First days back home

moulin-mer01It always takes a while to get back into the routine of being back home after these days of messing about in boats. There was a progression between my three days alone on the Rade de Brest, the Friday passage with five other boats to the river Aulne and finally the gathering of seventy-two boats, there, more for the “Woodstock” of boats and baby boomer skippers than the long and hard sailing I had been doing.

I fired up the computer yesterday morning and found hundreds of e-mails, mostly spam and e-mail lists. I had to look firstly for translating orders and the prospect of getting back to work. I now have two orders under way, to continue my nautical thinking. Sarum lies on hard standing in my back yard on her trailer. It rained continuously yesterday and this morning, and I hope tomorrow to have the courage to remove the tarpaulin and take the stuff out. My three-cornered hat is still in the forward compartment with my little toolbox. I’ll do it tomorrow.

I was struck by a series of e-mails about a blog posting of someone who had lost his Christian faith. I don’t know who this is, but he appears to have some intellectual baggage and is / was an American Lutheran. Americans approach these questions so differently from Europeans. Here, people just don’t care. Americans feel they have to justify themselves and announce their position to the world, whilst protesting that they don’t want to influence others. The article is poignant and interesting. He has a point that biblical Christianity is hard to defend and when you start pulling threads, the whole lot becomes unravelled. He lives through the same drama as Bultmann and Harnack at the end of the nineteenth century. This is why I have always had an interest in Modernism as a way a “saving” Christianity from those who unravel everything and against whom one can do precious little other than entrench oneself in a Fundamentalist position. I have lost confidence in apologetics and attempts to prove anything to anyone – but I continue with knowledge of what separates us from materialism and having to face ourselves in the absence of transcendence and the immanent spirit. I wonder if God wants to be proven to anyone, and those without the capability of inner knowledge and introversion will never see much evidence of anything, let alone a “truth” with which they can bash others over the head.

This morning, I saw a clever slogan on Facebook: “If your religion causes you to hate other people, it is time to change your religion“. Either that or ask oneself many questions about the role of religions and take up sailing…

Perhaps my experience of last week gives me some insight. My real sailing was alone. I had nothing to prove to anyone. I went out in quite demanding conditions without taking any real risks. Friday was like a “small church” of our informal group of six boats. I felt I was always waiting for the “inertia of other people” and took it all in good humour. My boat should have more sail area, and I tend to be on the slow side – and they took it all in good humour. Things can be discussed light-heartedly in a small community. For the Saturday and Sunday, up went the colourful flags of Normandy, England and Brittany, and it was more about showing off than real sailing. It was a larger and more “mainstream” expression and we all went along with what had been organised. There was a lot of noise as we all got together on Saturday evening for food, folk music and dance. The extroverted side of me greatly appreciates Breton culture with its similarities to the Irish and the Cornish. The introverted side drew me to my memories of sailing the Rade de Brest and being at one with the sea and the weather, going beyond previous limits. We need both in our life: other people with common interests and sympathy – and the solitary life when real achievements become possible. So it is with religion and spiritual life.

The longer I live, the more I see that it is pointless to want to influence the masses. Man is at his most creative and inventive when he is alone and literally honest to God. Maybe I will be judged for being a “hidden” priest, living my vocation with something of the inspiration of the monk. We live in a world where Christianity is back in the catacombs, and only a caricature remains in the mainstream churches. Holiness is hidden and cannot be seen with vulgar eyes. Christ hid his divinity before Ciaphas, the Sanhedrin and Pilate. Biblical scholars talk of the Messianic Secret. It has to be the way of many of us too. Some of us might be tempted to “encourage” ourselves with apocalyptic prophecies that all fail. We are simply up against a world that doesn’t care. Our treasure is their trash. Why bother rowing against the wind? Drop anchor and wait for better conditions!

I think about the article. I wonder how that fellow will come to terms with himself once he has shed Christianity with the intention of not becoming a “New Atheist”. Will the blank emptiness bring relief from the cognitive dissonance he says he suffers? On the other hand, he did have a lot of junk to discard. The sea does a wonderful job of bringing us to the essential. It isn’t emptiness or futility but something that is alive and spiritual, an element of incertitude to humble our human pride. Certainly we all need a “reboot” and new beginnings, but as incarnate spirits – not as materialist beasts.

I had better get back to work…

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3 Responses to First days back home

  1. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    It’s good to read you’ve been so happily ‘there’, and that you are safely ‘back again’!

    With apologies if it is too abrupt and tangential, but Fr. Aidan at Eclectic Orthodoxy has been ‘Meditating the Four Quartets’ by T.S. Eliot, step-by-step, on and off, for a while, and this past spring began upon ‘The Dry Salvages’, and this post made me suddenly think how interesting it might be to have your thoughts about and reactions to it, since you are a sailor. Might that appeal to you?

  2. Caedmon says:

    I don’t think ‘hidden priest’ is the right way of putting it. You do reach people all over the world on a regular basis with ‘New Goliards’, including me in Australia.

  3. James Morgan says:

    Father, I think you are ‘hidden in plain sight’, at least to those of us who have access to the internet, and I thank you for your efforts. You might think they are small, but they are important to us who read them. As a member of a miniscule Eastern Church, I realize that we have no influence on the world, we just have to live our lives within our traditions as best we can, and be honest when we fail and hope not too many others notice our falls.
    Jim of Olym
    PS rainy here too, and I have five little birds mucking about their feeder right now, some of them upside down! How cute!

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