and one of a few in the blogosphere who is old enough to have "been there"), it makes for a great juxtposition.

At least I think so. Stay in touch.

N. Trandem said...

If you're going to take offence at such an innocuous comment as that, I think you ought to read this.

David L Alexander said...

My good man:

Thank you for directing me to the essay by Father Faber. Rest assured, it brings up a point already well taken. Indeed, I took pains to direct my comments away from the lady in question, who was clearly motivated only by the best of intentions, and toward the larger issue of the witness we bear to the world through the benefit of this medium.

Surely a man of your particular vocation can see that such media can be used for good or ill, if it is to be used at all. "Moderation in all things," as the expression goes.

For that matter, the lesson posed by the good Father could apply to any of us; first, to the lady who, having second thoughts about her participation in this medium, chose to extend that moral dilemma to others; second, to one such as myself, for taking issue with that extension; and third, to respondents such as you, who appear to take issue with my having taken issue.

Or, dare I call it -- "offense"?