But That’s So Hard

But That’s So Hard October 2, 2020

It’s Friday!


I guess Mr. and Mrs. Trump were discovered by Twitter during the night to have covid. I made the mistake of glancing at my phone at some unspeakable hour, saw the news and the threads, consigned my soul to God, and went back to sleep, which is itself some kind of amazing miracle. That’s just not a thing that happens to me anymore.


My two oldest children are taking a French class this year, and, as I did in the same circumstance, they are resisting every opportunity to actually speak French. Every now and then, after impressive amounts of nagging, they will badly say a word—on purpose badly—with a heaping of insincerity, so that no dignity will be lost in the scuffle. And then maybe one again the next day. It’s so bad, I’ve actually started to have nightmares of being in a room of people who only speak French and me myself being both unwilling and unable to say anything…while wearing a mask. It’s horrible.


I’ve written my whole thing about the Enneagram and am just tweaking one last thing, which officially makes it late, I guess, and then I found a podcast of Andy Stanly talking to Ian Cron—I haven’t finished it, so don’t hold me to any real opinion. I now regret not saying in the piece, which was way way too long, that the problem is not really the Enneagram (well, that might be part of the problem) but that the way the Bible thinks of relating to God is so hard and, as I’ve said before, a touch boring. Christians talk all the time about how the Bible is sufficient for salvation, bla bla bla, but then when they really look at “salvation” or maybe “justification” would be a more precise word, and it’s annoying sister “sanctification,” they just can’t bear it. I mean, I’ve fallen into this trap. Sanctification is a process directed by God, for which there are no delightful mile markers to let you know you’ve arrived anywhere interesting. The more holy you try to be, the worse you feel about everything. And just when you think you’ve accomplished something or changed something about yourself, or understood something, or just not been a jerk for thirty seconds, God pokes you in your wicked soul, knocking you back into the astonishingly discouraging mire of your own self. You didn’t know how bad you were—over and over and over and over. Your only recourse is to throw yourself on his mercy and ask for his help–again. My sense of the Enneagram is that it lets you just not deal with any of that. You get to direct the process, and it turns out to be much more shallow than it ever would be if God did it. But because you’re using words like “sin” you feel basically ok. Of course, I know there are true Christians who really know what sanctification is who also like the Enneagram, so I’m probably not thinking about them. I thinking more about the entire swath of complacent Evangelicalism who just can’t be bothered with actual Christianity (AndyCOUGHStanley).


This was an interesting article. I’d like to read that book. I mean, I’d like to…but will I ever? I’m seriously backed up on so much reading. As to the Evangelical question of novel reading, I’ve lately wondered how many Christian people (like me) had to endure deconstructionism in college, as a way of reading books, which kinds of ruins everything (not kind of—it does). That and the fact that I only learned to love reading big fat novels—rather than the Jeanette Oake or Grace Livingston Hill which is what was available in the bookshelf in the dorms of my school, what was I going to do, wander all the way over to the library to read something important and worthwhile, not when you walk by Crimson Roses four or five times a day—because that was all there was to read at home. Also, speaking as a lazy person, digesting piles of Christian non-fiction about how to get more joy, and be less of a sinner is easier than learning that by struggling through Great Expectations.

It’s like using the Enneagram to sort out yourself, rather than the exhaustion of the church and the Bible.


That said, I’m reading a couple of non-fiction things that are excellent, and if I had to listen to a thousand-hour novel to infer the things I’m being told directly I would have perished in the attempt. I like to vary my reading between all kinds of literature. I’m still working through Trollop’s Palliser books, and some nice short novellas on kindle, as well as the proper reading of, as my child calls them, Books of Instruction.


Of course, part of the problem is that to endure a novel, you have to buy into the emotional landscape of another person, and that’s hard to do if you yourself are feeling brittle and doomed. Cheap novels are good for escaping, and that’s what most of us want right now—that and TV. Very few of us are “emotionally healthy” enough to cope with the horrors of some imagined person’s trials, especially if those are described in more realistic terms, rather than in a world of fantasy. This is just my theory—I don’t really know if it’s true. But as the social, material, spiritual, and political landscape of America has gotten to be so fragmented, and as the easier “tools” of personality types, spiritual “disciplines” which sometimes manifest themselves as “tricks,” and a population that just doesn’t have to read to get by, it would, of course, be hard to crawl inside the head of Jane Eyre or Rose Aubrey.


I’ve discovered (not by using the Enneagram, but just being self-obsessed without any help from anyone) that I feel very guilty when I sit in a chair and try to read a book. But when I get out of the chair and climb into my bed, I am able to read for hours of the day and night without feeling guilty at all. This, it seems to me, is as perverse as anything, and I don’t know why it would be so. But there it is.

Have a nice weekend and go check out more takes! Or something, how on earth should I know what you should do?

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