Wednesday, February 22, 2017

On the joys of not being popular!

I often wonder whether this blog is of any good. I don't get a large readership and, truth-be-told, many of my brethren in the Church dispute my views. I've wondered before whether it might be time to put dear old O Cuniculi out to pasture. It's been going for over ten years and I'm about fifty posts short of a thousand. That last sentence some of my readers might attribute to my mental state.

What is the point of this little blog? It's a good time for a little appraisal. First and foremost, I put my sermons here. The whole point of a sermon is to produce a connection between the hearer and God. I do have a duty to preach and it does make sense to allow others the opportunity to reflect on the word of God.

The question I have to answer seriously is whether this blog is merely my attempt to maintain an addiction to dopamine. It's an interesting fact that when people post on social media, every time that post is "liked" or given some other positive affirmation it sends a shot of dopamine into the brain. According to Psychology Today, "Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that helps control the brain's reward and pleasure centers. Dopamine also helps regulate movement and emotional responses, and it enables us not only to see rewards, but to take action to move toward them." You can see why this is addictive, especially when Facebook and blogs actually offer a more-or-less instant gratification for every "like" or "share" or whatever. It makes me wonder whether all those who post on Facebook daily are themselves addicts to the whole pleasure-seeking nature of posting just for the sake of it. It seems just a little too onanistic, if you pardon my vulgarity.

If I therefore keep this blog going for the sake of sheer vanity, then I am doing much damage to my own soul. Vanity is formed from emptiness and, in particular an emptiness of God which we should not tolerate. In a blog there is a temptation to become the centre of one's own little universe like Edwin Abbott Abbott's God of Pointland who "cannot conceive of any other except himself – and plumes himself upon the variety of Its Thought as an instance of creative Power. Let us leave this God of Pointland to the ignorant fruition of his omnipresence and omniscience: nothing that you or I can do can rescue him from his self-satisfaction."

The word sermon is connected to the Latin sermo which is a conversation, and perhaps this is where this blog really does have a value - at least for me. Anyone who knows me knows how difficult it is to have a conversation with me. Sometimes I latch onto one idea that someone speaks to me and my mind contemplates that while missing the rest of the conversation. I have a tendency to forget what I was saying mid-conversation. This is why I was next to useless as a teacher, and that much is inevidence even in what I write. However, the written medium allows me to share thoughts and ideas with greater precision and control. On Facebook, I enjoy sharing jokes and cartoons not for dopamine, but because jokes are a way of communicating humour. I blog to share ideas, to clarify my thinking, even to repeat myself in order to test some ideas out to destruction.

But the problem is that I do get a bit of a rush whenever anyone says that they like what I post. That needs to stop! One thing I will be doing is removing the "interesting" and "helpful" buttons at the bottom of each post. While these helped me to gauge and pitch my thoughts and words, they can too easily become another outlet for dopamine addiction and blogospheric onanism - i.e. they become the reason for posting in the first place. They have outlived their purpose and - poof - are now gone.

To the same end, I am now going to request, humbly yet urgently, that,  should this blogling continue, my posts are not "liked" or "shared" to my knowledge.  I have had many very kind comments from people saying that they have appreciated what I have written. I have found these very uplifting, but if I write this blog in deliberate attempts to please people, then that can stem anything prophetic that needs to be said. If you do like a post genuinely then please don't press the "like" button, please don't "share" it. If you feel that I have said anything of merit or, better still, you have heard words from God speak to you upon your reflections on what I have written and want to share those thoughts, then please do so but by copying the URL directly and not by giving any fuel to this culture of dopamine addiction as evidenced by so many people (myself included) wasting their time with their eyes on their phones. I do welcome comments, but I would be grateful if they were comments of substance. I need to ensure that I deprive myself of the oxygen of seeking praise in itself, for seeking praise in itself derails my desire to please only God.

I am also grateful that I am not a popular thinking, even in the Anglican Catholic Church. I remain defiantly non-Augustinian and thus I rid myself of the whole legalistic Original Sin problem that has caused many a ruction in the Western Church. All I have seen in my studies of the first millennium is a general tendency towards theosis in a sizable number of Church Fathers. It also means that I can be at peace in my mind away from the troubling issues that Calvinism throws up. I also want to avoid the competitiveness of Internet Argumentation which usually results in someone getting deeply offended. I have been very heavy-handed in my apologetics to the extent of losing friends when I should have just shut up.

What I do want to do is LEARN! I have learned a lot from my discussions with others, and by watching others. Yet I need to eradicate from my viewpoint any argumentative one-up-manship. I had a wonderful discussion with Fr Anthony Chadwick and Fr Gregory Wassen on the Eternity or not of Hell. We disagreed profoundly! However, I learned something, and it felt good. I kept two friends and I felt that I built upon what I already knew. That is what I want to continue on this blog. No "liking", no "sharing" but learning, study, investigation and thought.

I beg your prayers that my life would be free from vanity of all kinds, especially intellectual vanity, and that I can continue to serve God in humility and truth, and bring that truth to others in His love. I pray also that society will lose its dependency on dopamine addiction.


Gervase Crouchback said...

Ah found another blog run by another ANGLICAN CATHOLIC. rock on Sir

Anonymous said...

While I do not comment hardly ever I find what you write interesting. You are more the Thomist than I am, but somehow I find a kindred spirit. Keep writing, just try to ask a God to grant the grace to do it for its own sake, and not for any other reason. By he way, I'd love to see some more mathematical musings, as I find them fascinating even though I have never had an aptitude for numbers.

Anonymous said...

I love much of what you write, you think outside the box. While I'm not a Thomist or good with numbers I'm fond of contemplating your writing, especially your mathematical musings. Don't give up writing unless you really just burn out on it.

derril said...

I apologize if this is just a click on a "like" button. God bless you and your work and your family.

Warwickensis said...

Dear all, thank you for your encouragement. This is more than just the "liking" or "sharing" because you have been able to say something of substance, which I find more useful in having tolisten to. A blessing is always of more substance that an a "like", Derril! Thank you!

As for more mathematical posts, well, that's a good thought. As I'm recovering from teaching, I'm drawn more to matters of a classical stance on theology but perhaps in the future I'll be able to find some more of how mathematics does indeed contain a fingerprint of God's genius!