Everyday Asceticism: Get Born

Today at Everyday Asceticism, I reflect on birth as an image of the spiritual life:

For the child in utero, the womb is her world. She catches glimpses of muted light from the world beyond, hears muffled voices, feels softened touches of her mother and father and brother. But she knows very little about that world. Not only is this due to her circumstances, it is also due to her limited cognitive capacity at such an early stage in human development.

To be born means leaving the only world she has ever known and entering one that is utterly alien. It is alien not only with regard to the external environment, but also due to her own heightened senses. Unimaginably more of life is revealed, while at the same time one has a sense of how very little one knows.

Read the whole post here.

St Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly: A Theology of Asceticism

This week I received two copies of the most recent issue of the St Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly, Vol. 60, no. 4 (2016), which contains an article by me offering a theological and philosophical analysis of Christian asceticism. In particular, my concern in this paper is asceticism and personal identity. A full philosophy or theology of asceticism should account for its social and communal dynamics as well (inter alia), which I have explored in other academic work.

Excerpt:

This paper examines the compatibility between ancient and modern, East and West, through a philosophical and theological analysis of asceticism. Drawing upon Hegel’s dialectic of self-consciousness, I bring together Vladimir Solovyov’s account of the ascetic principle in morality and Pavel Florensky’s dynamic, non-essentialist understanding of personhood to argue that the logic of asceticism follows a dialectic of awareness — denial — transformation or, in Christian theological terms, life — death — resurrection. This modern perspective is then compared to and supplemented by Patristic accounts of the nature and goal of asceticism that generally rest upon Stoic axiology, (broadly) Neoplatonic metaphysics, and the specifically Christian themes of self-denial and divine grace. This synthesis of modern philosophical and ancient Christian understandings of asceticism is offered as an example of how, in this instance, such narratives of incompatibility are both unfounded and unhelpful. In addition, this dialectic of asceticism is offered as a paradigm for further study of asceticism in both theology and philosophy.

Be sure to pick up a copy of the new issue and check out my article here.

Everyday Asceticism: Racism and Asceticism

Today is the feast day of St. Moses the Black. In his honor, I wrote a post about one of the many stories about him from the Sayings of the Desert Fathers where it records his response to a few other “old men” (monks) who sneered at him with racist insults to test his character. Excerpt:

Abba Moses is named, these monks are not. Abba Moses is held up as an example, these monks are not. Abba Moses is depicted in icons, these monks are not. Abba Moses is venerated today, these monks are not venerated on any day, so far as we know. We sing hymns praising Abba Moses, but these monks have been forgotten. We ask for his prayers, but these monks may yet need ours.

Read the whole post here.

PowerBlog: Spiritual and Economic Lessons from the N64

Today at Acton, I tease out some economic and — by way of analogy — spiritual lessons from the success of the Japanese company Nintendo, in honor of the Nintendo 64 gaming system’s 20th birthday:

Nintendo is an example of capitalism at its best. And its success (and failures) ought to remind us of what the spiritual life requires of us. Praying a prayer every now and then or reading one’s Bible from time to time may be enough. But a plurality (to the point of redundancy) of spiritual practices makes a person far better prepared for the unpredictable challenges of real life.

By contrast, cronyistic and protectionist measures seek to preserve a company’s or market’s current state, rather than being open to development. It may work for a while, but eventually creative destruction will displace a company or industry ill-equipped to adapt. Similarly, an over-confident spirituality sets one up to fall into unexpected temptation or to be unable to bear unexpected tragedy.

Read the whole post here.