Grifting

10 08 2021

The reason I wanted to read Wilfrid Sheed’s novel The Hack is that I was once involved in Catholic writing some years ago, and even got a check for it (which I donated to the Church). I was never more than an “amateur” and never sought to make it a regular source of income. Sheed’s novel is about a “professional” Catholic writer in the early 1960’s who has a severe case of writer’s block brought about by a crisis of faith. The protagonist author, Bertam Flax, writes kitschy emotional dreck for Catholic magazines and gives talks based on his notoriety as an author. This is how he supports his non-Catholic wife and their five children. The message of the novel is that Flax never really matured in his faith past the mediocre spirituality expressed in his poems and stories. The novel is supposed to be a cautionary tale about having an overly mercenary attitude towards your beliefs. Flax was supposedly Catholic just to make a buck, and not a Catholic who happened to make a living from his faith.

There are lots of thorough reviews and discussions online about this novel, notably one from Catholic author Amy Welborn from some years ago. I am not going to revisit the themes covered in other places. It is notable, however, how much “influencer culture” has exploded over the past few years, both in religion and elsewhere. One can surmise even that the recent Motu Proprio from the Vatican restricting the old Latin Mass was in part a response to very online Catholic laypeople and clergy (“YouTube” and “Twitter” priests and bishops) who have used the bullhorn of their substantial following to question the general course of the Church over the last half century. Fringe ideas that could only be spread previously via pamphlets in the back of churches and at select gatherings of Catholics are now beamed into peoples pockets via social media. Bertram Flax is the social media influencer avant la lettre: he feels pressure to keep up appearances to his audience, he is a minor celebrity in some circles, to the point of denying to an estranged friend that he was indeed the “famous” author. Like many modern celebrities, Flax ends up having a nervous breakdown, unable to reconcile his personal image and writings with his true feelings, if he even has any. Being in touch with a number of former religious bloggers, writers, and (very) minor online personalities, I feel I understand his trajectory.

I could say that I was there, and honestly my writing since entering my thirties and forties has been sporadic at best due to a number of factors. Of course, I stopped believing in the Church, at least how it sees itself, over a decade ago now, shortly after I stopped writing for other online Catholic publications. I am not going to get into why, needless to say life was busy enough that I didn’t feel any particular angst over it. But when I left the monastery, I swore to myself that I wouldn’t make a buck off of my experiences. When it comes to what I’ve seen and learned, omnia sunt communia. There’s nothing I learned or experienced that I feel is mine. I didn’t pay for it, I just happened to be in the right place, at the right time, and with the right people. If others get something out of it, so much the better. If they don’t, at least the price is right.

When I first started blogging, I had more of Flax’s approach. To say I would cringe at a bunch of that stuff now is a bit of an understatement. My purpose now is at least to inform, at most to point toward a different way of looking at things. Emotions, conversion, etc…. that’s between the reader and God. It’s not my place to give that to anyone. For one thing, I can’t give what I don’t have. I am not a saint. I struggle like everyone else, and I am not just exaggerating for effect here. My struggles are real struggles, to the point that it’s almost hypocritical for me to write anything at all. But then again, I am my biggest reader. I write things that I want to read, and I read things that I wrote five, ten, fifteen years ago, and I get something out of them still. If other people read these things, maybe it might help them, maybe we might make a connection over something. But I write and post things now with the expectation that practically no one will see them, and I am going to keep it that way for the foreseeable future.

The more significant item that I would like to comment on now is the type of person that Bertram Flax is, because I’ve known a number of these people in my lifetime. If you hang around churches, religious houses, and book clubs, you’re going to meet a lot of failure to launch types, people who made a bunch of bad life decisions, and you’ll encounter their numerous excuses for not facing up to the consequences of their decisions. Again, my life goal from the age of 25 onward was to not end up like one of these people. To be more specific, these are people who hide behind religion and expect it to bestow on them a living, or happiness, or notoriety, or a spouse. It’s people who hang out way too much at church or hop from religious house to religious house without committing to any. It’s people who don’t realize that our station in life dictates what we must do, not our “beliefs”. Or, in other words. if your beliefs demand a radical change of life situation, you should either be St. Francis of Assisi or a trust fund kid, because otherwise you’re going to be a hardship for people around you. Long before I became a Hare Krishna, I was inspired by the teachings on karma yoga in the Bhagavad Gita:

It is far better to discharge one’s prescribed duties, even though faultily, than another’s duties perfectly. Destruction in the course of performing one’s own duty is better than engaging in another’s duties, for to follow another’s path is dangerous. (3:35)

You have a right to perform your prescribed duty, but you are not entitled to the fruits of action. Never consider yourself the cause of the results of your activities, and never be attached to not doing your duty. (2:47)

Of course, I have learned since then that the end of karma yoga must be Krishna consciousness or bhakti yoga. But in my life as a grihastha, these karma yoga counsels are what get me through the day. Real spirituality is what helps you do your service, it’s not “churchiness” per se. It’s never about “feeling.” Feeling comes afterwards, if at all. The only honest way to make a living in the Lord is to think of the Lord always in whatever you do, and you can struggle to do that even within the temple itself.

Perhaps a “grifter” can be sincere, but I just can’t see myself doing it. It’s better to be a salaried employee of Mammon than to pimp out your religious beliefs to a target audience. Somehow my writings still get noticed at times, but it’s never entirely on purpose. Then again, I ended up a Hare Krishna because I have never felt particularly attached to any community or beholden to any group of friends or acquaintances (or employers for that matter). That may not be healthy either. The ones I have most admired, the ones who seemed to have God speaking through them, were a lot of people you’ve never heard of and will likely never know. I have written about them here at times, but a lot of their lessons remain deep within me, distilled perhaps through decades of bitterness and cynicism. I would like to think a sweet note of theirs is channeled through me once in a while, a little speck of light in an otherwise cantankerous demeanor. I can only hope and keep trying.


Actions

Information

11 responses

9 09 2021
Casino online Free slots

Casino online Free slots

Grifting | Reditus

9 09 2021
Khoquet.Com

Khoquet.Com

Grifting | Reditus

3 09 2021
Borgata Casino Online Support

Borgata Casino Online Support

Grifting | Reditus

3 09 2021
play borgata casino online

play borgata casino online

Grifting | Reditus

1 09 2021
thesyntaxsolutions.com

thesyntaxsolutions.com

Grifting | Reditus

31 08 2021
made my day

made my day

Grifting | Reditus

31 08 2021
승인전화없는사이트

승인전화없는사이트

Grifting | Reditus

31 08 2021
Casino Online thai

Casino Online thai

Grifting | Reditus

19 08 2021
personal Skills

personal Skills

Grifting | Reditus

11 08 2021
Scriba Dei

weird, this moring i read the passage you quoted from the Gita, as part of a discussion about the various ways it has been interpreted over time. your coments on writting reminded me of one Hindu writer i heard of from a swami. the man never published his numerous books bc he resigned himself to only write for God. that strikes me as extreme, but i’ve often wondered if that is the attitude was fundamentally correct: maybe the only way to write is as an offering to God.

10 08 2021
David Collins

A failure-to-launch case here. For twenty years, the Church, and the 1962 missal, seemed enough. Until it wasn’t; it sure as hell doesn’t reform a spiritual basket case.

Good post, Arturo.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s




%d bloggers like this: