Organization is about infrastructure: possibly a review of the secular

Organization is about infrastructure: possibly a review of the secular September 25, 2018

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It will be hilarious if, by the end of this blogging journey of self-narration, this endeavour turns into a lifestyle blog. I suppose there are worse things, like Jordan Peterson’s entire academic career becoming an extended exercise in self-help. I am relatively unconcerned about either of those two things happening to me, though, because my posts are more like reports in spiritual progress, which is incremental and gradual and frustratingly so, and if I will have blogged effectively through most of my mystagogy, it will have been worth the while.

I do want to pick up where I left off in the last few posts about writing and think a little bit about the tricky business of practical organization while living a writer’s life. I am not particularly good at this, although in my being bad at it, I have learned a trick or two in making myself get organized, at least in a gradual way. Perhaps the larger theme that I discover myself to be writing about is economia, the art of household management, which is really the social implication of Byzantine spirituality. The material on the mental writing chamber might be a kind of intellectual economia. Now I want to speak very practically about a material one.

As a disorganized person, it came as a great surprise to learn while re-organizing my own home so that it can function as a physical writing space is that organization is basically about infrastructure. It turns out that books, for example, need not be strewn all over the ground if one has enough shelves on which to put them. The same goes for files and papers with regard to boxes, and likewise for writing utensils as well as ones for nourishment and play. As long as there is a general grid of rooms in which to put things, one need not sacrifice one’s commitment to homeyness and creativity by somehow transforming into a neat freak. I will never be able to be anal retentive about where I put things. However, if I have a place to put them, then the organization happens quite naturally.

This series of thoughts made me think about the importance of canons in the Byzantine churches. Unlike the Latin Church, a proper Byzantine understanding of the canons does not cement them as laws. As Sister Vassa Larin has often said, they are about economia, the house-building of God. Canons in the classical sense are measuring rods; they are tools by which the house is built and maintained. Extrapolating from this, I wondered if, for example, my new shelving is a kind of physical manifestation of a canonical restructuring of my house, if you will, or if the new operating system that I have finally installed on my computer is able to support apps that make me focus is an example of electronic canons doing their work. It is, I confess, a bit of a stretch, but it does reinforce the practicality of Byzantine concepts for everyday living, and I must say that I quite enjoy being a part of the church that I am in because there seems to be no conflict in integration between the life of the church and the world that I have to live in. Quite the contrary: the more I am in touch with the truest world there is in our liturgies, the more fully I will be able to live in a world that is styled as secular but that is still constituted by the supernatural as far as I am concerned.

Perhaps unpacking that last bit might turn this piece into a segue into an unexpected theme on this blog, which I have foresworn writing about since the early days when I got my doctorate. It is about the way that I understand the world that is called secular, and it is the subject of my academic writing in the context of postsecular Pacific publics, and for that reason alone, blogging about it is scary. But maybe walking people through the more basic components of the theory I have been engaging for the past several years might be a helpful way of retracing the elementary form, and if anything, it might be an exercise worth doing. Certainly, that will save me from being a lifestyle blogger. We’ll see. The fact that I have struggled to get back here through the pathway set by my Eastern Catholic journey might make it worth the while. I’m sure my thinking on the subject has unexpectedly matured, though banging my head against it day after day makes it hard for me to see any progress. I’ll think about it, and maybe I’ll get back with some thoughts on it.

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